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May 2017--Eyebright

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Eyebright

Euphrasia officinalis
[yoo-FRAY-zee-uh
   oh-fiss-ih-NAH-liss] 

Family: Scrophulariaceae  

Names: Meadow Eyebright, Red Eyebright; Frasia, Luminella, Ambrosia, Eufragia, Euphrasy, Adhib, Ewfras, Euphraise; Casse-lunette, Brise-lunettes (French); Augentrost, Augstenzieger, Wiesenaugetrost, Schabab, Hirnkraut, Weisses Ruhrkraut, Zwang-kraut (German); Swietlik Lekarski (Polish)   

Pharmaceutical Name: Herba Euphrasiae 

Description: A small, delicate annual, 2-8 inches high, eyebright has square, downy, branching stems.  The leaves vary in shape, sometimes almost round, sometimes narrow and pointed, and are borne in opposite pairs.  Tiny red or white flowers (June-August) have an upper two-lobed lip and a lower three-lobed lip and are borne in spikes from the axils of the upper leaves. 

Cultivation: A delicate, attractive plant, eyebright is difficult to transplant because of its semiparasitical nature.  Eyebright attaches itself by underground suckers to the roots of neighboring grass plants and drains nutrients from them. To be cultivated, eyebright must be given nurse plants on whose roots it can feed.  Its habitat is disturbed ground and waste places.  Likes sunny places among sparse bushes, on the edge of woods, and in heathlands, from the lowlands up to high mountain regions.   Gather at time of flowering.  Dry in shade.  Range: cultivated in North America; escaped from gardens and is found wild in the US Northwest and in British Columbia. 

History:  Eyebright was introduced into medical literature in the works of the pioneering naturalist St. Hildegard (1098-1179)  but the herb was available to early Greek and Arab physicians like Dioscorides and Galen. 
           
Eyebright is a native European annual herb.  Its genus name, Euphrasia, is derived from the Greek "euphrosyne", the name of one of the three graces who was distinguished for her joy and mirth, and it is thought to have been given the plant from the valuable properties attributed to it as an eye medicine preserving eyesight and so bringing gladness into the life of the sufferer.  It was popularized by medieval medical practitioners who probably assigned its use as an eye medicine from the doctrine of signatures.

           
Few scientific studies have been performed on eyebright to determine its activity.  Yet it remains in high esteem among Western herbalists for its use as an eyewash.  Recently the internal consumption of the herb has been popularized by the notion that eyebright has a stimulant, cleansing effect on the liver that is somehow indirectly beneficial to the eye.  Some claim that this cleansing action on the liver releases stores of vitamin A in the blood, which in turn finds its way to the eye.  It is highly unlikely the eye could be strengthened in this manner.  Its function as an eyewash is due to its volatile oil content and tannin.
           
The healing power of Eyebright for the eyes is thought to extend to spiritual and psychic vision.  It's much used today as a Visonary Herbe, and in psychic balance for its ability to bring the practitioner the ability to see life as joyous.  The great English poet John Milton tells of the archangel Michael who commanded Adam to wash his eyes with eyebright and rue to regain his sanity after committing the original sin. 

Constituents: Iridoid glycosides, including aucubin; tannins, both condensed and hydrolysable gallic acid types; Phenolic acids including caffeic and ferulic; volatile oil, about 0.017%; an unidentified alkaloid or base, sterols, amino acids and choline. Moisture content-fresh 84.6%, air dried 7.8%; Carbohydrates: sugars and starch. 

Properties: astringent, restoring, decongestive, dissolving, expectorant, anti-inflammatory 

Energetics:  bitter, mildly astringent, cool 

Meridians/Organs affected: liver, lung 

Medicinal Uses: Definite: antibacterial action (due to volatile oils); astringent (due to tannins) Possible: liver stimulant

            Eyebright is similar, but much weaker in action, to golden seal when it comes to its use as an eyewash.  It contains astringent and antibiotic principles that are useful for cleansing the eye.  Systemic effects such as stimulation of the liver to release vitamin A are unfounded scientifically.  It tightens the mucous membranes of the eye and appears to relieve the inflammation of conjunctivitis and blepharitis.  Its ability to counter mucus means that it is often used for infectious and allergic conditions affecting the eyes, middle ear, sinuses, and nasal passages. It is helpful in acute or chronic inflammations, stinging and weeping eyes as well as over-sensitivity to light. Although eyebright counters liquid mucus, it should be used guardedly for dry and stuffy congestion, which tends to be made worse by the plant's astringency.

            Used internally it is a powerful anti-catarrhal and thus may be used in nasal catarrh, sinusitis and other congestive states. In catarrhal conditions it combines well with golden rod, elder flower or goldenseal.  In allergic conditions where the eye are affected it may be combined with Ephedra.  As an eye lotion it mixes with Goldenseal and distilled witch hazel.             Eyebright tea may be given internally at the same time.  The mechanism of action is not yet known. 

Dosage: tea: 2-4 gm thrice daily; Eyewash: used hourly if desired. Time of Administration: mid-morning to mid-afternoon
Preparation: Eyewash concentrate using dried powdered herb: 1 part herb to 4 parts water.  Cover and boil 30 minutes.  Filter and add 1 part glycerin.  To make eyewash, add 1 ounce of concentrate to 1 cup boiling water.  Cool and use. Refrigerate unused portion.

Remedies
: For acute head cold, hay fever, with lots of acrid secretions and red eyes.  The tincture is best taken internally.  Internally is  an anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic, and hepatic astringent (Fresh plant tincture, 1:2, 30-90 drops, up to four times a day).

