Its botanical name is Euphrasia officinalis, but most people know it simply as eyebright. The name says it all – eyebright is best known as an eye problem remedy. For decades, people depended upon it to enhance their eyesight. In fact, the herb was first mentioned in Gordon’s Liticium Medicina back in 1305, where it is “recommended both externally in a distilled water compound and internally as a syrup.”
The Figwort family comprises the Eyebright or Euphrasia. It is native to Europe, Northern and Western Asia, and North America. While they all have the same medicinal properties, some 450 different species have been reported.
The small, elegant plant generally has numerous tiny white or lavender flowers with its wiry stem, variegated with yellow. They mimic the pupil of a bloodshot, with a yellow mark to help pollinate bees. Preppers use the entire flowering plant, including the roots, in herbal medicine and homeopathic remedies.
Chemical, Organic and Nutritional Properties of Eyebright
Eyebright includes B, C, E, vitamins, and beta-carotene. Additionally, it is made of antioxidants such as caffeic acids, flavonoids and ferulic acids, iridoid glycosides, protective compounds, tannins and volatile oils. The several chemical properties, organic and natural not only aid in treating eye issues but can also aid with a variety of other health conditions.
The Medicinal Qualities of Eyebright
Eyebright strengthens the head, eyes, and memory and clears the sight. – Salmon (Syn.Med., 1671)
1. Eyebright to Improve Eyesight
Eyebright is used specifically to treat a wide range of eye issues. That include eyes that are swollen and tired, infections, allergies, short-sightedness, irritations, and glaucoma. In addition, it is useful in treating iris inflammation, cornea, tear ducts, eyelid and membrane lining the eyelids.
Research has shown that especially the astringent compounds called eyebright tannins reduce inflammation and eye swelling. They do have the duty to create a protective coating on the surface of the skin. Herbal treatments containing eyebright work to brighten up the eyes and remove blockages quickly. This gives almost immediate relief from burning; inflamed, eyes swollen and angry.
2. Eyebright to Improve the Functioning of the Respiratory Tract
The astringent properties in eyebright make it ideal for upper respiratory tract infections to be used as an anti-inflammatory system, sinusitis, hay fever, and mucous membrane inflammation. iIt is deal to alleviate excess mucous. Herbalists from the 19th century traditionally gave eyebright to patients affected by coughs and hoarseness of voice. Today, the dried herb is an ingredient for recurrent bronchial colds smoked in British Herbal Tobacco.
3. Eyebright to Treat Skin Conditions and Other Uses
When made into a poultice and topically applied, eyebright helps in healing skin wounds. It is also used to treat acne and soothes skin inflammation.
Lesser known eyebright uses include promoting a healthy liver by washing and purifying the blood. Headaches and earache are also said to be relieved.
Possible Side Effects of Eyebright
As for all herbal and medical remedies, an allergic reaction is probable. Therefore, it is also advised that you discuss this with your doctor before using.
When used for treating eye problems, side effects may include itching, redness, bright light intolerance, swelling or vision changes. Sneezing, insomnia, confusion, tearing, sweating, nausea, toothache, coughing, headache, nasal congestion, constipation, heaviness, and excessive urination are other side effects that have been reported.
Preparing Your Own Eyebright Solution
Usually, eyebright remedies come in two types – liquid or dried – that can be used either topically or orally.
Combine half a teaspoon of new or dried eyebright with one cup of gin or brandy for an eye wash. Pour the mixture into an airtight jar, then shake the jar for a month every few days. Strain the mixture and apply 30 drops of this tincture to 1 cup of boiling water for use as eye wash or eye droplets.
A tea made with dried eyebright works well to use orally eyebright. All you need to do is add half to a full dried eyebright teaspoon to 5 ounces of boiling water and leave for 10 minutes. Strain the tea before drinking.
How to Grow Eyebright in Your Back Yard
Eyebright is growing in zones 1 to 9 of the United States Department of Agriculture Hardiness. The herbaceous plant thrives in open fields like grasslands, meadows and by paths. It prefers rich soil, where it grows up to 9 or 10 inches in height in small bushes. For poor soil or rocky areas, the stem will not completely branch and the plant will grow just about 4 inches tall. But if you do have a greenhouse, you can also cultivate it indoors.
All you need to grow your own eyebright successfully are seeds, a seed-growing medium (if required), a rake, and a sunny, grassy area.
Step-by-Step Growing Guide
- Sow your seeds in the fall months between September and December. The reason is that they need a prolonged period of chilling (about 90 days) to trigger their germination the following spring. The best place to sow eyebright is a sunny field where the grass is not too thick. Alternatively, you can create an artificial environment for chilling by sowing the seeds in a moist growing medium and keeping it in a refrigerator for 90 days.
- Prepare by cutting the grass in the sowing area very short (1 inch will do) and opening sites for germination by harrowing or raking. Loosening the soil to a depth of about 1 inch is adequate. Eyebright is semi-parasitic, drawing nutrients from surrounding plants. Therefore, it should be planted close to grass while at the same time leaving enough space for it to grow.
- Distribute the seeds over the prepared soil. They are very fine, so there is no need for a heavy application. Make sure they are firmly embedded before covering them with the loosened soil.
- Keep the germinating seeds moist without over watering them. Test the moisture levels by forming a ball with a bit of soil. Although the soil should stick together, no water should run out if you squeeze the ball.
- When the little eyebright plants start to show themselves, they must be allowed to grow undisturbed until August. That means no mowing or grazing. By August the wildflowers will be in full bloom. Once they have set seed, mowing and grazing can resume to maintain sward structure.
Good luck with growing your own eyebright and ensuring good eyesight well into your old age!