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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  Eyebright   (Euphrasia officinalis; Scrophulariaceae)

Other Names: adhib, eufrasy, ewfras  (1);  euphrasia  (2); euphrasy, red eyebright  (13)

Character/Energetics:  bitter, mildly astringent, cool   (6);  odorless, bitter, salty, semi-parasitic  (2)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  liver, stomach, lungs, kidneys, spleen, eyes  (1); liver, lung (6) eyes, liver, blood   (14}

Parts used:  aerial portions   (6)

Identification & Harvesting: It is a short plant, growing only 209 inches. Eyebright has several small white or light purple flowers from July to September. Its leaves are deeply cut. Eyebright grows in moist, grassy pastures in Europe, especially Britain, Siberia and the Himalayas.  (1)

White, bluish or reddish-violet flowers, spike-like in the axils of the upper leaves;  fruit is a narrow, oblong capsule with ciliate edge.  Plant is 30 cm high, annual;  stem is reddish, rigid and erect;  leaves ovate, twice as long as wide, dentate.  Indigenous to Europe.  Gather during flowering.  (2)

Grows in natural grassland near host plants.  Propagates by seed scattered around hosts.  Tolerates a wide range of soils and conditions.  Hard to cultivate due to semi-parasitic growth pattern:  parasitic on Trifolium pratense, Plantago species and on grasses. (38)

In the figwort family, a complex plant group, many separated by minute technical details.  Grows in cold temperate regions, this small plant is scarcely 6″ tall.  The species are hemi-parasitic;  that is, their roots attach to those of grasses to derive some nutrients.  The bright, small, pretty flower resembles an eye, and by the medieval doctrine of signatures, this presumably denotes its usefulness to that purpose.  The flowers have tiny stripes like bloodshot eyes.    (61)

Active Constituents: iridoide monoterpenes:  aucubin, catalpol, euphroside, ixoroside, veronicoside, verproside, mussaenoside, ladroside. lignans:  dehydrodiconiferyl-4-beta-D-glucoside; flavonoids, tannins (2); tannins, substances similar to aucubine and essential oil  (6); glycosides including aucubin, tannis, resins, volatile oil  (8); 

Aucubin, caffeic and ferulic acids, sterols, choline, and a volatile oil.  But none of these constituents is known to possess any useful therapeutic properties for the treatment of eye disease, nor are there any modern scientific studies which attempt to measure the effectiveness of the herb.  (59)

Actions:  alterative, antibacterial, anticatarrahal, anti-inflammatory, astringent, blood purifier, decongestant, expectorant, hepatonic  (1); astringent, anti-inflammatory, expectorant  (6); anti-catarrhal, astringent, anti-inflammatory.  (8); alterative, astringent, tonic  (14)

The principles in it have been thoroughly studied, and include flavonoids, iridoids, tannins, and a little volatile oil;  some of these have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.  Recent studies probing its potential use in cancer treatment were negative.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:  Eyebright treats eye inflammations…it also cleanses the kidneys. In this capacity it helps allay bladder irritation, urinary stones, pus in the urine and headaches. 

Other conditions treated with eyebright include: burning eyes, cataracts, chills, colds, diarrhea, failing vision, flu, glaucoma, insomnia, measles, nasal congestion, poor appetite, sniffles, sinusitis, tired eyes, ulcers, weeping eyes. Eyebright has also been used as a gargle for sore throats.

Scientists have learned that the volatile oil of eyebright combines with sunlight to improve several eye conditions including cataracts and conjunctivitis.

Although eyebright has not been studies extensively, it shows promise as not only an eye tonic, but as a hay fever remedy. It not only clears up catarrh (inflammation of the mucous membranes) in nasal and respiratory passages, it also helps dry runny discharge. It has been included in several herb allergy combinations with ephedra, elder and golden rod.  (1)

Treats disorders and inflammation of the blood vessels, inflammations of the eyelids and conjunctiva;  preventative against mucus and catarrh of the eyes.  In folk medicine, used to treat blepharitis, conjunctivitis, styes, eye fatigue symptoms, functional eye disorders of muscular or nervous origin, coughs and hoarseness.  Efficacy for these uses is not documented.  (2)

Eyebright treats conjunctivitis, superficial eye problems, watery catarrh of nose, sinus and middle ear problems.   (6)        

An excellent remedy for problems of mucous membranes.  The combination of anti-inflammatory and astringent properties make it relevant in many conditions.  A powerful anti-catarrhal and useful in nasal catarrh, sinusitis, and other congestive states.  Best known for its use in conditions of the eyes.  Used as a compress, or internally, for conjunctivitis and blepharitis.  (8)


Allergies:  infusion, fluid extract.  Cataracts:  infusion, fluid extract.  Diabetes:  infusion*, powder*, fluid extract*.  Eye ailments:  infusion, fluid extract.  Hay fever:  infusion*, fluid extract*, powder*.  Blood purifier:  infusion, decoction, fluid extract, powder.  Indigestion:  infusion, decoction, fluid extract.  Nose and throat congestion:  infusion, fluid extract.  Upper respiratory problems:  infusion, fluid extract, powder.

External–Cataracts or eye ailments:  eyewash.

Eyebright is cooling to the blood and will aid the liver to detoxify.  This is why it is said to help the eyes. [?]  Externally, it is used as an eyewash when combined with goldenseal or fennel for conjunctivitis, eye weakness, ophthalmia and burning sore eyes.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem. (14)

Used externally for conjunctivitis, eye injuries, herpes and weeping eczema. (38)

Earache and headache attendant upon catarrhal conditions. (50)

Combinations: Eye inflammations have been treated with a combination  of eyebright, fennel seeds and vervain for centuries. Not only does eyebright help eye inflammation, it has been shown to remove film and other foreign substances in the eye. 

