Found in the pastures of Europe, the plant known as the eyebright of the Euphrasia genera of plants, is a hardy and small annual plant native to Europe, it is characterized by the presence of deeply cut leaves. The eyebright grows abundantly in the heaths and the pastures of European countries such as Britain, it is also found throughout much of the European continent, and some populations of the plant can also be found in the sub-arctic regions of the North American continent. The eyebright - Euphrasia is hemi parasitic and in this it resembles plants found in several general of the plant family Scrophulariaceae all of which are characterized by this hemi parasitic feature in the root system. In these plants, food gathering nodules are found on the roots, these nodules are attached to the roots of any plant nearby in order to parasitize food materials from neighboring plants. Due to this hemi-parasitic mode of life, cultivation of the eyebright is very hard to accomplish, the wild populations of the plant are the virtual source for the entire supply of eyebright used in herbal remedies - and the plant is collected with very little regard to the difference between species. The time for floral blooming of the eyebright is between the months of July to September, the plant bears many small flowers during this time, these are white or purplish in color and at times variegated with a yellowish tinge. The flowers resemble bloodshot human eyes due to the presence of the various spots and stripes on the surface of the flowers - giving the herb its name. This peculiar appearance of the flowers is one of the reasons, that the herb was used in the treatment of eye afflictions since the middle Ages in Europe.
To treat conjunctivitis and other eye problems, an herbal lotion or whole plant infusion made from the aerial part of the eyebright is normally prescribed by most herbalists to their patients. Traditionally, the same infusion was consumed and many ancient writers on herbs, like Culpeper and Parkinson, suggested the drinking of such herbal infusions for the treatment of eye afflictions in patients. Many places in Europe still use the eyebright for the treatment of such eye problems in their folk medicine, this practice is prevalent especially in the Eastern European countries, in these countries both the topical as well as the internal remedy made from the eyebright herb is used in the treatment of disorders such as blepharitis and conjunctivitis. The folk medicine in these places also lays stress on the use of an eyebright poultice for direct topical treatment of styes in the eye and in the treatment of eye fatigue in patients. A number of plant based organic compounds have been identified during chemical studies carried out on the eyebright herb. The herb has been analyzed and found to contain chemicals such as the aucubin, the organic compounds caffeic and ferulic acids, various plant based sterols, compounds such as choline, a variety of basic organic compounds, and a plant based volatile oil unique to the eyebright. There have been no conclusive scientific tests which can prove that the eyebright is effective in treating eye disorders, and at the same time, no useful therapeutic properties or effective healing powers have been detected in these compounds. Some bactericidal activity seems to be present in the compounds called the phenol-carboxylic acids, found in the eyebright herb. A potential risk for infection and complication exist when using home made herbal products which are not sterilized on the eyes, and such practices are not advocated and cannot be condoned as it can lead to serious complications for the person. The danger increase of a large number of unknown principles of dubious safety and healing efficacy are contained in the unsterilized home made herbal lotion. The risk is also from many modern herbalists, who often suggest the ophthalmic use of such non-sterilized remedies and these remedies are strictly not recommended for potential patients as the complications are many. Our knowledge of the herb is as limited as it was during Culpeper's time, and the properties of this herb still require extensive investigations in a modern setting.
During disorders such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis of the eyes, the eyebright seems to be able to reduce inflammation in the eyes due to its ability in tightening the mucous membranes around the eyes. For this reason, the herbal remedies made from the eyebright are often used in the treatment of infectious and allergic reactions affecting the eye as its ability to counter the mucus accumulations enables it to help in reducing inflammation. The remedies made from the eyebright are used in the treatment of conditions affecting the eyes, problems affecting the middle ear, disorders in the sinuses, and in treating mucous accumulations in the nasal passages of patients. Caution is advised when using the eyebright herb in the treatment of dry and stuffy congestions, even though the eyebright is capable of alleviating liquid mucous, the astringent quality of the herb can often worsen dry or stuffy disorders in the inflamed tissues.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Open grasslands and meadows are the areas where the herb is commonly found in Europe. Summer is the usual time during which the harvesting of the eyebright for commercial uses is carried out, as the plant flowers during this season.
