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Eyebright

Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018

What is Eyebright?

This small annual plant grows to about 30 cm. It has oval leaves, but can have a variable appearance. The flowers look like bloodshot eyes, perhaps leading to their use for diseases of the eye. The plant is believed to have originated from European wild plants.

Scientific Name(s)

Euphrasia officinale, other species include Euphrasia rostkoviana and Euphrasia stricta.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Eyebright was said to have been used for eye infections by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus (371-287 BC), sometimes known as the "father of botany," and by the Greek physician Dioscorides (AD 40-90). The plant was used in traditional African-American herbal medicine and has been used in homeopathy to treat pink eye and other eye inflammations.

Euphrasia was used as a 14th-century cure for "all evils of the eye," and an eyebright ale was described in the Elizabethan era. It was a component of British "herbal tobacco," which was smoked for long-term lung conditions and colds. Other early uses include treatments for allergies, cancers, coughs, pink eye, earaches, seizures, headaches, hoarseness, inflammation of the eye and nasal membranes, yellowing of the skin, skin illnesses, and sore throat.

General uses

Although eyebright preparations have been used to treat a variety of conditions, specifically inflammatory eye disease, clinical trials are lacking.

What is the recommended dosage?

Clinical studies do not provide guidance. Single-dose homeopathic eye drops are available commercially and are used up to 5 times/day. Tinctures and extracts of the fresh herb have been used, and an oral form was administered in 1 study evaluating use in preventing pink eye.

Contraindications

None well documented.

Pregnancy/Lactation

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

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Multiple side effects, including nausea and constipation, confusion, weakness, sneezing, nasal inflammation, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty falling or staying asleep, increased urine production, and sweating, from 10 to 60 drops of eyebright tincture have been reported. Only sterile products should be used in the eyes. Homeopathic doses are unlikely to have any side effects because of the small amounts used.

Toxicology

Information regarding toxicology is limited.

References

1. Eyebright. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons eAnswers. St. Louis, MO: Clinical Drug Information LLC; October 2015. http://online.factsandcomparisons.com. Accessed October 2015.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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