Herbs For The Eyes
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The eyes are among the most crucial and sensitive organs of the body. They may potentially encounter numerous problems, from minor symptoms such as mild irritation and redness to serious diseases that could even result in total loss of vision. 
Whether you want to maintain healthy vision or restore it, here are 10 herbs that are regarded as beneficial for eye health:
Top 10 Herbs For The Eyes
The name is an obvious indicator of the ancient belief in eyebright's value in treating the eyes. Eyebright derives its name from its flowers that resemble eyes as well as its valuable property as an eye medication to preserve eyesight.  Studies show eyebright can be used to soothe red or itchy eyes like those present in conjunctivitis.  In one such study carried throughout 12 general practitioner and ophthalmologist clinics in Europe, a single dose of eyebright eye drops were administered to patients with inflammatory or catarrhal conjunctivitis. Complete recovery was seen in 81.5% of the patients while there was a clear improvement in another 17%. 
They say the eyes are the "windows to your soul" but both Western and Eastern herbalists would also say the eyes are the "windows to your liver health." Weak eyes and blurred vision can be signs of liver malfunction  which indicates that what is bad for the liver can also be bad for your eyes. Hence, although milk thistle and its primary active component silymarin are known for liver support, they have also been shown to benefit the eyes. The liver is a key organ for your eyes since fat soluble vitamins and glutathione are stored here and are responsible for helping repair eye damage.  Research shows that silymarin can also inhibit aldose reductase which has a significant role in sugar deposition on the eyes of diabetics. By effectively fighting free radicals and reducing sugar levels in the eyes, milk thistle is not just a liver protector but also promoter of proper eye care. 
Used for centuries to remedy eye and central nervous system problems, ginkgo biloba is found to be a selective cerebro-vascular dilator that enhances circulation and increases blood flow at the back of the eye. In particular, ginkgo biloba has been associated with improvements in macular degeneration and glaucoma.  In 2012, scientists from Korea evaluated the effects of ginkgo biloba extracts on visual function of 332 patients with normal tension glaucoma. After treatment, visual acuity for many of eyes improved as well as mean deviation or visual fields tests. This evidence suggests the benefits of ginkgo biloba against various vascular disorders including glaucoma. 
If you have inflamed or watery eyes, fennel is said to provide some relief and strengthen your eyes.  Aside from such mild cases, raw fennel, fennel tea or used as eyewash can aid more serious conditions like cataracts and glaucoma.  In 2008, a study tested a single drop fennel aqueous seed extract for its effects on experimental models of glaucoma. Results exhibited significant ocuhypotenstive activity comparable to that of timolol and a reduction in intraocular pressure. This proves promising for fennel's role as an anti-glaucoma medication. 
Like fennel, the culinary spice saffron has been linked to improved eyesight, including bettering results for cataracts. In one clinical trial, every participant who took saffron reported vision improvements, prompting researchers to hail this herb as a potential key for preventing loss of sight among the elderly.  In another study, researchers found that saffron improved retinal flicker sensitivity in patients diagnosed with early age-related macular degeneration. 
Bilberry (Vacinium myritillus L.)
This one is interesting: British pilots of World War II reported that eating the fruit of the bilberry bush helped to improve their night vision. Bilberry is considered potentially valuable for eye health because of its high anthocyanosides content and is considered beneficial to microcirculation (i.e. blood flow in the smallest blood vessels) in all parts of the body.  Anthocyanosides are powerful compounds known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This herb may be of benefit in many eye disorders including retinopathy, macular degeneration and for reducing inflammation of the retina. 
Research shows that anthocyanosides help in boosting the production of pigments that enable the eyes to adapt to lighting changes. Furthermore, this compound offers 10X the antioxidant power of Vitamin C and 50X of Vitamin E. its bioflavonoid content is also beneficial in eliminating unwanted toxins from the eyes.  However, a systematic review found that several studies showed negative conclusions and speculated that bilberry from some regions may have lower anthocyanoside content; suggesting blackcurrant (Ribes nigru) as a possible alternative anthocyanoside source. 
Bilberry be found beneficial to the visual acuity of many healthy individuals, as well as in improving the vision of patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. When combined with zinc and ginkgo biloba, bilberry is said to make an excellent herb for preventing vision loss.
Dark circles and puffiness around the eyes can be embarrassing. Green tea bags placed over the eyes (as if they were cucumber slices!) may be effective in reducing swelling and fluid around the eyes. Green tea contains high levels of tannin and antioxidants. It also contains caffeine which may help shrink the blood vessels that causes swelling around the eyes. The tannin, which is known for its astringent properties, may reduce the dilation of capillaries and blood vessels found under the eyes which trigger the occurrence of dark circles. 
Some studies further revealed that green tea has powerful components that promote a healthy heart and liver.  Green tea contains lutein, zeaxanthin, Vitamin C and Vitamin E which have been found by studies to be effective for protecting eyes against several disorders. 
Turmeric is known for its health and medicinal benefits including its positive effect on eyes. This herb is capable of promoting eye health by reducing the oxidation of the eye lens. According to research, oxidation of the lens is one of the major causes of many eye disorders.
Turmeric also contains curcumin content that is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that this makes turmeric effective in reducing inflammation that is usually associated with dry eyes. 
Grape seed Extract
Widely heralded for health benefits, grape seed extract is regarded as one of the best in promoting eye health. It has been recommended for eye disorders like eye strain, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. 
Grape seed extract contains numerous phytochemicals thought beneficial for the eyes - including linoleic acid, flavonoids, Vitamin E, and oligomeric proanthocyanidins. Its oligomeric proanthocyanidins are known for their antihistamine and antioxidant properties, which are considered capable of enhancing eye health. 
Known for astringent, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, goldenseal is also claimed to be an excellent herb for enhancing eye health. When made into eyewash, goldenseal is effective in treating certain types of irritations. Furthermore, goldenseal has been said to be an effective treatment for infections, like trachoma, staph infection and sties that are triggered by allergies. 
Of course, herbs are not meant to be the sole promoter of eye health but serve to complement proper eye care, regular examinations, hygiene of the eyes and proper diet which includes adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and carotenoids. If you are concerned about your eye health, schedule an eye exam from a qualified practitioner.
Herbs For Eyes - References:
 Prospective cohort trial of Euphrasia single-dose eye drops in conjunctivitis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11152054
 Ginkgo biloba extract and bilberry anthocyanins improve visual function in patients with normal tension glaucoma. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22870951
 Oculohypotensive effects of foeniculum vulgare in experimental models of glaucoma. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18831355
Article researched and created by Cathy Ongking and Elfe Cabanas, © herbs-info.com 2013
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