Eyebright scientifically known as Euphrasia Officinalis. This herb was traditionally used in Europe as an herbal remedy of various disorders. Specifically, it was commonly used for the treatment of eye problems hence the name. The decoctions and infusions, especially from the flowering aerial parts, were used in the relief of a dry cough, hoarseness, purulent skin lesions and catarrhal issues of the intestinal tract. The plant is endowed with various organic, chemical and nutritional properties that confer its various health benefits. It exhibits various biological activities such as creating a healthy inflammation response, elimination of free radicals, antimicrobial, maintaining optimal cell growth, hypotensive, and liver protection. It also contains vitamins B, C, E and beta-carotene in vitamin A that give the nutritional benefits associated with the vitamins. Additionally, it contains alkaloids, tannins, volatile oils, anti-oxidants such as caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and flavonoid.
Notably, the therapeutic effects of eyebright continue to beneficial to modern day. Therapeutic effects are mainly attributed to its ability to scavenge for free radicals and immune-supporting activity. Although few scientific studies have been performed to determine the activity of the Eyebright plant, its antiseptic property has proved effective in cleansing the eye. Its function as an eyewash is attributed to the presence of volatile oil content and tannin. Eyebright also tightens the mucous membranes of the eye and tends to relieve the inflammation response of the conjunctiva and the eyelash follicles. Eyebright is also useful in relieving hypersensitivity of the eyes to light. Additionally, its ability to counter mucus makes it useful in the management of infectious and allergic conditions affecting the eye, middle ear, sinuses and nasal passage. Although it helps dry liquid mucus, its use in dry or stuffy congestion could worsen the condition due to the plant’s astringent property.
Free radical scavenging activity protects the body from toxic substances that might cause unwanted cell damage. Substances isolated from the plant responsible for its immune-supporting function action include apigenin, luteolin, kaempferol, quercetin, caffeic acid, coumaric acid and rosmarinic acid. All these are responsible for the plant’s immune system protecting activity, especially against bacteria.
Eyebright protection against unwanted inflammatory response processes is due to the ability of the extract to reduce the production of cytokines especially in the treatment of eye.
Eyebright also contains natural astringent and antibacterial agents that play a role in tightening and unclogging of porous oily or irritated skin. The cleansing is mainly done under the eye area or the whole face especially over the nose and chin where the pores tend to appear bigger. The presence of flavonoids protects the skin from environmental stressors which helps restore the look of the skin. Its astringent property also helps in skin wound healing when applied topically.
It also confers systemic effects such as the stimulation of the liver to release vitamin A. This is however not proven scientifically. It is also said to aid memory and bring clear thinking. The presence of flavonoids and beta-carotene has a role in the improvement of cognitive performance and memory as well.
Unfortunately, the use of large amounts of eyebright can result in adverse effects such as increased eye pressure and sensitivity to light. Other allergic reactions may include respiratory distress, swelling of tongue, lips, and face. The evaluation of eyebright for safety and efficacy by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is yet to be substantive.