Eyebright or Euphrasia Officinalis is a very popular flowering herb. It belongs to Figwort or Scrophulariaceae family. Its leaves, flowers and stems are used in making herbal medicines. Eyebright gets its name from the red streaks found on its flowers, which closely resembles bloodshot eyes. This therapeutic herb is rich in beta-carotene, vitamins B, C, E, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, flavonoids, alkaloids, glycosides, volatile oils and tannins. Eyebright is native to the European countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. However, the FDA has not approved Eyebright’s use for treating external eye problems.
Eyebright is a small and elegant plant growing to a height of 2 to 8 inches. It thrives well in chalky soil or dry pastures. The leaves are sharply cut and are 1/6 to 1/2 inches long and 1/4 inches in width. The stems are wiry and erect. They have opposite branches coming out from both the sides. The plant bear flowers during the month of July to September and varies from white to yellow color. In poor soil the plant cannot grow beyond 1 inch. According to renowned botanists Bentham and Hooker, Eyebright has only one species with three different variants. The corolla is two lipped coming out of a tube shaped green calyx. The flowers carry flattened, tiny and capsule like numerous seeds. So as to grow Eyebright in garden, they are needed to be protected from grasses and weeds that inhibit their proper growth.
The eyebright plant is extensively used to treat different eye problems such as conjunctivitis and dry eyes. Eyebright is found to be highly effective in preventing ocular degeneration caused due to aging. Eye inflammation conditions such as opthalmias, styes and blepharitis can be cured with Eyebright compressions. European quack healers advice Eyebright supplements to treat eye strain, and eye irritation. Eyebright tincture or eyewash is often recommended for cataracts and bloodshot eyes. Being rich in tannins (natural astringent), Eyebright is used to reduce over-production of mucus during viral infection such as cold or flu. Presence of flavonoids in Eyebright helps to combat seasonal allergies such as sinusitis, chest congestion, colds, coughs and nasal blockage. Tannins in the Eyebright have antibacterial properties which help to tighten the skin pores and heal acne. Flavanoids and beta-carotene in Eyebright improves cognitive performance and strengthens the memory.
One must always consult a doctor before using Eyebright eye wash. Pregnant or lactating women should avoid Eyebright concoctions. Patients undergoing an eye operation must avoid this herb. People who have undergone any laser vision correction surgery, cataract surgery, or cornea transplant surgery should not use this herb without consulting a physician.