By Randy Lee, ND
Most of us treasure our eyesight, yet we often take for granted that, as we grow older, our eyesight will diminish. Yet, some folks well into their centenary years still have excellent eyesight. Although genes surely play a part, we should consider the contribution of proper nutrition that “feeds” the eyes. As well as vitamins A and C and a good vitamin B complex—all of which are of particular importance to our eyes—there are also some herbs that specifically seem to nourish the eyes.
Eyebright—for centuries, it has been the herb of choice for many diseases of the eyes. It can be being taken internally, and is also used in many eyewash formulas due to its antibacterial, antiseptic and astringent properties, which are helpful for treating conjunctivitis (“pink eye”); sore, stinging inflammation; and discharges. Eyebright seems to have the ability to improve vision, relieve eye pressure, relieve over-sensitivity to light, and protect the optic nerve in the early stages of glaucoma. It contains a glycoside called aucoboside, which strengthens the capillaries and improves circulation in the eyes. Make an eyewash by emptying a capsule of the herb into water and boil it for about ten minutes. Cool it, strain it, and use as you would any eyewash. This can relieve the discomfort of both eyestrain and minor irritation, and can be used up to a dozen times a day.
Bilberry contains potent antioxidants that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier to neutralize free radicals in the brain and other nerve tissues, including the eyes. It reduces eye irritation from smog. Note that while vision will often improve within a couple of weeks, continued use over time is needed for the greatest benefits.
Carrots contain not only beta carotene but other carotenoids such as lutein which concentrate in the eye. Sufficiently high levels are needed to protect eye tissues such as the macula—and macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual loss. It is possible that lutein dwindles in menopausal years, which may contribute to loss of eyesight as women age.
Soy has a variety of nutritional values. Among them is its ability to lower high cholesterol, and this is helpful because high cholesterol levels drop the density of retinol necessary for good eye health.
Eye formulas take advantage of the synergistic effect of combining herbs. One popular formula combines eyebright with golden seal (antiseptic), bayberry (astringent), and red raspberry. Such combinations have been used with hay fever, glaucoma, and superficial cataracts.
Nature provides plenty of helpful options to aid in good health, though the more natural approach may take months to accomplish. Don’t face old age passively, and remember: The “Eyes” Have It.
Naturopathic Doctor Randy Lee is the owner of The Health Patch, located at 1024 S. Douglas Blvd., Midwest City. Contact him at 405-736-1030, PawPaw@TheHealthPatch.com, or visit TheHealthPatch.com.