Other Names: Euphrasia, Casse-lunette, Bartsia imbricata
Use for eye conditions currently not recommended. Adverse effects include: mental confusion, headaches, eye pressure, redness and swelling of the eye if 10-60 lotion drops used. Eye symptoms possibly followed by sensitivity to light, sneezing, nausea, constipation, cough, shortness of breath and increased passing of urine.
Eyebright: Euphrasia officinalis, has a long history of use as a medicinal herb in the treatment of eye problems and is still in current herbal use . It is important that only the correct forms of eyebright, with glandular hairs on the calyx, are used, since other forms do not possess medicinal virtues. Eyebright tightens the mucous membranes of the eye and appears to relieve the inflammation of conjunctivitis and blepharitis. Its ability to counter catarrh means that it is often used for infectious and allergic conditions affecting the eyes, middle ear, sinuses and nasal passages. The whole plant is anti-inflammatory, astringent, digestive, ophthalmic and slightly tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of catarrh, sinusitis, hay fever, upper respiratory tract infections etc. As an ophthalmic, an infusion of the plant can be taken internally or used as an eye wash. Alternatively, the diluted juice can be dropped into the eyes. Some caution should be exercised, experimentally it can induce side effects including dim vision. The plant’s astringency makes it inappropriate for treating dry or stuffy congestion. The plant can be used externally as a poultice to aid the healing of wounds. Eyebright should be harvested when in flower and can be dried for later use. The dried herb is a ingredient of herbal smoking mixtures, used in the treatment of chronic bronchial colds. A homeopathic remedy is made from the expressed juice of the plant. It is used particularly in the treatment of eye inflammations and colds
Habitat: Meadows and grassy places in Britain and Europe. Moist grassland and chalky pastures, semi-parasitic on grass.
Euphrasia officinalis is a ANNUAL growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in).
It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, self. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.
Cultivation of Eyebright:
Succeeds in most soils, preferring chalk or limestone. Eyebright is a semi-parasitic plant, growing on the roots of various species of grass and also on Trifolium pratense and Plantago species. The grass does not seem to suffer unduly from this parasitism since eyebright is an annual and its cells do not penetrate very deeply into the grass. There is some doubt over the validity of the name of this species, some botanists now call it Euphrasia rostkoviana. Eyebright is a variable aggregate species, some botanists divide it into a number of different species. Only those forms of eyebright which have glandular hairs on the calyx possess medicinal qualities. It hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.
Propagation of Eyebright:
Sow the seed outdoors in situ in early spring amongst grass in a moist but not marshy soil.
Collection: Gather the whole plant whilst in bloom in late summer and dry it in an airy place.
Culinary uses of Eyebright:
Edible Parts: Leaves.
Leaves – raw. They are occasionally used in salads for their slightly bitter flavour.
Actions: Anti-catarrhal, astringent, anti-inflammatory.
Part Used: Dried aerial parts.
Eyebright is an excellent remedy for the problems of mucous membranes. The combination of anti-inflammatory and astringent properties make it relevant in many conditions. Used internally it is a powerful anti-catarrhal and thus may be used in nasal catarrh, sinusitis and other congestive states. It is best known for its use in conditions of the eye, where it is helpful in acute or chronic inflammations, stinging and weeping eyes as well as over-sensitivity to light. Used as a compress externally in conjunction with internal use it valuable in conjunctivitis and blepharitis.
Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “mild stimulating astringent. Vaso-constrictor to vessels of nasal and conjuntival membranes. Specific for congestive conditions of the eyes with profuse lachrymation.” They give the following specific indications: Catarrhal blepharitis, rhinitis, sinusitis and conjunctivitis. Hay fever, acute coryza, irritable sneezing and lachrymation.
Ellingwood considered it specific for “irritating and catarrhal disease; first of the upper portion of the respiratory tract, and afterwords of the mucous structures of the throat and bronchial tubes. It is more immediately beneficial if the discharge is thin and watery. `Snuffles’ ininfants demands this remedy. It is specific to acute disorders of the nasal mucous membranes. Where there is watery discharge from these membranes, where there earache, or headache, and especially if the distress be across the eyes, in acute catarrhal affections, it has a direct influence upon the lachrymal apparatus.” In addition he recommends it for the following patholgies: cough, hoarsness, catarrhal manifestations following measles, catarrhal conjunctivitis, catarrhal deafness,chronic nasal catarrh, acute coryza, influenza, blepharitis and conjunctivitis.
In catarrhal conditions it combines well with Golden Rod, Elder Flower or Golden Seal. In allergic conditions where the eyes are effected it may be combined with Ephedra. As an eye lotion it mixes with Golden Seal and distilled Witch Hazel.
Preparations & Dosage of Eyebright:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Compress: place a teaspoonful of the dried herb in half a litre (1 pint) of water and boil for 10 minutes, let cool slightly. Moisten a compress (Cotton wool, gauze or muslin) in the luke warm liquid, wring out slightly and place over the eyes. Leave the compress in place for 15 minutes. Repeat several times a day.
Tincture: take 1-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.
Esoteric uses of Eyebright:
Carry this herb to increase psychic ability, improve memory, encourage rationality and increase positive outlook. Carry to bring a humorous and bright outlook when life seems dark and negative.
- Iridoid glycosides, including aucubin.
- Tannins, both condensed and hydrolysable gallic acid types
- Phenolic acids including caffeic and ferulic
- Volatile oil.
- Miscellaneous; an unidentified alkaloid, sterols, amino acids and choline.