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Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
Parts used and where grown: Euphrasia officinalis has been used to refer to a vast genus containing over 450 species. European wild plants grow 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 commercial preparations.
In what conditions might eyebright be supportive?
¥ irritated eyes
Historical or traditional use: Eyebright was and continues to be used primarily as a poultice for the topical treatment of eye inflammations, including blepharitis, conjunctivitis, and sties. A compress made from a decoction of eyebright can give rapid relief from redness, swelling, and visual disturbances in acute and subacute eye infections.1 A tea is usually given internally along with the topical treatment. It has also been used for the treatment of eye fatigue and disturbances of vision. In addition, herbalists have recommended eyebright for problems of the respiratory tract, including sinus infections, coughs, and sore throat.2
Active constituents: Eyebright is high in iridoid glycosides, flavonoids, and tannins.3 The plant has astringent properties that probably account for its usefulness as a topical treatment for inflammatory states and its ability to reduce mucous drainage.
How much should I take? Traditional herbal texts recommend a compress made with 15 grams of the dried herb combined with 0.5 liter of water and boiled for ten minutes. The undiluted liquid is used as a compress after cooling. This was commonly combined with antimicrobial herbs, such as goldenseal. The current German monograph on eyebright does not support this application, due to potential bacterial concerns.4
Internally, eyebright tea, made using the same formula above, can be drunk in the amount of two to three cups per day. Dried herb, as 2-4 grams three times per day, may be taken. The tincture is typically taken in 2-6 ml three times per day.
Are there any side effects or interactions? 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. Used internally at the amounts listed above, eyebright is generally safe. However, its safety during pregnancy and lactation has not been proven.
1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine.
Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 339&endash;40.
2. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A UserÕs Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 136&endash;7.
3. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 195&endash;6.
4. Commission E. Monograph, Euphrasia, Bundesanzeiger, August 29, 1992.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.