Do you know eyebright? It is an herb with white flowers, purple lines and small yellow spots in the center.
For centuries it was used to treat various conditions, especially minor eye problems such as redness or irritation. But how effective is it? Here we review what the science says.
Does it protect the eyes?
It is common to find references to the benefits of eyebright for sight. However, many of the properties that are attributed to it do not have scientific evidence to support them.
For example, there are no studies that have proven that the use of eyebright helps treat diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma.
If there is evidence of its effects against inflammation or irritation. This is because it contains plant compounds with antihistamine properties, such as flavonoids, luteolin, and quercetin.
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These compounds can inhibit immune cells called mast cells, which release a compound called histamine that triggers allergy symptoms, such as watery eyes or a runny nose.
For this reason, it is common for eyebright to be used in traditional medicine to combat conditions such as seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
There are also laboratory studies that have found that eyebright extracts can help control inflammation in the cells of the cornea, the transparent tissue that covers the colored part of the eye.
Preparations with eyebright and other herbs, such as chamomile, have even been tested to make eye drops, which have been shown to reduce damage related to sun exposure and eye inflammation due to various allergens, such as pollen, dust or wind.
Although the evidence is promising, the researchers note that more human studies are needed to verify the effects of eyebright, as well as its side effects.
Other possible benefits
Although the treatment of eye discomfort is the most popular use of eyebright, it is also often linked to other benefits:
- Fight harmful bacteria: Laboratory studies found that certain eyebright compounds are capable of inhibiting the growth of bacteria involved in eye infections, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae Y Staphylococcus aureus.
- Against cough and cold: There is no evidence to support the use of eyebright against coughs or colds, but natural medicine highlights its use due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Control blood sugar levels: Eyebright consumption appears to help lower blood sugar levels, although the evidence comes from animal studies, so more evidence is needed.
- antioxidant effects: thanks to its antioxidant properties, eyebright compounds can help combat the impact of free radicals, unstable molecules that affect healthy cell structures and promote the onset of disease.
- protect the liver: Aucubin, a compound in eyebright, appears to protect the liver against the effects of free radicals and toxins. However, the evidence comes from animal studies.
How to use eyebright
There are many ways to use eyebright to take advantage of its properties. One of the most popular is through compresses. To do this, you need to boil dried eyebright in water for five to ten minutes (the ratio is one tablespoon of the herb per 200 ml of water).
The preparation is left to rest, strained and waited until it is lukewarm. Then cloths, gauze or cloths are soaked and applied to the closed eyes until the compress cools. This seeks to calm the inflammation and provide relief, ideally repeating the operation up to three times a day.
Another way to take advantage of the antihistamine properties of eyebright is through its infusions. You can easily prepare it by mixing a tablespoon of dried eyebright for every cup of water. Boil for three minutes, let stand, filter and drink (up to three cups per day).
Finally, you can opt for products that contain their extracts, such as eye drops, capsules or creams. However, you should consult a health professional before using any of these options.
Special caution is advised when using eyebright for people who have had any type of eye surgery, wear contact lenses, have diabetes, or are pregnant or lactating.
Until there is meaningful scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should be very careful.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, but first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Sources consulted: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.