By Linda B. White, M.D.
The Herb Companion
Sight is one of our most cherished senses. We read, appreciate art, observe nature and connect with loved ones by gazing into these “windows of the soul.” We spend good money on cosmetics to enhance the eyes’ natural beauty, and it just makes sense to promote our eyes’ health as well.
Easy steps include wearing sunglasses and hats outdoors, eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress and avoiding cigarette smoke. Some medicinal plants also might be worth incorporating into the routine.
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) has long been a folk remedy for the eyes. Most natural food stores contain teas, tinctures and homeopathic eyedrops made from this herb. A South African study found that eyebright-containing eyedrops hastened recovery from conjunctivitis (redness and discharge caused by irritation of the outside lining of the eye). Extracts lower blood sugar in diabetic rats. Whether the same effect holds for humans isn’t yet known. (Diabetes raises the risk for several eye diseases.)
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) improves blood flow to the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). Preliminary research suggests extracts improve vision in people with glaucoma. It is also antioxidant and protects nerve cells, including those in the eye.
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