Eyebright (Euphrasia spp) is a fascinating semi parasitic plant which grows on old grassland and heaths. It needs an undisturbed habitat and is therefore no longer very common. I am lucky then that it grows in abundance in a small area on a local farm and I’m even luckier that the landowners are happy for me to gather some there. Even so I am conscious that this is a herb which is not generally abundant and I only gather a little every other year.
It is just as well that I don’t need large quantities. I tend to save my stocks of Eyebright for making tincture which I use in eye drops. Eyebright contains tannins, glycosides, resins and a volatile oil, all in perfect proportions to produce a soothing anti-inflammatory medicine for sore, stinging and sensitive eyes. So amazing are its properties that I have even seen it dramatically reduce inflammation in eyes suffering from an allergic reaction, blepharitis or conjunctivitis.
If you aren’t able to use an eye bath (for example with a young child or a pet) then a compress will work well. My pony once had a very sore inflamed eye. She was suspicious as I applied the compress but within seconds she was leaning her head into my hand as she felt instant relief from the Eyebright compress.
As well as being used externally Eyebright can be taken internally to help reduce catarrhal states. I combine it with herbs like Golden rod and Elder flower for this.
Eyebright exists throughout the temperate world in various differing micro species and they are all used in the same way in herbal medicine. I remember walking with Khenpo Troru Tsenum on a piece of old pasture near to Samye Ling Tibetan Centre and he bent over and picked a piece of Eyebright. He said: “We have something very like this in Tibet and it is used for the eyes.”
Although it may be present in various forms all over the world I view Eyebright as a rare and precious medicine. You need to be careful not to pull the roots out when gathering so I always pick it holding the root end firm and leaving plenty of shoots on each plant. I don’t want to damage my little local community growing amongst the Wild Thyme on the hill. I look after it and it looks after my patients’ eyes.
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