Scientific Name(s): Euphrasia officinale L.
Common Name(s): Eyebright
Euphrasia is a small annual plant that grows to about 30 cm and has oval leaves that can have a variable appearance. Flowers bloom from July to September and were thought by early healers to resemble bloodshot eyes, perhaps leading to their use for diseases of the eye.Eyebright 1931 The plant is believed to have originated from European wild plants; however, many species are attributed to the genus Euphrasia, with E. officinalis considered a nomen ambiguum (Latin for "ambiguous name") in botany.Duke 2002, Khan 2009, USDA 2015
Eyebright should not be confused with the alternative common name for "Brazilian tea" (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis).Duke 2008 Synonyms include Euphrasia rostkoviana Hane and Euphrasia stricta J.P. Wolff ex J.F. Lehm.Duke 2002
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).Bartram 1998 The plant was used in traditional African-American herbal medicine and has been used in homeopathy to treat conjunctivitis and other ocular inflammations.Boyd 1984, Lans 2007, Leffler 2014
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 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 throat.Leffler 2014
Eyebright primarily contains tannins and gallotannins.Duke 1992 In addition, the plant contains minerals, vitamins, fats, and a volatile oil. The iridoid glycosides, including catalpol, euphroside and ixoroside, acteoside; the lignan dehydrodiconiferyl alcohol 4-beta-D-glucoside; the phenylpropanoid glycoside eukovoside; and phenolic acids and flavonoids, including apigenin, are of interest.Blazics 2011, Duke 1992, Petrichenko 2005, Shuya 2004
Uses and Pharmacology
Anti-inflammatory activity has been shown using human corneal cells, with decreased cytokine expression observed.Paduch 2014 The use of homeopathic-strength eye drops has been evaluated in an open-label study. Patients with noninfective conjunctivitis (n = 65) were included in the design. Adverse events were not observed.Bielory 2003, Stoss 2000 A further large, double-blind study examined orally administered homeopathic Euphrasia 30C (C = centisimal dilution [1 part in 100]; and found no effect in preventing conjunctivitis.Mokkapatti 1992
Antioxidant activity of the glycoside acteoside has been demonstrated in laboratory experiments.Mokkapatti 2011 An animal study demonstrated hypoglycemic effects of an aqueous extract of the leaves of Euphrasia.Porchezhian 2000
Clinical studies are lacking to provide guidance. Single-dose homeopathic eye drops are available commercially and are used up to 5 times/day.Stoss 2000
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use.4 Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Multiple adverse symptoms, including nausea and constipation, confusion, weakness, sneezing, rhinitis, cough, dyspnea, insomnia, polyuria, and diaphoresis from 10 to 60 drops of eyebright tincture have been reported.Duke 2002 Only sterile ophthalmic preparations should be used.Duke 2002 Homeopathic doses are unlikely to exert any adverse reactions because of the minimal amounts ingested, and none were reported in a large (N = 994) study.Mokkapatti 1992
Information regarding toxicology is limited. Acute toxicity tests in mice found toxicity at approximately 4,500 mg/kg of eyebright,Petrichenko 2005 whereas in rats, no toxicity was observed from an aqueous extract of eyebright at dosages up to 6 g/kg.Porchezhian 2000
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