It also combines well with goldenseal and witch hazel for eye conditions…. It has been included in several herb allergy combinations with ephedra, elder and golden rod.  (1)

In catarrhal conditions, combines well with goldenrod, elder flower or goldenseal.  In allergic conditions of the eye, may be combined with ephedra.  Mixes well in eye lotions with goldenseal and distilled witch hazel.  (8)

In the event of infection, support with antibacterials such as echinacea taken internally.  Combine with goldenseal powder in capsules or with elderflower in an infusion or tincture.  Often recommended with ma huang.  (15)

Combined with goldenseal, it makes a most excellent lotion for general disorders of the eyes.  (57)

Precautions: Little documentation available.  (2)

Instillation or application of any nonsterile solution to the eye involves considerable risk of potential infection and should never be advocated or condoned.  The practice is particularly hazardous with a nonsterile, home-made lotion.  Thus ophthalmic application is definitely not recommended.  (59)

Because of the paucity of research, external application to the eyes should be cautious, and carefully free of bacteria.    (61)

Tincturing Process:  Vita Mix: Fill Eyebright to blades level in Vita Mix container. Process 75 seconds. 6.5 gr Eyebright: 1 ml menstruum. 50% alcohol  (1a)

Applications: Eyebright has also been used as a gargle for sore throats.

Scientists have learned that the volatile oil of eyebright combines with sunlight to improve several eye conditions including cataracts and conjunctivitis.  (1)

Used externally in lotions, poultices, and eye-baths, for eye complaints associated with disorders and inflammation of the blood vessels, eyelids and conjunctiva, and as a preventive measure against mucus and catarrh of the eyes.  But since efficacy of claimed uses is undocumented, and external eye application is not absolutely hygienic, therapeutic use cannot be recommended.

Tea:  2-3 g finely cut herb steeped in boiling water;  strain after 5-10 min.

Decoction:  used 3-4 x daily for eye rinses.  (2)

Infusion:  pour a cup boiling water onto 1 tsp dried herb, infuse for 5-10 min.  Drink 3 x daily.

Compress:  1 tsp dried herb in 1 pt water and boil 10 min, let cool slightly;  moisten a compress in the lukewarm liquid, wring out slightly and place over eyes.  Leave compress in place 15 min.  Repeat several times daily.  Tincture:  1-4 ml 3 x daily. (8)     Make preparations fresh each time. (13)

Infusion:  steep 5-15 min;  drink 6 oz. frequently  Tincture:  20-60 drops freq.

Fluid extract:  1 tsp freq.   Powder:  10 #0 capsules (60) freq. (14)

Bathe eyes with an eyecup containing water and 5 drops tincture.  (15)

Divination: g, q (48)

Dosage:   Eyebright is used internally in capsule and tincture form  (1-4 ml 3x daily). Externally it is used as an infusion in eye washes. To prepare, boil 1 tsp eyebright herb in 1 pint water for 10 minutes. Soak a cloth in this infusion and apply to eye for 15 minutes several times daily as needed. Be sure to strain carefully before using as an eyewash as impurities can irritate eye severely. (1)

2-5 gms. (6);  2-200 mg capsules 3 x daily (15)

Up to 2.5g capsules daily.  Steep 2-3 tsp in a cup of hot water for 10-15 min., 3 x daily.  Tincture 30-40 drops up to 4 x daily.    (61)

General Notes:  The scientific name of eyebright, euphrasia, is derived from a Greek word that means gladness. The German name, Augentrost, means consolation of the eyes.

Eyebright was first mentioned in herbals in the 1300’s by Arnald de Villanova and others. Milton also made reference to eyebright clearing Adam’s sight in Paradise Lost. 

Herbalsists postulated eyebright’s utility on eye conditions according to the Doctrine of Signatures. The basis of the Doctrine of Signaturesis the idea that plants resemple the conditions or body parts that they help. Eyebright’s flower has purple and yellow stripes that resemple the marks of bloodshot eyes. (1)      

E. officinalis was first recorded as a medicinal herb for “all evils of the eye” in the 14th century.  It gained credence through the Doctrine of Signatures:  “the purple and yellow spots and stripes which are upon the flowers of the eyebright doth very much resemble the diseases of the eye, as bloodshot, etc., by which signature it hath been found out that this herb is effectual for the curing of the same.”  Euphrasia a translation of Greek, “good cheer”. (38)

As a rinse, it strengthens the tensile structure of the eyes making it good for eye inflammations and eye strain. (54)

The common name, eyebright, refers to species of Euphorbia, Lobelia, and Sabbatia, as well as Euphrasia.  Nevertheless they are quite similar chemically, and therefore it would seem useful, if not entirely accurate, to continue to designate them by the older, more inclusive title, E. officinalis L.  (59)

The name alone bespeaks a primary traditional use, treatment of eye diseases.  Despite centuries of use, there has been almost no research.  No human in vivo studies have been published.    (61)



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data (Nature’s Field, Nov/Dec 1996)

(1a) Cayuga Botanicals “Eyebright Tincture” file

(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 844

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 343

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 199

(13) The Herb Book by John Lust, p. 330

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 116-17

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, p. 142, 157

(38) Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses by Deni Bown, p. 126, 281

(48) The Rulership Book by Rex E. Bills, p. 47

(50) The Practical Herbalist and Astrologer by Ira N. Shaw, p. 39

(54) Medicinal Herb Handbook by Feather Jones, p. 6

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 134

(59) The Honest Herbal  by Varro E. Tyler, Ph.D, pgs. 127-28

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 80-81


PHOTO: Wikipedia