Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is an semi-parasitic herb that is native to Europe. Many herbalists believe that an herb's physical appearance reflects which area of the body it benefits, and eyebright is no exception. The herb looks very similar to an eye with its lovely white and purple lash-like flowers and dark center. While eyebright has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries, it may be best known for its role in healing Adam's eyes in John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost.
Eyebright extract is created by extracting the juice from the above-ground, fresh parts of the flowering plant. The extract contains flavonoids and tannins (both are types of antioxidants) that give it strong astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties make the extract a highly-recommended natural remedy for conjunctivitis or bloodshot eyes, eyestrain, dry eyes, eye irritation caused by allergies, and inflammation.
For conjunctivitis or other eye infections, it's believed that the astringent and antibiotic properties of eyebright extract may kill bacteria and improve blood flow to the areas around the eyes. Herbalists often suggest treating conjunctivitis with an eyebright extract wash or tincture.
An eyebright extract eye wash or compress may help relieve inflamed eyes, or painful, itchy eyes caused by allergies and upper respiratory conditions. It's believed that the anti-inflammatory benefits of eyebright helps protect and calm inflamed mucous membranes. In addition, eyebright extract may provide relief for other upper respiratory symptoms such as cough and runny nose.
Vitamin deficiencies can cause serious eye problems. Eyebright extract contains the critical antioxidant vitamins A, E, and C, and these vitamins are crucial for overall eye health. They're believed to help prevent and treat cataracts and macular degeneration (both leading causes of blindness throughout the world) by fighting free radicals. In addition, adequate levels of vitamin A may help relieve eye fatigue and light sensitivity, and some studies suggest vitamin E may help nearsightedness.
Eyebright extract is believed to be an effective natural remedy and preventative for many common eye problems, especially when used in combination with a healthy diet rich in antioxidants. The extract is easily contaminated, so it's important to purchase the product from a reliable, reputable source to ensure that it's sterile and safe to use. Eyebright should not be used by people wearing contacts, those who've had surgical eye procedures, or women who are pregnant or nursing, without consulting a doctor.