            Its effect in the intestinal tract is similar, resolving what is essentially damp cold.  Here its bitter component, in promoting digestion and boosting forces via Spleen Qi, is ideal in chronic deficiency conditions of this type.

Eyebright has some unusual characteristics with which other herbs have not been blessed.  There is in the herb, more principally the flowers, those volatile properties, which when applied in the eye, soon become activated by the sunlight and saturate the conjunctiva, cornia, sclerotic, chorloid, ciliary muscle and process, iris, suspensory ligament, both posterior and anterior fluid changers, lens, retina, optic nerve, and other miscellaneous tissue membranes connected thereto.  The herb will strengthen all of these and provide an elasticity or greater resiliency to the important nerve and optic devices responsible for out sight.  Or where there may be a certain laxity in any of these parts, it will help to tighten them up to normal again.  In other words, its chemical constituents regulate the tensile strength of all fiberous mass in the eyes, by either tightening up; or relaxing them as the case may be.  The herb is a chemical conditioner in this respect.  And light is the key to its successful performance here.  Night-time or the dark is detrimental to its operations.

            Some ophthalmologists have observed in their cataract patients who have diligently used this herb as an eyewash, that the progress of the cataracts, in certain instances, was retarded to quite an extent.  Eyebright has an antiseptic quality about it that is useful for fighting infection in the eyes.  A few have discovered that using the single herb together with powdered yucca root, as an eyewash, has helped to remove cataracts in their first year or earlier stages of development.  It has been said that too much wine or strong drink will cause a man to see double or experience blurry vision as a result of his intoxication.  But one old herbalist from 16th-century England claimed: "Much commendeth the wine made with Eyebright put into it when it is new made and before it worke to helpe the dimnesse of sight, and saith that the use thereof restored old men's sight to read small letters without spectacles that could hardly read great ones with their spectacles before."  The nomenclature for this herb is fairly simple scientifically-Euphrasia officinalis.  But the same common name-eyebright-is used to describe several other kinds of plants by different herbalists.  Witness this for example: John Lust calls American centaury, "eyebright" as well, while Mrs Grieve assigns the name "eyebright"  to common clary and, of all things, Lobelia inflata.  The 'doctrine of signatures: common throughout Medieval Europe, suggested that the dark spot in the middle of the red, purple or white flowers would make it very useful for the eyes; hence its popularity grew as a result of this superstitious belief. 

Combinations: In catarrhal conditions it works well with golden rod, elder flower or golden seal.  In allergic conditions where the eyes are affected it may be combined with ephedra.  As an eye lotion it mixes with golden seal and distilled witch hazel.

Dosage:
Infusion:
 Pour a cup of boiling water on 1 tsp of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes. Drink 3 times a day.

Compress: Place a tsp of the dried herb in 1 pint of water and boil for 10 minutes.  Let cool slightly, moisten a compress in the lukewarm liquid, wring out slightly and place over the eyes.  Leave the compress in place for 15 minutes.  Repeat several times a day.

Tincture: Take 1-4ml 3 times a day.  

Ritual Uses:  Gender: Hot; Planet: Sun/Leo; Element: Air; Basic Power: Clairvoyance.  This is the best herb to choose when working to change the energy of one's attitude to a more positive state.  In times of difficulty, Eyebright allows one to see where the growth and stress can lead, and to carry within the joy of perceiving growth and better times ahead.  It brings to the mind a sense of perspective, that makes even hard trials fall into the perspective of minor difficulties in the whole of time.
           
Eyebright is often included in magickal tonics, or during periods of fasting and study, for it makes the work pleasant and the time enjoyable.  It is said to aid the memory, and to bring clear thinking.
           
This is an herb of which fluid condensers are made, as a lotion for the eyes and psychic channels of the body, clarifying visualization and assisting the practitioner in gaining visionary experiences.
           
Eyebright is a primary choice when working magical ritual to help another, for it will allow the user to have the necessary change of attitude, thus able to help the self.  Planetary influence: Sun/Leo 

Cosmetic Uses:  The plant can clear up any soreness and prevent running eyes.  It also accentuates the brightness of the eyes.

Eye Lotion:  To a large handful of the herb placed in a basin, add 1 pint of boiling water and allow to stand until almost cool, then strain.  Bathe the eyes with cotton balls or an eye bath.  The water dissolved in gelatin makes a soothing gel to apply at night. 

References:
Cosmetics from the Earth
, Roy Genders, Alfred van der Marck, 1985; ISBN: 0-912383-20-8
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
, Andrew Chevallier, Dorling Kindersley, 1997; ISBN: 0-7894-1067-2
The Science of Herbal Medicine
, John Heinerman, Bi-World Publishers, 1979
Nutritional Herbology
, Mark Pedersen, Pedersen Publishing, 1987
Magic and Medicine of Plants
, Reader's Digest. 1986
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West
, Michael Moore, Red Crane Books, 1993
The Master Book of Herbalism
, Paul Beyerl, Phoenix Publishing, 1984
Herbal Medicine
, Rudolf Fritz Weiss, AB Arcanum, 1988
The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal
, David Hoffmann, Element Books, 1996
A Modern Herbal
, Mrs. M. Grieve, Dover Publications, 1971 (1931)
The Energetics of Western Herbs
, Peter Holmes, Artemis Press, 1989
Wild Medicinal Plants
, Anny Schneider, Stackpole Books, 1999; ISBN: 0-8117-2987-7 

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