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Medicinal plants sometimes already bear the hoped-for benefits: Eyebright (Latin Euphrasia) also means eye herb or light herb and is said to improve eyesight, correct myopia and help the eyes adapt to strong light. Euphrasia is also used to relieve swelling of the eyelids during inflammation. These effects have not been scientifically proven.
Euphrasia - the most important facts
- Occurrence: Eyebright grows across Europe on nutrient-poor dry soils, in fields, meadows and pastures.
- Traditional medicine: In rural medicine, euphrasia was seen as a means of strengthening eyesight, curing eye inflammation and desensitizing the eye to strong light (especially in summer when working in the fields).
- Effect: Decongestant effects in inflammation, for example the epidermis, mouth and throat, are suspected. Bitter substances probably stimulate appetite and are effective against digestive problems.
- Application: We use the whole plant internally and externally for medicinal purposes.
Medicinal effects of Euphrasia
Euphrasia is said to have an antibacterial effect and fight inflammation - especially on the eye. However, this effect has not been scientifically proven and therefore eyebright is not approved as a herbal remedy in Germany.
Euphrasia - areas of application
Eye herb has been (and is) traditionally used against:
- non-purulent conjunctivitis,
- irritated conjunctiva,
- swollen eyes as a result of eyelid edema,
- Inflammation of the eye,
- To cough,
- dried nasal mucous membranes,
- rheumatic complaints,
- and loss of appetite.
Ingredients of Euphrasia
Associations between the appearance of a plant and body parts have nothing to do with healing ingredients; thinking in analogies did not mean, conversely, that herbs used in folk medicine had no effect per se. Often people drew associative conclusions from a real healing effect.
The following applies to eyebright: it has so far been insufficiently examined scientifically. It is therefore not the case that extensive studies make a healing effect extremely improbable - rather, meaningful studies are currently lacking.
Euphrasia has flavonoids, tannins and iridoid glycosides. These have an astringent, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. Therefore, it is not scientifically proven, but it is very possible that eyebright works against bacterial diseases and inflammation.
The plant contains many bitter substances and these stimulate the digestive system. Most likely, eyebright tea will help against indigestion and a lack of appetite, because similar bitter substances in wormwood, gentian root and dandelion show exactly this effect.
Where does the term eyebright come from?
In historical medicine, Euphrasia was considered a remedy for eye diseases - not because of proven ingredients, but within the framework of the signature theory of the Middle Ages, which thought in analogies. For example, mistletoe should help against epilepsy (epilepsy) because it did not fall off the tree. Accordingly, those who suffered from epilepsy should not fall over when they eat mistletoe.
The white flowers of the Euphrasia with their often yellow spots on the lower lip and the dark shadow from the inside of the flower reminded our ancestors of one eye. Therefore, the plant should help against eye problems and was given names such as eyebright, light herb or eye herb.
Botanical eye herb
The light herb is Latin Euphrasia officinalis and belongs to the genus Euphrasia in the pharynx family (Scrophulariaceae). It is an annual flowering plant with a simple to branched stem. This is hairy and grows up to 40 centimeters high, but some forms are also bald.
The leaves of the eyebright are straight to oval with a leaf base in a wedge shape. The leaf margin is serrated. Some leaves sit on the stem, others show a short stem. They grow closer to the ground with alternating stems, further up they face each other.
Eye herb bears fruit in the form of terminal grapes. These grow in the leaf axils of the bracts. The goblet is shaped like a tube with four teeth at the end. The crown also runs as a tube, the throat is divided into two halves. The upper lip is often divided into two parts, the lower lip, however, in three. The petals are mostly white, the pharynx turns pink with yellow spots.
Euphrasia forms small, elongated capsules. These are enclosed in the goblet and contain many striped seeds.
Spread of Euphrasia
Euphrasia occurs throughout Europe as a typical plant of lean meadows, pastures and fields. In the past, the eye herb was as common as the cornflower. It is a classic wild herb from small-scale agriculture.
Today the plant is far less common. The cause is the agricultural industry and mineral fertilizer. Euphrasia loves nutrient-poor soils and prefers to grow on lean meadows. Before the mineral fertilizer was invented, these were omnipresent and resulted from an agricultural economy with migrant shepherds who used hay as animal feed and only used organic fertilizers such as plant residues and animal droppings. Sheep grazed the meadows, and the farmers used the animal droppings in the fields, there was hardly any nutrients on the meadows.
Today even the air is saturated with nitrogen, and the soil everywhere contains too much nutrients for poor meadows. Lean meadows in Germany now only exist on two percent of the area. Today we find Euphrasia particularly in mountainous areas up to an altitude of 2400 meters.
Eyebright is collected between July and September. We use the whole plant, so we dig up the weeds together with the roots, we only clean the groupage from adhering soil and dry leaves.
We loosely layer the collected plants on top of each other, in shady places. We can also hang the groupage in bundles on the wall. The dried plants can be stored in ceramic pots or in glasses.
Euphrasia can be used internally as tea and externally in the form of drops, compresses or washes.
Eyebright tea for internal use
Luminous herb is said to stimulate appetite and promote digestion. For this we let about one gram of the dried plant soak in 100 milliliters of water and drink a small cup of it before the main meals.
To use Euphrasia for an eye infection and to promote swelling, we first let a gram of dried eyebright herb soak in 100 milliliters of water. Then we wash the eye area with it and put compresses on the affected areas, which we have soaked with eyebright tea.
In the case of inflammation in the throat, epidermis and mouth, we take six grams of eye herb to 100 milliliters of water and gargle it vigorously for two to three minutes. We also put compresses soaked in eyebright tea on the inflamed areas in the mouth.
Euphrasia eye drops
Euphrasia eye drops contain a diluted preparation from eyebright herb and are intended to help against irritated and / or dry eyes. A certain dilution, in which biochemically active substances can still be detected, is probably necessary, since higher doses can irritate the eye. However, the study situation is insufficient.
The drops are said to alleviate stimuli, inhibit inflammation and have a contracting effect. To do this, drip them onto the conjunctiva of the eye two to three times a day. With Euphrasia eye drops, side effects of hypersensitivity can include mild symptoms such as burning eyes, redness, itching, swollen eyes or increased tearing.
Different providers offer eyebright drops. Areas of application are:
- Eye irritation,
- slight inflammation of the conjunctiva,
- watery eyes
- Foreign body sensation in the eye
- and swelling of the eyelid.
Weleda eye drops and Wala eye drops are the best known products in this area. Both belong to the so-called anthroposophic medicines.
Applications with Euphrasia - side effects
Compresses, eye drops and washing the eyes quickly lead to redness, burning and itching in the presence of inflammation. In general, you should therefore keep any irritation from the outside to a minimum in the event of eye infections. If the burning, itching and redness persist, please consult your doctor. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Metherell, Chris: Eyebrights (Euphrasia) of the UK and Ireland, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, 2018
- Pahlow, M .: The great book of medicinal plants: Healthy through the healing powers of nature, Nikol Verlag, 2006
- Soyer-Willemet, Hubert Felix: Euphrasia Officinalis Et Especes Voisines: Erica Vagans Et Multiflora (1855), Kessinger Publishing, 2010
- Liu, Ying et al .: Protective Effects of Euphrasia officinalis Extract against Ultraviolet B-Induced Photoaging in Normal Human Dermal Fibroblasts, in: International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19 (11): 3327, November 2018, PMC
- Paduch, Roman; Woźniak, Anna; Niedziela, Piotr; Rejdak, Robert: Assessment of Eyebright (Euphrasia Officinalis L.) Extract Activity in Relation to Human Corneal Cells Using In Vitro Tests, in: Balkan Medical Journal, 31 (1): 29–36, March 2014, PMC
- Bigagli, Elisabetta; Cinci, Lorenzo; D'Ambrosio, Mario; Luceri, Cristina: Pharmacological activities of an eye drop containing Matricaria chamomilla and Euphrasia officinalis extracts in UVB-induced oxidative stress and inflammation of human corneal cells, in: Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 173: 618-625, August 2017, ScienceDirect