In the wild, European eyebright grows in meadows, pastures, and grassy places in Bulgaria, Hungary, and the former Yugoslavia. Eyebright is also grown commercially in Europe. The plant flowers in late summer and autumn. The whole herb is used in herbal medicine.
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Conjunctivitis and Blepharitis
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Eyebright has been traditionally used to treat eye inflammation.
Several herbs have been traditionally used to treat eye inflammation. Examples include calendula, eyebright, chamomile, and comfrey. None of these herbs has been studied for use in conjunctivitis or blepharitis. As any preparation placed on the eye must be kept sterile, topical use of these herbs in the eyes should only be done under the supervision of an experienced healthcare professional.
Eyebright was and continues to be used by herbalists primarily as a poultice for the topical treatment of eye inflammations, including conjunctivitis/blepharitis and sties. Traditionally, a compress made from a decoction of eyebright is used to give relief from redness, swelling, and visual disturbances due to eye infections.1 A tea is sometimes given internally along with the topical treatment. It has also been used for the treatment of eye fatigue and other disturbances of vision. In addition, herbalists have recommended eyebright for problems of the respiratory tract, including sinus infections, coughs, and sore throat.2 None of the traditional uses of eyebright have been studied in clinical research.
While there are many chemicals that may be active in eyebright, none of them has been proven to have any effect on eye inflammation or irritation. Some herbal texts suggest that the astringent actions of eyebright may reduce eye irritation while others suggest that eyebright may also have antibacterial actions topically. To date, there are no clinical studies to support or refute these proposed actions.
Traditional herbal texts recommend a compress made with 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of the dried herb combined with 2 cups (500 ml) of water and boiled for ten minutes.3 The undiluted liquid is used as a compress after cooling. The German Commission E monograph does not support this application, due to possible impurities in non-pharmaceutical preparations.4 Consult with a physician knowledgeable in the use of herbs before applying eyebright to the eyes.
Internally, two to three cups per day of eyebright tea is sometimes recommended. Dried herb, 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 grams) three times per day, may also be taken. The tincture is typically taken in 1/2–1 1/4 teaspoons (2–6 ml) three times per day.
Due to limited information on the active constituents in eyebright and the need for sterility in substances used topically in the eyes, the traditional use of eyebright as a topical compress currently cannot be recommended without professional support. Used internally at the recommended amounts, eyebright is generally safe. However, its safety during pregnancy and breast-feeding has not been proven.
1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 339–40.
2. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 136–7.
3. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 339–40.
4. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 329–30.
Last Review: 11-07-2012
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