Eyebright is the classic eye-care herb used by our ancestors for this purpose. The herb is very helpful not only for the eyes, but also for colds, even with hay fever and diseases of the digestive system. There are many types of eyebright and all have a similar healing effect.
Profile of eyebright:
Scientific name: Euphrasia officinalis / Euphrasia rostkoviana
Plant family: broomrapes (Orobanchaceae)
Other names: eyewort
Sowing time / Planting time: October – April
Flowering period: July- September
Harvest time: May – June
Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, stems, shoots
Soil quality: lean, nutrient-poor and rather sandy soils
These information are for temperate climate!
Use as a medicinal herb: eye inflammation, conjunctivitis, corneal inflammation, dark circles, photophobia, runny nose, cough
Use as aromatic herb: not known
Plant characteristics and classification of eyebright
Origin and occurrence of eyebright
Eyebright is native to the countries of Central Europe, Western Europe and some parts of southern Europe. The medicinal herb popular in folk medicine often prefers farmland in hilly and high mountain areas with dry and rather nutrient-poor soils between 2.000 and 2.400 meters (6.500 and 7.800 ft). The common eyebright is today cultivated in some gardens and used as an ornamental plant.
Plant order of eyebright
Eyebright belongs to the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae) as well as the order of the Lamiales. The latter is made clear by the two-part, lip-like flower. Herbs that belong to the same family include the red bartsia or the rattle. The genus Euphrasia currently has 12 species. The common eyebright described here can still be regionally divided into several subspecies.
Characteristics of eyebright
The herbaceous plant reaches heights of growth between 10 and 30 cm (4 and 12 in) depending on the location and soil conditions. Eyebright is a classic semi-parasitic plant, supplying itself by nutrients and water from the neighboring plants, mostly grasses. For this purpose the herb has so-called absorbing root. The plant is yet able to operate independently photosynthesis and to assimilate nutrients. The plant is annual.
The small, rather light green leaves of eyebright are elliptical in shape and slightly jagged at the edge. The underside of the leaves, like the shoot axis of the plant, is short and densely covered with glandular hair, which is especially active at night.
The flowers of eyebright are probably the most characteristic feature of the plant. The two-lipped flower is generally white and usually has purple veins. The lower petals show a striking yellow spot. The entire flower looks, with a bit of imagination, like an eye, which ultimately gave the plant its name. The eyebright flowers from the beginning of July to mid-September.
After flowering, eyebright forms flat capsule fruits, divided into two flaps. Each capsule contains several seeds.
Cultivation of eyebright
The site conditions of eyebright are rather low. The herb grows in the countryside on poor meadows. These contain only few nutrients, are usually very loose to sandy and therefore well drained. For planting, it is best to use only lightly fertilized potting soil (such as potting soil). These should also be mixed in a ratio of 1: 2 with sand or, if possible, with coarser components such as pumice or lava (grain size 1-3 mm or 2-6 mm).
When sowing eyebright seeds, it must always be noted that the herb is a semi-parasitic plant and is dependent on other plants, especially grasses. The plant can be easily included into your own garden in combination with existing grass areas. In existing grass layers, the areas must first be loosened up a bit. It is also possible to create a small area where simple grasses can grow together with eyebright. An alternative is also the planting of grasses and eyebright in slightly larger shells.
Eyebright needs light to germ. The seeds should therefore only be pressed slightly into the soil, otherwise germination will not happen. In addition, the plant is a cold germ. The best time for sowing are mid-October to early November or the early spring months from late March to early April. Necessarily, the seeds need frost for germination. It may take several weeks before the first seedlings appear. Patience is therefore incredibly important. It is quite possible that some seeds only start to germinate in the following year.
Additional fertilization is usually not necessary and should be avoided if possible. Too much nutrient demand boosts the competition with other plants, increases the stress and often leads to the death or stunting of the plant.
Eyebright is adapted to dry locations. Inasmuch as the host plants are well supplied with water, the plant needs no extra treatment. The plant is a dryness-adapted specialist.
Since eyebright is an annual, no overwintering measures are required.
Eyebright and its use
Eyebright is used exclusively as a medicinal herb.
