The Eyes Have It
Blue, green, grey, hazel and brown. Big, small, wide, round, almond. Eyes are our windows to the world but it is important to remember that windows can get dirty and misty and need looking after if you want to see amazing views through them!
Eyes are a very delicate part of the body but are in constant contact with the environment. As such, they are susceptible to airborne pollution and other irritants. In this article we will be looking at ways to support eye health and look after one (or two!) of the most important organs of the body.
The eyes have two million parts (yes 2,000,000) and are very complex, second only to the brain. In an average lifetime your eyes will register an absolutely staggering 24 billion images. However, they can be affected by a range of conditions, such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis, hayfever, age-related macular degeneration, general strain and tiredness.
This is an uncomfortable condition where the protective membrane of the eyes (the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed. The eyes can become sore, bloodshot and very watery.
This is characterised by inflammation of the eyelid, on either the inside or the outside. It is an uncomfortable condition that can leave the eyelid swollen and sore and may be caused by bacterial infection or by sebaceous dandruff.
This can affect some people for the best part of the year depending on what they are reacting to. Symptoms can include itchy, streaming and/or inflamed eyes, and sneezing for long periods when, for example, getting out of bed in the morning.
Age-related Macular Degeneration
A condition that as the name suggests can affect people as they get older. The macula in the central area of the retina begins to deteriorate resulting in blurred vision and blind spots.
Bright Eyes (and bushy tails!)
Euphrasia officinalis (Eyebright) is a small plant native to Britain and Europe that has been used since the 17th century. It helps to relieve inflammatory conditions of the mucous membranes and because of this it may be useful for a variety of conditions such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) and itchy, irritated eyes due to hayfever. It is astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-catarrhal (which makes it useful for noses as well as eyes!) Do remember that the tincture should be used internally!
The word Bilberry comes from the Danish ‘bollebar’, meaning dark berry. During the Second World War it is said that bilberry jam was used to improve the night sight of fighter pilots!
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) can be useful for eyestrain due to its antioxidant content. It is rich in flavonoid compounds called anthocyanosides. Anyone who works with computers or who does a fair amount of driving as part of their job may benefit from swallowing 20 drops in a little water twice a day.
What the Devil…?
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum) is a wonderful herb native to the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. It has an anti-inflammatory effect within the body and may be of particular use to hayfever sufferers. Make sure you choose a product that has not been ripped from the wild!
Let Luffa Light up your Life!
A fantastic combination of herbs, including Luffa operculata with its desensitising, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic action, can help ease uncomfortable symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes that make life a misery for so many people during winter and summer months. If you are one of those people who always has a streaming nose and eyes, take this remedy to reduce your symptoms without risking getting drowsy. It is safe enough to give to children of two years of age and above, as it has no side effects or contraindications.
Not Just for Winter!
Echinacea purpurea is a herb that many people will have in their cupboard ready to fight off colds and flu during the winter months, but did you know that it may also be useful at other times of the year too? If you suffer from allergic rhinitis and are constantly sneezing your way through boxes of tissues, why not improve your immune function by taking Echinacea twice daily? This may well strengthen your immune system to the point where it does not react to irritants like animal hair or house dust.
A Fruitful Choice
Antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C are also very helpful for eyes. Vitamin C is water-soluble and therefore not stored in the body so it is important to make sure that the eyes have a good supply because of its natural antihistamine effect. Why not try a food supplement such as Nature-C. Each pleasant-tasting chewable tablet contains 100mg of Vitamin C.
There are a group of substances called carotenoids that are also important for eye health. These include lycopene, zeaxanthin and lutein. The macula owes its yellow colour to its high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin so these two carotenes play an essential role in protecting against the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
Your eyes are amazingly intricate machines but, like any machine, they need looking after. There are a whole host of wonderful herbs and nutrients that Mother Nature has provided to help keep them in full working order. Why not take up her generous offer and see just how effective they can be!