Eyebright: (Euphrasia officinalis) Euphrasia officinalis refers to a vast genus containing over 450 species. European wild plants grow in meadows, pastures, and grassy places in Bulgaria, Hungary, and the former Yugoslavia. Eyebright is also grown commercially in Europe. The plant flowers in late summer and autumn. The whole herb is used in commercial preparations.
Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies): Eyebright was and continues to be used primarily as a poultice for the topical treatment of eye inflammations, including blepharitis, conjunctivitis, and sties. A compress made from a decoction of eyebright can give rapid relief from redness, swelling, and visual disturbances in acute and subacute eye infections. A tea is usually given internally along with the topical treatment. It has also been used for the treatment of eye fatigue and disturbances of vision. In addition, herbalists have recommended eyebright for problems of the respiratory tract, including sinus infections, coughs, and sore throat.
Eyebright is high in iridoid glycosides, flavonoids, and tannins. The plant has astringent properties that probably account for its usefulness as a topical treatment for inflammatory states and its ability to reduce mucous drainage.
Traditional herbal texts recommend a compress made with 15 grams of the dried herb combined with 500 ml (2 cups) of water and boiled for ten minutes. The undiluted liquid is used as a compress after cooling. This was commonly combined with antimicrobial herbs, such as goldenseal. The German Commission E monograph on eyebright does not support this application, due to possible impurities in non-pharmaceutical preparations. Consult with a physician knowledgeable in the use of herbs before applying eyebright to the eyes.
Internally, eyebright tea, made using the same formula above, can be drunk in the amount of two to three cups per day. Dried herb, as 24 grams three times per day, may be taken. The tincture is typically taken in 26 ml three times per day.
Due to limited information on the active constituents in eyebright and the need for sterility in substances used topically in the eyes, the traditional use of eyebright as a topical compress currently cannot be recommended without professional support. Used internally at the amounts listed above, eyebright is generally safe. However, its safety during pregnancy and lactation has not been proven.
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