Eyebright as a medicinal herb
Historically, eyebright has been known since about the late Middle Ages. In the ancient countries of Greece, Rome and Egypt, eyebright is not known, as it simply did not occur in these countries. However, the plant was mentioned in a medicinal plant book of the late 15th century. In this work, eyebright was described as an eye remedy, which makes the clear and beautiful.
However, the herb was used in subsequent mentions for a whole range of eye complaints. These included general eye weakness, eyesight reduction in the elderly, or general eye complaints. It was recommended eating the herb pure or powdered to give the food. It was also mentioned that the herb was pounded and placed over the eyes.
Eyebright was not only used for eye diseases, but also for cold and indigestion. In the older medicine, in some cases even today, eyebright is also used for hay fever. In fact, the containing bitter substances can stimulate digestion and relieve mild gastrointestinal discomfort. It is also reported that the herb should have anti-inflammatory and analgesic.
Today the herb is used in homeopathy, in natural medicine, in traditional Chinese medicine, but also occasionally in conventional medicine.
Eyebright can be used internally and externally, for example as a tea for drinking or for compresses and eye baths. Either flowers and herbs are freshly processed or dried.
Internal use is possible without special precautions. In the case of external treatment, preparation that is as free of germs and particles as possible is necessary, in order to avoid damage to the eye.
As a basis for healing applications with eyebright is usually an infusion, which is prepared as medicinal herbal tea:
- put a tablespoon of fresh or a heaped teaspoon of dried eyebright in a tea strainer in a cup
- dash with boiling water
- leave for about 10 minutes
- drain through a fine paper filter or a tightly woven cloth to filter even the tiniest of plant particles that may irritate the eye.
- cool slightly for one of the following applications on the eye or allow to cool completely.
Eyebright compresses for conjunctivitis and eye irritation
Conjunctivitis and eye irritation can be treated with eyebright compresses several times a day. To do so, dip a cheesecloth or a washcloth into the freshly prepared infusion, wring it lightly and place it on the eye. If necessary, carefully wipe off eyelids that are stuck together by secretion. Allow soaking until cold.
Remnants of the infusion can be drunk as tea in support of the treatment.
In case of inflammatory diseases, it is essential to use fresh compresses for each eye and each treatment so as not to transmit any germs.
Eyebright eye bath
A more intensive effect can be achieved by an eye bath with eyebright. So that the douching does not unnecessarily irritate the eye, a few grains of salt are added to the freshly prepared infusion, cooled to body temperature, to approximate it to an isotonic saline solution. Bending over a sink, pull down the lower eyelid and carefully rinse the eyeball with the solution. Blink several times to distribute the solution in the eye.
A special eye bath is easier to use: fill the small container with the infusion, press it to the eye and open the eye “under water”. Refill for the other eye. In case of inflammation, thoroughly clean and rinse the eye tub before each use.
Eyebright and fennel on swollen eyelids and tired eyes
To relieve congestion and swelling of the eyes, compresses can be enhanced by the calming effect of fennel. Pound half a teaspoon of fennel seeds, mix with a level tablespoon of dried eyebright and prepare an infusion with 250 milliliters (8.5 fl oz) of water. Used regularly, these compresses should also fight eye bags.
Internal use for respiratory diseases
As a tea, eyebright can relieve symptoms such as cough, runny nose and sinusitis. Make the infusion as described above and take a cup several times a day.
To strengthen the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and prevent colds in this way, drink two cups of the tea daily for up to six weeks.
Internal use for stomach problems
Even with gastrointestinal discomfort and when the gastric mucosa is irritated or inflamed, helps a tea from eyebright. As well as to strengthen the respiratory tract, the tea can be drunk twice a day for several weeks.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buy Eyebright – What to pay attention to?
Adult plants will not be found anywhere due to the nature of the plant. Therefore, it is much more likely to try to grow seeds. Eyebright is usually offered under the subspecies Euphrasia officinalis ssp. rostkoviana, which also contain the respective desired ingredients in medical terms.
Some traders also offer cut and dried eyebright to make your own teas and tinctures. Eyebright can be used thoroughly dried. Make sure, however, that the containers or packaging are airtight and at best aroma sealed. 100 grams (3.5 oz) of dried herbs cost between 3.50 and 8.00 EUR/$.
Eyebright extract is otherwise contained in many care products that are supposed to regenerate tired or stressed eyes or the conjunctiva. The offer ranges from jellies to drops to nourishing cream.