Health Benefits of Eyebright

Eyebright can help treat conditions of the eye

field of eyebright plant
Eyebright Benefits. Bernd Haynold/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is a wild plant native to Europe. Long used in herbal medicine, it's typically touted as a natural remedy for eye problems.

In folk medicine, eyebright is often used as an ingredient in eyewashes, eye drops, or compresses applied to the eyes. However, there's some concern that use of such remedies could lead to infection, irritation, and other eye issues.

Eyebright contains compounds called tannins, which appear to possess anti-inflammatory properties.

Health Benefits

Eyebright is commonly used to treat eye conditions such as conjunctivitis and eyestrain. However, eyebright is also said to aid in the treatment of many other health issues, including:

• earaches
sore throat

Eye Conditions

While eyebright has been used for many years in folk medicine to relieve congestion and inflammation around the eyes due to sinus infections, allergies, and conjunctivitis, scientific evidence for eyebright's health benefits is minimal. The available research includes a small study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2000, which focused on eyebright's effectiveness as a treatment for conjunctivitis. 

For the study, 65 people with conjunctivitis were treated with eye drops containing 10 g of eyebright, which were administered one to five times a day. In follow-up examinations performed seven days and 14 days after the start of treatment, a complete recovery was seen in 53 of the patients. An additional 11 patients showed a "clear improvement" in symptoms such as redness, swelling, and burning. However, one patient experienced a slight worsening of conjunctivitis symptoms. In another study published in the Balkan Medical Journal in 2014, tests on cells taken from the surface layer of human cornea demonstrated that eyebright extracts may have anti-inflammatory effects. Further research is needed to confirm this finding.

Nutrition Facts

Eyebright contains vitamins A, B vitamins (thiamine and riboflavin), C, and E, which all have eye-nourishing properties. The vitamin B-1 (thiamine) found in eyebright is crucial for intracellular eye metabolism. Zinc, selenium, and copper are also found in eyebright and help contribute to healthy retinas and lenses. Aucuboside's anti-inflammatory properties may play a role in eyebright's soothing effect, which may be bolstered by eyebright's aucubin content. Also found in eyebright is rutin, which offers nutritional support to the eyes.

According to one study, eyebright is composed of 50 percent tannins, astringent chemicals which reduce the secretion of mucus and can improve the firmness of tissues and relieve irritation. Quercetin, a flavonoid found in eyebright, inhibits the release of histamines. The presence of these phytochemicals gives support to the idea that eyebright may help relieve allergy symptoms.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Compresses and nasal sprays made with eyebright can be found in in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in herbal products, as well as online. It is also fairly simple to prepare these remedies at home using dried herb material that has been grown or purchased. In either case, it is important to investigate where the base herbal material for these remedies came from and how it was grown to ensure it wasn't grown with harmful pesticides. Look for a label on the side confirming safe-growing practices and don't be afraid to ask the supplier to connect you with more information. According to a paper put out by the European Medicines Agency, eyebright can be taken internally in 400-470 mg capsules, as a tea made with 2-3 grams of the dried aerial parts of the eyebright plant, and as 1-2 ml of liquid extract. Eyebright can also be applied via eye drops. In each case, the eyebright may be taken 3 times per day.

Possible Side Effects

The side-effects of eye-bright are not well-documented, however eyebright drops may be harmful to certain people, including those who wear contacts or those who have had cataract removal, corneal transplants, laser eye surgery, or other eye procedures. Some products may be contaminated with harmful chemicals and lead to infection if applied directly to the eyes. Individuals should consult a physician prior to using eyebright drops and make sure to double-check the source of the eyebright. The safety of eyebright has not been scientifically confirmed for people who are pregnant or breast-feeding. According to a 2012 review, eyebright leaves can increase the production of insulin. People on medications affecting their blood sugar should be careful using eyebright.

Common Questions

How do you do an eye wash with eyebright?

Drop a sufficient dose of tincture into a cup of water. If using bulk powder, you can let it steep for fifteen minutes in hot water and then strain the mixture using a coffee filter. When the water is at a temperature that would feel comfortable, pour the mixture into an eye cup. Tilt your head back and pour the eyebright wash into the eye to rinse.

How can I protect against infection when using eyebright?

Gently wipe any discharge that has built up around the eye to prevent against infection and prevent any existing infection from spreading. Avoid using eye makeup for a few days. Wash your hands before and after touching the affected area. Make sure the eyebright medicine you use is clean and applied using clean materials. If you wear contact lenses, remove these as much as possible while the area is healing and get a new pair once the condition has healed. Make sure to disinfect your contact lens and/or glasses case, pillow, and anything else that may come into contact with your eye.

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