Do Eyebright Drops and Supplements Benefit Health?
Eyebright is an herb with small white flowers that feature purple streaks and a splash of yellow near the center.
It has been used in traditional herbal medicine in Europe for centuries, particularly for minor eye ailments like redness and irritation.
The herb’s Greek name, Euphrasia, means gladness, referring to how you may feel if the herb restores your eye health.
This article reviews the uses, potential benefits, dosage information, and precautions for eyebright.
What is eyebright?
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is an herb that commonly grows in Europe, Asia, and North America. It’s 2–8 inches (5–20 cm) tall and only blooms for a few months toward the end of its growing season.
Eyebright grows well in poor soil and — being a semi-parasitic plant — gets some of its water and nutrients from the roots of nearby plants.
Its stems, leaves, and flowers are used in traditional herbal medicine, including tea and dietary supplements.
Eyebright is also used in homeopathy, a form of natural medicine that uses extremely diluted substances for treatments.
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is anherb whose stems, leaves, and flowers are used in tea and dietary supplements.
Rich in plant compounds
Eyebright contains several beneficial plant compounds, including the flavonoids luteolin and quercetin.
Luteolin and quercetin inhibit immune cells called mast cells, which release histamine — a compound that triggers allergy symptoms like runny nose and watery eyes.
This antihistamine property may be one reason why eyebright has traditionally been used to treat seasonal allergies or hay fever — though studies haven’t tested its effectiveness for this purpose.
Eyebright also contains compounds known as iridoids. One of the most studied compounds in this group is aucubin.
A test-tube study found that aucubin helped minimize scarring of heart tissue under damaging conditions like after a heart attack. Scarring can reduce your heart’s pumping ability
A mouse study suggests that aucubin may inhibit scarring of heart tissue after a heart attack by reducing oxidative damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.
Human studies are needed to determine whether typical doses of eyebright provide enough of these beneficial plant compounds to produce health benefits.
Eyebright contains flavonoids, including luteolin and quercetin, which have antihistamine properties. The herb also provides a compound called aucubin, which may protect against oxidative damage and support heart health.
May relieve eye irritation
The common name of eyebright refers to its traditional use for treating eye problems in animals and people.
Eye health is also one of the few uses of the herb that has been studied — though research is limited.
In one test-tube study, eyebright extracts helped control inflammation in human cornea cells. The cornea is the clear tissue that covers the colored part of your eye.
Another test-tube study found that an eye drop containing eyebright and chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) helped protect cornea cells from sun-related inflammation and damage.
In a human study, 65 adults with eye inflammation — due to pollen allergy, wind, dust, infections, or eye strain — used eye drops containing equal amounts of eyebright and rose (Rosae aetheroleum) extracts three times per day.
About 81% of the participants had complete relief of eye redness, swelling, burning, and sticky secretions within 6–14 days. The remaining participants had noticeable improvements in their eye symptoms.
That said, it’s uncertain how much eyebright contributed to the benefits, as it was tested along with another herb. Also, it’s possible that the eye symptoms would have improved without treatment, but there was no control group evaluating this.
Placebo-controlled, human studies of eyebright alone are needed to clarify whether it can improve eye irritation, inflammation, and related eye symptoms.
Notably, no studies have tested eyebright for its effect on major eye diseases like macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.
The name eyebright comes from the herb’s traditional use in eye ailments. Preliminary studies suggest that the herb may help relieve irritated, inflamed eyes, but more studies are needed to confirm this.
Other possible health benefits
A few studies suggest that eyebright may benefit other aspects of health, but more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.
There is preliminary evidence that eyebright may:
- Support skin health. In a test-tube study, eyebright helped prevent sun damage to skin cells by combating unstable molecules called free radicals. This type of damage contributes to wrinkles and increases skin cancer risk.
- Lower blood sugar. When rats with diabetes were given an oral extract made from eyebright leaves, their fasting blood sugar decreased by 34% within 2 hours. It had no effect on the blood sugar of rats without diabetes.
- Soothe colds and coughs. Traditionally, eyebright has been used to treat inflammation from colds, coughs, and sinus infections. Though not studied for this purpose, eyebright contains natural anti-inflammatory agents.
- Fight harmful bacteria. Test-tube studies suggest that plant compounds in eyebright may inhibit the growth of certain bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which are involved in eye infections.
- Protect the liver. Animal and test-tube studies suggest that aucubin, a plant compound in eyebright, may protect the liver against damage from free radicals, certain toxins, and viruses.
Despite these promising findings, the lack of human studies makes it uncertain whether eyebright would have any of these benefits in people.
Preliminary test-tube and animal research suggests that eyebright may prevent skin damage, inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, protect the liver, and reduce blood sugar in people with diabetes and inflammation from colds and coughs.
Forms and dosages
You can buy eyebright in stores and online as herbal tea, liquid extracts, capsules, homeopathic pellets, and eye drops.
Dosages haven’t been tested in human studies, but typical doses suggested on product packages and in traditional medicine are:
- Tea: 1–2 teaspoons (2–3 grams) of dried eyebright or 1 tea bag per 1 cup (237 ml) of boiled water. Cover and let steep for 5–10 minutes, then strain. The tea may taste slightly bitter, but you can sweeten it if preferred.
- Liquid extract: 1–2 ml, taken up to 3 times daily.
- Capsules: 400–470 mg per capsule, taken 2–3 times daily.
- Homeopathic pellets: Remedy strength is generally 30c, which indicates the dilution. Typical daily dosage is 3–5 pellets dissolved under your tongue.
- Eye drops: 1 or more drops per eye as needed, 3–5 times daily.
The most effective dosages may vary depending on the individual, the product used, and the condition being treated.
Eyebright is available as herbal tea, liquid extracts, capsules, homeopathic remedies, and eye drops. Dosages on product packages provide general guidance, but no studies have determined the most effective doses.
It’s important to be careful about how you use eyebright to support your vision.
Though eyebright has traditionally been used in homemade eye rinses to help with eye strain, this is unsafe and can result in an eye infection.
Sterile eye drops containing eyebright are available. Still, if you have had any kind of eye surgery or wear contact lenses, consult your eye doctor before using such eye drops.
You should also be careful about using eyebright if you have a medical condition or if you take medications, particularly for diabetes.
Since one animal study suggests that eyebright may lower blood sugar, you should consult your healthcare provider and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you take the herb alongside diabetes medicine.
It’s important to watch that your blood sugar doesn’t go too low.
Eyebright has not been tested in pregnant or breastfeeding women and should, therefore, be avoided in these stages of life.
Finally, eyebright is not a proven treatment for any medical condition, so don’t use it in place of prescribed medication.
Don’t use homemade, topical eye treatments made with eyebright, as they’re not sterile. Eyebright should be used with caution if you have diabetes, as combining the herb with diabetes medication may result in low blood sugar.
The bottom line
Eyebright is an herb with a long history of medicinal use, particularly for eye ailments. It’s available as a tea, dietary supplement, and eye drops.
Though preliminary evidence suggests that eyebright may benefit inflamed, irritated eyes, more high-quality human studies are needed.
Due to the limited research on eyebright, don’t use it in place of prescribed medicine, and talk to your healthcare provider before combining it with conventional treatments.