Medication Guide App

Eyebright

Scientific names: Euphrasia officinale, other species include E. rostkoviana and E. stricta.

Efficacy-safety rating:

Ò...Little or no evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Moderate to serious danger.

What is Eyebright?

This small annual plant grows to about 1 foot. It has oval leaves, but can have a variable appearance. Its flowers are arranged in a spike; the white petals often have a red tinge, but may be purple-veined or have a yellow spot on the lower petal. The flowers have the appearance of bloodshot eyes. It is believed to have originated from European wild plants.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Eyebright was used as early as Theophrastus and Dioscorides, who prescribed infusions for topical application in the treatment of eye infections. This in large part was due to the similarity of the “bloodshot” petals to irritated eyes. The plant has been used in homeopathy to treat conjunctivitis and other ocular inflammations. The plant continues to find use in African-American herbal medicine.

Further historic data on the use of euphrasia includes a 14th century cure for “all evils of the eye.” An eyebright ale was described in Queen Elizabeth's era. It was a component of British Herbal Tobacco, which was smoked for chronic bronchial conditions and colds. Other early uses include treatments for allergies, cancers, coughs, conjunctivitis, earaches, epilepsy, headaches, hoarseness, inflammation, jaundice, ophthalmia, rhinitis, skin ailments, and sore throats.

Eyebright commonly is used in European folk medicine for blepharitis and conjunctivitis, as well as for a poultice for styes and the general management of eye fatigue. It also is used internally for coughs and hoarseness, as well as a homeopathic remedy for conjunctivitis.

None of the chemical components of eyebright have been associated with a significant therapeutic effect. Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of eyebright.

What is the recommended dosage?

There are no recent clinical studies of eyebright to provide a basis for dosage recommendations. The herb typically is applied topically.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

No longer considered safe.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

The range of adverse effects is considered to outweigh the dubious benefits.

While there are no known risks associated with eyebright, the folkloric use is unacceptable on hygienic grounds. Also, German studies suggest that 10 to 60 drops of eyebright tincture could induce a variety of mild to severe eye problems (such as violent pressure in the eyes with tearing, itching, redness and swelling, vision difficulties) as well as other physical side effects (such as confusion, cephalalgia, weakness, sneezing, nausea, cough, and insomnia) Hence, ophthalmic use of this material is strongly discouraged.

Toxicities

Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicology with the use of this product.

References

  1. Eyebright. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 23, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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