Eyebright: Overview

Although not so popular now as in days past, modern herbalists still retain faith in this herb and recommend its use in eye infections, weakness of the eyes, and ophthalmia.

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History; Source

The history of eyebright's use comes from the way the plant looks.  In the 1500s, the Doctrine of Signatures was a theory that caused people to use eyebright for eye problems.  Eyebright was used as an eyewash for infections and irritations, not because it worked particularly well, but because its petals looked bloodshot, in line with the classic medieval philosophic attitude which believed that herbs show their proper use by their appearance.

Eyebright is a creeping plant that grows about 20 inches high.  It has white flowers with black centers that look somewhat like an eye.  The flowers are collected during the summer months.

Function; Why it is Recommended

Eyebright contains astringent substances that are probably slightly antibacterial, but Germany's Commission E does not necessarily recommend using it.  Warm water compresses have been shown to be equally effective under the same conditions.

Active compounds include iridoid glycosides, tannins, phenolic acids, volatile oil.

Eyebright is primarily used to treat conditions of the eye.  Eyebright is used to treat eye infections.  It causes the mucous membrane tissue that makes up the eye to tighten.  This helps to relieve conjunctivitis and other inflammatory conditions of the eye.

Eyebright tea is sometimes used to treat jaundice, respiratory infections, and memory loss, although there is no evidence that it works for those conditions.

Eyebright can also be used to treat other conditions where large amounts of mucus are produced by the body.  For example, it can be used to help reduce mucus production that results from hay fever.


A recommended dose is an infusion of one ounce of the herb to a pint of boiling water, bathing the eyes three or four times a day.  For intense pain, a warm infusion is more desirable to use until the pain is gone.  For other uses, the cold application is found sufficient.

Side-Effects; Counter-Indicators and Warnings

Eyebright can cause tearing of the eyes, itching, redness, and many other symptoms.  It appears to be safe when taken internally, but few studies have been performed.

Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease is not known.

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Eyebright can help with the following:


Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever

Eyebright is both astringent and anti-inflammatory, and decreases the hypersensitive response of the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, throat, and ears, thereby reducing and soothing swollen, irritated tissues.


Poor Memory

Eyebright strengthens brain and memory.

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