Dosage regimens for the herbal remedies made from the eyebright differ for one disorder to the other. Herbal compress made from a tablespoon of the dried herb boiled for ten minutes in 0.5 liter of water is normally recommended by traditional herbal medicine textbooks. A compress can also be made from the cooled and undiluted herbal liquid for use as a topical healing agent. The anti-microbial herbs such as the goldenseal in infusion form are often combined with this herbal eyebright liquid in forming compresses. Due to the chances of bacterial contamination, this application of the eyebright remedy is not currently supported by the German herbal monograph as the chances of infection are large. Dosage of the herbal eyebright tea made for consumption can be taken at doses of two to three cups every day during the treatment period, this herbal tea is prepared in a similar manner to the herbal infusion mentioned above. Dosage of 2-4 grams of the dried herb is also given to patients; this can be taken thrice every day, during the treatment period. The usual dosage regimen for the herbal eyebright tincture is a single dose of 2-6 ml taken thrice every day of the treatment period.
Side effects and cautions
It is suggested to patients, that they avoid using the traditional eyebright compress, as till date, the information on the active ingredients within the eyebright and issues of sterility in those contained organic substances are still limited and the safety of the herbal remedy as a topical treatment for the eyes is not clear. Safety is not a big issues as far as consumption is concerned, and the eyebright remedy can be safely used and taken internally in the doses given previously - the herbal remedy has few or limited side effects. At the same time, women who are lactating and those in a term of pregnancy must avoid using the herbal remedy as the long term safety issues with such patients has still not been checked.
How it works in the body
Inflammation in the tissues of the eye is reduced because of the strongly astringent qualities that the eyebright possesses, the herbal remedy acts as a strong and protective barrier over the affected mucous membranes of the eyes and enables a quick recovery from irritation and inflammation due to infection. The infections such as the conjunctivitis are easily beaten back precisely due to the presence of such properties in the herb. The herbal eyebright remedies due to their strong protective action over the eyes are also effective in treating some other types of disorders affecting the eyes, such as an allergic condition causing inflammation, they can also be used to alleviate streaming or irritation in the eyes caused by seasonal disorders such as hay fever, the adverse effects of pollution can also be countered by the eyebright remedy.
As an all purpose eye disorder herbal cure, the herbal remedies made from the eyebright are really the most effective herbal remedies around and the plant is famous for inducing a soothing effect and in enabling the quick recovery of the person from disorders affecting the eyes. The herbal remedies made from the eyebright have been used in the treatment of conjunctivitis, in the treatment of glaucoma - rise of pressure in the eyeball, in the treatment of keratitis and iritis which affect different tissue layers in the eye. The cooled herbal eyebright decoction can be used as an eye wash to wash infected eyes and enable rapid reduction in inflammation, this decoction can be prepared by using a tbsp or 5 g of the fresh or dried plant, and boil this in a cup - 250 ml of water for a period of 5 minutes, once the herb has been steeped in the liquid, strain the solution and use in the form of a compress for the eyes as and when needed. The decoction can be used for dipping the compresses which must be applied repeatedly to the eyes. The cooled decoction can also be used to directly rinse the eyes, use about 1 tbsp or 15 ml of the decoction for a single rinse - repeat as many times as needed. Disorders can also be treated by consuming the eyebright decoction, prepare the herbal eyebright decoction for internal use by mixing three whole fresh plants in a cup - 250 ml of water and boil as before, if the fresh herb is not available, use a tbsp of dried herb and boil this in a cup - 250 ml of water - once boiled, allow the herb to steep into the water, strain the liquid and drink as required. The herbal remedies made from the eyebright have also been used in the treatment of disorders such as the diarrhea, in the treatment of sinusitis and in treating the seasonal allergies, some of which come with symptoms such as painful nasal and ocular discharges - in all these cases, eyebright is used as an internal herbal remedy.
In a mixing bowl, shred the plant in the alcohol. Put the mixture in a jar, shake every 2 or 3 days. Strain after 1 month.