Other names: Euphrasia officinalis, meadow eyebright, red eyebright, Augentrostkraut, Euphrasiae herba, Herba Euphrasiae and Herbe d'Euphraise.
Euphrasia, Eyebright is a genus of about 450 species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Orobanchaceae, with a cosmopolitan distribution. They are semi-parasitic on grasses. Eyebright is a wild plant native to Europe. It is a small downy, annual herb, common in meadows, pastures and other grassy areas of Europe and Western Asia. Many species are found in alpine or sub-alpine meadows where snow is common. Flowers usually are borne terminally, its square leafy stem grows up to twelve inches high and bears opposite, stiff ovate leaves. The two lipped red or purple and white flowers grow in axillary leafy spikes from June to September. The most common flower colours are purple, blue-white, and violet. Some species have yellow markings on the lower petal to act as a guide to pollinating insects.
The name Euphrasia is from the Greek Euphrosyne, who was one of the Three Graces and was known for her joy, mirth and, gladness. Although known by the ancient Greeks it was not until 14th century that it is mentioned for 'all evils of the eye'. The comon name Eyebright is thought to come from this use as a traditional folk remedy for eye irritation.
Uses of Eyebright
Eyebright was used in folk medicine for eye conditions. The herb was used to make a solution and was then made into an eye wash or compress for inflammation. It was used for conjunctivitis, blepharitis, tired eyes, styes and eye irritation and for all complaints of the eyes. The juice is mixed with distilled water and used as an eyewash, or taken internally to strengthen the eyes. The leaves stamped and applied as a poultice cures witlows.
The plant was known to classical herbalists, but then was not referred to until mentioned again in 1305. Nicholas Culpeper assigned it to the Zodiac sign Leo, claiming that it strengthened the brain. He wrote:
The juice or distilled water of eye-bright, taken inwardly in white wine or broth, or dropped into the eyes, for divers days together, helps all infirmities of the eyes that cause dimness of sight. Some make conserve of the flowers to the same effect. Being used any of the ways, it also helps a weak brain, or memory.
It was also used to treat bad memory and vertigo. Eyebright has also been used orally as a supplement for eye irritation, eye strain and respiratory conditions such as allergies, bronchitis, colds and sinus infections. The safety of this herb during pregnancy and lactation is not proven.
These traditional uses haven't been proven scientifically in research studies.
Herbalists use eyebright as a poultice with or without concurrent administration of a tea for the redness, swelling, and visual disturbances caused by blepharitis and conjunctivitis. The herb is also used for eyestrain and to relieve inflammation caused by colds, coughs, sinus infections, sore throats and hay fever. Parts used include the leaf, the stem, and small pieces of the flowers. Typical preparations include a warm compress or tea. Eyebright preparations are also available as an extract or capsule.
Plant Constituents of Eyebright
- acrid bitter principle
- Euphrasia-Tannin acid
- volatile oil
- anti-catarrhal [an agent to ease catarrh (mucous inflammation)]
- anti-inflammatory [an agent to ease inflammation]
- astringent [a binding agent that contracts organic tissue, reducing secretions or discharges of mucous and fluid from the body]
- stimulant [an agent that excites or quickens the functional activity of the tissues giving more energy] to the liver to remove toxins from the body
- tonic (slight) [an agent that tones, strengthens and invigorates organs or the entire organism producing a feeling of well-being]
Eyebright is used for:
Brain and Nervous System Conditions
- strengthens a weak brain and memory
- weeping eyes
- clears the sight
- helps repair damage to eyes
- strengthens the eyes in weak eyesight
- acts specifically on the mucous linings of the eyes
and all conditions aggravated by:
- allergic reactions
- airborne pollutants
- car exhaust fumes
- chemical sprays
- cigarette smoke
- smoky atmosphere
- benefits the digestion
- gastric disorders
It can be used as a gargle for:
- catarrhal and inflammatory problems of the nose and throat
Respiratory Tract Conditions
- colds in general
- colds in the head
- hay fever
Other Uses: It is used as an ingredient in Herbal Tobacco and smoked for chronic bronchitis
Eyebright has been used internally and externally to treat eye infections, afflictions and diseases, such as pink-eye and is often combined with Golden Seal. The herb should be used in an extremely diluted form.
Recommended dosage is as follows:
- 15-30ml per week of 1:2 fluid extract
Side Effects and Safety Concerns
People who wear contacts or those who have had cataract removal, corneal transplants, laser eye surgery or other eye procedures shouldn't use eyebright drops unless they are recommended by their doctor.
Side effects of topical eyebright may include itchiness, increased sensitivity to light, swollen eyelids, changes in vision, watery eyes, or changes in eye pressure. Nausea, sweating and confusion have also been reported with oral eyebright use.
Call your health care professional if you experience any of these side effects: headache, itching, red, swollen eyelids, severe eye pressure, increases sensitivity to light, vision problems, or confusion.
Back to the top of the page