Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
Eyebright is a low-growing attractive plant that is common in meadows and grassy fields in Europe and the United Kingdom. It blossoms in the summer. It does not like to be transplanted because it relies in part on the roots of grass to help it attain nutrients. It is not mentioned in any herbal texts until the 14th century, but it grew in popularity after that for treating eye and memory ailments. It was such a popular remedy that it is mentioned in the poetry of Milton and Spenser. Used for centuries for eye problems, it is thought that the tannins in the plant are responsible for the relief it gives.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Historically eyebright infusion was taken for hay fever and sinusitis.
Externally Most frequently used as a wash for the eyes. An infusion is the most common preparation used to make this eye wash. Conditions treated with eyebright include conjunctivitis, blepharitis, sties, eye irritation and tired or inflamed eyes. It may also be useful for problems with mucous membranes or earaches.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Eyebright is often combined with goldenseal and distilled witch hazel to make a lotion for eye complaints. It can also be combined safely with goldenrod and elder flower. Allergic conditions that affect the eyes can be treated by a combination of eyebright and ephedra.
Aerial parts Dried aerial parts are used. They are gathered when the plant is in full flower, usually in July or August.
People who have had eye surgery, laser procedures, who wear contacts or have had corneal transplants should not use eyebright. Some people may experience itchiness, swollen eyelids, watery eyes, changes in eye pressure or vision and increased sensitivity to light. Sweating, nausea and confusion can be experienced by people sensitive to this herb who ingest it.
Preparation and Dosage
An infusion is the most popular way to use this herb. Take 1 ounce of the herb and steep it in 1 pint of boiling water. Bathe the eyes with this solution three to four times per day. If the eyes are painful, the infusion should be warm and applied as often as needed. For less painful complaints, a cold infusion is suitable. Leave the compress in place over the eyes for fifteen minutes.
In Scotland the infusion is made in milk rather than water. British Herbal Tobacco contains eyebright as one of its ingredients. It is smoked to aid bronchial colds. It is also used in homeopathy.