Fratellone Medical Associates

Herbs & The Eye

There is always a flood of medical newsletters sent to the older population. Some of these newsletters promote the ‘magic’ cure or ‘silver bullet agent.’ The problem is that these products might be self promoting and their is no substantial research to support their use. In herbal medicine, I have not found any herb for the prevention and treatment of opthalmic conditions. I have reviewed the American Botanical Council, HerbalClips in the last 3 years (2007-2010). I did not find any article on herbs for the eye. Have you heard that both bilberry and lutein are beneficial for the eyes? Is there research or personal clinical use for these herbs/supplements?

In the literature, I have seen three herbs used in opthalmic conditions. These are eyebright, pasque flower and barberry. I have seen patients use N acetyl carosine for glaucoma with a reduction in intrarocular pressure.

Euphrasia (Eyebright) is a genus of about 450 species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Orobanchaceae (formerly included in the Scrophulariaceae), with a cosmopolitan distribution. They are semi-parasitic on grasses. The common name refers to the plant’s use in treating eye infections. The uses of eyebright for the eye are to relieve pressure in the eyes causing tearing, itching, redness or swelling of the eyelids, help the eye’s sensitivity to light and reduce dim vision. There are many other uses for eyebright. It has been studied by the FDA with controversial results.

A pasque flower (genus Pulsatilla) is one of about 33 species of herbaceous perennials native to meadows and prairies of North America, Europe and Asia. They are valued for their finely-dissected leaves, solitary bell-shaped flowers and plumed seed heads. The pasqueflower is also commonly known as the prairie crocus, wind flower, Easter Flower and meadow anemone. This is a tundra plant and found in areas around the world where there are tundras. The Latin term means “Little Frog”. The Pasque flower is useful to treat eye diseases like cataracts, which is opacity on the lens that can cause partial or complete blindness.

Berberis, the barberries or pepperidge bushes, is a genus of about 450-500 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs from 1-5 m tall with thorny shoots, native to the temperate and subtropical regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America. There are many internal and external use of barberry (berberine). Barberry ointment was shown to significantly reduce skin eruptions in psoriasis during a German study. Berberine is used in eye ointment to treat conjunctivitis and sensitive eyes. Barberry also contains chemicals that reportedly enlarge blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure.