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Eyebright contains a number of active constituents, including Aucubin, caffeic acid and tannins. This last group of compounds work as anti-inflammatory agents, helping to dry up secretions of the mucous membranes.
This is particularly relevant when we consider the most important role of Eyebright – to reduce the inflammation of the delicate mucous membranes of the eyes (conjunctivitis) when they are afflicted by infections or allergy (hayfever). The preparation should be taken internally.
Constituents---The precise chemical constituents of the herb have not yet been recorded; it is known to contain a peculiar tannin, termed Euphrasia-Tannin acid (which gives a dark-green precipitate with ferric salts and is only obtainable by combination with lead) and also Mannite and Glucose, but the volatile oil and acrid and bitter principle have not yet been chemically analysed.
Medicinal Action and Uses---Slightly tonic and astringent.
Although neglected nowadays by the faculty, modern herbalists still retain faith in this herb and recommend its use in diseases of the sight, weakness of the eyes, ophthalmia, etc., combining it often with Golden Seal in a lotion stated to be excellent for general disorders of the eyes. The juice obtained by expression from the plant in the fresh state is sometimes employed, or an infusion in milk, but the simple infusion in water is the more usual form in which it is applied. An infusion of 1 OZ. of the herb to a pint of boiling water should be used and the eyes bathed three or four times a day. When there is much pain, it is considered desirable to use a warm infusion rather more frequently for inflamed eyes till the pain is removed. In ordinary cases, the cold application is found sufficient.
In Iceland, the expressed juice is used for most ailments of the eye, and in Scotland the Highlanders make an infusion of the herb in milk and anoint weak or inflamed eyes with a feather dipped in it.
The dried herb is an ingredient in British Herbal Tobacco, which is smoked most usefully for chronic bronchial colds.
Homoeopathists hold that Eyebright belongs to the order of scrofula-curing plants, and Dr. Fernie tells us that it has recently been found by experiment:
'to possess a distinct sphere of curative operation, within which it manifests virtues which are as unvarying as they are potential. It acts specifically on the mucous lining of the eyes and nose and the upper part of the throat to the top of the windpipe, causing when given so largely as to be injurious, a profuse secretion from these parts; if given of reduced strength, it cures the troublesome symptoms due to catarrh. Hay Fever, and acute attacks of cold in the head may be checked by an immediate dose of the infusion repeated every two hours. A medicinal tincture is prepared from the whole plant with spirits of wine, of which a lotion is made with rose-water, for simple inflammation of the eyes. Thirty drops of the tincture should be mixed with a wineglassful of rose-water for making this lotion, which may be used several times a day.'
Boll Chim Farm. 2000 Sep-Oct;139(5):225-7.
In vitro anti-mycotic activity of some medicinal plants containing flavonoids.
Trovato A, Monforte MT, Forestieri AM, Pizzimenti F.
Pharmaco-Biological Department, School of Pharmacy, Vill. SS. Annunziata, 98168 Messina.
Aqueous, ethanolic and petroleum ether extracts of Citrus sinensis L. (Osbeck), Euphrasia officinalis L., Glycyrrhiza glabra L., Matricaria recutita L., Rosa canina L. and Ruta graveolens L. have been studied. The antimycotic activity was evaluated "in vitro" on strains of Candida albicans isolated from clinical samples obtained in the course of acute vaginitis.