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Botanical Description & Habitat



Common Names

Arctic regions of Europe, northern and western Asia, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the Lake Superior area; found in meadows, pastures, and other grassy areas.

Eyebright is an annual herb with a twisted, dark brown root. The pubescent, purplish stem grows up to 12 inches in height and is branched near the base. It bears small, light green sessile leaves that are smooth and ovate. Red or purple and white flowers appear from June to September, growing in the upper leaf axils; they are solitary, sub-sessile, and occur in leafy spikes.

Medicinal Parts
Aerial parts - dried, collected during flowering.

Historical Properties & Uses

Eyebright contains astringent tannins accounting for its use as a mild eye-wash. In homeopathy, a tincture is used to treat conjunctivitis, blepharitis, keratitis, and other eye infections. Allopathy makes similar uses of the herb.

Eyebright is said to have anti-inflammatory activity, and is used for hay fever, colds, coughs, congestion, and sore throats. Extracts of eyebright display hypotensive action.

This herb has not achieved approval status by the German Commission E. Either there was insufficient evidence in favor, or a contraindication.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Eyebright is one of the herbs most often used in German medicine to stimulate the immune system.

Eyebright has been found to have high hypotensive activity. Ten to twenty percent extracts of the herb decreased blood pressure of anesthetized cats by more than 40% for a period of more than 20 minutes.

No single constituent of the herb has been identified that would possess the therapeutic properties listed in the introductory paragraph. And no clinical or experimental trial of the claims has ever been published. We are left with a mass of anecdotal data which spans several centuries.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
The topical application of the astringent herb eyebright, in conjunction with the acne product tretinoin (retinoic acid, vitamin A acid), may adversely affect the skin.

The tannin in eyebright may potentiate the antibiotic activity of echinacea. The tannin in tea made from the herb may be inactivated by the addition of milk or cream.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

No known toxicity. However, since the herb contains tannin, caution should be used when applying it directly to the eye. Use only weak solutions.

The German Commission E status is "null" or neutral i.e. while it is not approved, there is no documented risk. There may also be some concern over the claims made by manufacturers i.e. they are unproven.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Dried herb
2-4 grams

made from 1 tsp dried herb

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 2-4 ml

1:5 in 45% alcohol, 3-6 ml

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Am Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.

Bressler, R., M.D. Bogdonoff & G.J. Subak-Sharpe. 1981. The Physicians Drug Manual. Doubleday & Co, Inc. Garden City, NY. 1213 pp.

Committee on Pharmocopaeia of the Am Institute of Homeopathy, The Homeopathic Pharmacopaeia of the United States. 8th ed., Vol 1. Otis Clapp and Son, Agents, Boston, l981.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Sep, 1996.

Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. Macmillan, NY.

Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila.

Kastrup, E.K., ed. 1981. Drug Facts and Comparisons, 1982 edition. Facts and Comparisions Division, J.P. Lippincott Co, Phila(St. Louis).

Leung, Albert Y. 1980. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredient used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. John Wiley and Sons, NY. 409 pp.

List, P. & L. Hoerhammer. 1969-1976. Hagers Hanbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, vols. 2-5. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Martin, E.W. 1978. Drug Interactions Index, 1978/79. J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Perkov, V. Plants with hypotensive, antiatheramatous and coronarodilating action. Am Journal Of Chinese Medicine, 7(3), 197-236, 1979.

Scientific Committee, British Herbal Pharmocopaeia, British Herbal Med Assoc, Lane House, Cowling, Na Keighley, West Yorks, Bd Bd220lx, l983

Thomas, C. L. 1985. Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Co. Pub., Philadelphia. 2170 pp.

Tyler, Varro E., Lynn R. Brady, et. al. 1981. Pharmacognosy. Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia. 520 pp.

Vincent, D. & G. Segonzac. 1953. Comptes Rendus des Seances de la Societe de Biologie et de ses Filiales, 147. pp. 1776-1779.

Wagner, H. Immunprophylaxe und-therapie durch pflanzenpraeparate. Zeitschrift Fur Allgemeinmedizin, 24, 1282-1289, 1983.



? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine


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