Euphrasia officinalis Scrophulariaceae Also called Eufragia, Euphrasia.
Found on chalky grasslands and meadows, eyebright has long been used in remedies for sore eyes hence its name. This little plant has downy leaves and small, lipped flowers whose white petals are tinged with mauve and yellow. It is widespread in Britain and Europe.
The plant's astringent properties are known to be useful for treating eye problems. A compress soothes styes (infected eyelash follicles), inflamed cornea and conjunctivitis. It also cools tired and watering eyes and is often an ingredient in eye lotions prescribed for these ailments.
In Icelandic medicine, juice squeezed from the plant is used for a variety of eye problems. And Scottish Highlanders used to make an infusion of eyebright in milk and paint it onto sore and irritated eyelids with a feather.
In 1994 Spanish researchers demonstrated the anti-inflammatory properties of the iridoids in eyebright. Tannins in the herb improve resistance to infection by drying and contracting the body's tissues, while phenols help by inhibiting the growth of bacteria.
An infusion of eyebright taken internally complements any topical eye treatment. It is also anti catarrhal, making it useful for clearing runny noses, middle ear infections and painful sinuses.
Eyebright is a constituent of British Herbal Tobacco. Smokers with bronchitis may find that smoking this anti-inflammatory preparation soothes their irritable airways.
All parts above ground
Plants are collected when they begin to flower in July and August. The plant is cut off just above the root and then dried.
Eyebright is used in decoctions, tinctures, infusions and eye lotions.
Eyebright contains tannins (making it astringent), antimicrobial substances called iridoids that have anti-inflammatory properties, phenols (known to inhibit bacterial growth), an essential oil, flavonoids and resins.
PREPARATION AND DOSAGE
For internal use
TO TREAT colds
TINCTURE Take 5 drops in a glass of water two or three times a day; if symptoms persist take 15-40 drops every 3-4 hours.
INFUSION Put 1 heaped teaspoon of dried herb into a cup of boiling water. Steep for a few minutes and strain. Drink 1-2 cups a day.
For external use
TO TREAT inflamed eyelids, styes, conjunctivitis, tired or watery eye
IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST CONSULT A DOCTOR
This hardy plant is semi-parasitic: it will thrive only if it is planted among grasses whose roots provide it with water and nourishment. Sow seed in a wild area of the garden.
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