Although old herbals contain eye remedies – many of dubious efficacy – for everything from sore eyelids to blindness, it is best to limit home remedies to treating simple infections and inflammations.
An inflammation of the eyelid, blepharitis can be caused by bacterial infection or occur as an allergic reaction to cosmetics or face creams. The eyelid becomes red and swollen and there may be white scales on the lashes. In chronic cases, the eyelid can become ulcerated with a yellow crust.
EASING THE SYMPTOMS
Internally a decoction of echinacea and burdock root can help combat infection. Use one teaspoon of the mix per cup three times a day. Alternatively, take up to 600 mg of echinacea in capsules three times a day. Externally, bathe the eye with an infusion of fennel or red clover, or smear a little fresh Aloe vera gel on the eyelid.
Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the fine membrane that covers the eyeball. The eye is red and watering, and there may be severe pain and a “gritty feeling” on blinking and a milky discharge that sticks the eyelids together. Conjunctivitis can be caused by pollutants, drugs, irritants in the eye or infection.
- Repeat eyebaths as often as possible.
- Take 5 ml of echinacea tincture, up to 500 mg of garlic extract or 10 drops of myrrh tincture up to three times daily.
Simmer 15 g of dried herb in 600 ml of water for about 10 minutes until the volume is reduced by about a third to make a sterile decoction. Strain well through a fine tea strainer or muslin bag to remove particles of herb which might irritate the eye. Cool the mixture to lukewarm and use to fill an eyebath. Place this over the eye, lean back so that the eye is well wetted and blink several times. If both eyes are affected, use a fresh eyebath for the second eye or thoroughly clean the first one with boiling water to avoid cross-contamination.
Alternatively, add two drops of a suitable herbal tincture to an eyebath filled with freshly boiled water which has been allowed to cool. If the mixture stings at all, dilute it further, as individual sensitivity can vary.
HERBS FOR EYEBATHS
Conjunctivitis and blepharitis
- Eyebright, agrimony, fennel seeds, marigold, elderflower, chamomile, marshmallow, rose petal, raspberry leaf.
- Eyebright, agrimony, raspberry leaf, marigold, chamomile.
“Arc eye” (caused by exposure to bright light, as in welding) and other painful inflammations
- Self-heal, eyebright, marigold, elderflower.
Strained or tired eyes
- Eyebright, raspberry leaf, marigold, mullein, chamomile.
A stye is acute inflammation of a gland at the base of an eyelash, usually caused by bacterial infection.
- Take up to 600 mg or 5 ml of echinacea powder or tincture to combat infections and improve immunity.
- Apply a little Aloe vera gel or marigold cream directly to the stye.
- To bring the stye to a head, infuse a chamomile tea bag and use as a poultice, or wrap a little grated carrot in a piece of gauze and apply to the stye for an hour or two.
Overwork, reading in a poor light, air pollution or sitting in smoky rooms can all contribute to sore, tired eyes.
- Soak a cotton wool pad in an infusion of eyebright or raspberry leaves and apply to the closed eyes while relaxing in a darkened room for 20 minutes or so. Alternatively, you can use slices of fresh cucumber or raw potato or infused chamomile or fennel tea bags in the same way, or try any of the eyebaths suggested above.