Herb Reference Guide

Eyebright

History

Eyebright is a 1 to 5-inch, delicate, annual herb native to grassy meadows in Europe. It grows numerous small flowers with extraordinary vertical stripes of pale violet running down three white or at times reddish colored lobe shaped petals spotted with yellow or darker purple spots. It is steeped in history dating back to antiquity. There were three Charites or "Graces" (Roman) in Greek Mythology: Aglaia, the Grace that symbolized Beauty, Euphrosyne, the Grace of Delight and Thalia, the Grace of Blossom. According to Greek poet Pindar, these enchanting goddesses were created to fill the world with pleasant moments and goodwill. Thus the pretty little herb Eyebright helps bring delight to the Eyes of mere mortals; literally as well as figuratively. Surprisingly the classic Greek Physicians Dioscorides and Pliny do not mention this herb in their works. Many other early authors in works dating back to the 14th century mention the use of Eyebright both externally and internally as a remedy for various uses concerning the eyes and sinuses.

Function

Eyebright has very little odor, but does have a very characteristic bitter and astringent taste. It is no wonder that herbalists have thought to use this plant where bringing tone back to soggy, inflamed tissues was called for. It is not a well studied or researched plant, but does have a long standing tradition of use among Herbalists, Homeopaths, Naturopaths and Midwives. The main uses we see historically cited in King's American Dispensatory, 1898, written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D. are: "Acute catarrhal diseases of the eyes, nose, and ears; fluent coryza with copious discharge of watery mucus. "Secretion of acrid mucus from eyes and nose with heat and pain in frontal sinus" (Scudder). Aucubin; one constituent that is predominant in Eyebright, has been the focus of some clinical research, although none of it has been conducted on humans using it either topically or as an oral supplement. Further research is needed to fully understand the clinical applications, yet the traditional use remains quite popular and effective.

Uses of Eyebright

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Iridoid glycosides, including aucubin; Tannins, Phenolic acids including caffeic and ferulic, Volatile oils, alkaloid, sterols, amino acids and choline.

Parts Used

  • Herb/Aerial Portions

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy or lactation.

Additional Resources

Chang I. Phytother Res 1997; 11: 189-192

Matsumi Y, Katsunori H, Kenzo C, et al. Biol Pharm Bull 1994; 17 (12): 1604-1608

Matsumi Y, Kenzo C, Tetsuro M. Biol Pharm Bull 1996; 19 (6): 791-795.