What is Eyebright?
Eyebright (Euphrasia rostkoviana formerly officinalis) has been used for centuries for the treatment of conjunctivitis and mild eye irritation in people, hence the name. It has mild antimicrobial (antiseptic), anti-inflammatory and astringent (tightening) properties.
Eyebright is difficult to cultivate so most commercial herb is harvested from the wild. Reasonable substitutes include chamomile and calendula.
Eyebright contains consituents with different activities- iridoids (aucubin, euphroside), flavinoids, tannins and quercetin. The tannins reduce discharges and bleeding and have anti-inflammatory activity and may help precipitate the proteins of corneal ulcers to form a barrier that resists further damage. Aucubin is a limited spectrum anti-microbial and anti-viral compound. Quercetin is believed to inhibit the release of histamine by immune system cells during allergic reactions.
Why recommend administration of Eyebright to my pet?
Eyebright is commonly prescribed by veterinary herbalists for eye inflammation, particularly conjunctivitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane surrounding the eye) from a variety of causes. Its use in animals is inspired by its effectiveness in humans. It appears especially effective when integrated into treatment protocols for cat ‘flu’. Oral eyebright can assist animals with allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and topically it can help relieve keratitis.
What species of animals are being treated regularly with Eyebright?
Euphrasia is a benign herb, and is probably safe for administration in most species. Dogs, cats, and horses are the animals most commonly treated.
How much research has been conducted on this supplement?
Most of the evidence for effectiveness comes from herbal tradition and clinical experience rather than controlled research studies. One uncontrolled study investigated the tolerability and efficacy of eyebright in people with conjucntivitis, with only one person experiencing worsening symptoms.
How can my pet benefit from Eyebright?
Euphrasia may be used in bacterial, allergic and viral conjunctivitis. It is not recommended as a sole treatment for corneal ulcers but may be beneficial when used with other medications and surgical procedures.
How successful is Eyebright?
Effectiveness will vary with the severity of the problem. Where the underlying cause is persistent, Eyebright will have to be used regularly. Where eye inflammation is irritated through rubbing, Eyebright may help resolve the vicious cycle.
It is an excellent alternative to corticosteroid eyedrops, which may worsen corneal ulcers if used inappropriately, and which have been documented to have the potential for systemic side effects when used excessively.
Eyebright may be a safer alternative to corticosteroids in mild eye disorders since it not only relieves inflammation but may help protect against the incidence of ulcers. The use of additional antibiotic or immune stimulating agents may be required in the treatment of contagious forms of conjunctivitis.
How safe is Eyebright?
One concern is the risk of bacterial contamination of Eyebright eye drops. Contamination is easily avoided by purchasing sealed containers, avoiding contact of the tip of the bottle with the skin or eye, storing the drops according to the manufacturer’s directions, and observing product expiration dates. These concerns do not apply when oral herbal preparations are used.
Very rarely, Eyebright may induce eye inflammation in isolated individuals. Irritation disappears immediately when the herb is stopped. A more likely problem is simply that Eyebright may be ineffective. When persistent use is required, or Eyebright is ineffective, re-consult your veterinary surgeon.
NB - Eye disease is potentially very serious and highly destructive. It should be investigated promptly.
Where do I obtain Eyebright and do I need a prescription?
Please talk to one of the vets if you would like to use Euphrasia/Eyebright in your pet. We would be happy to guide you. A prescription is not required.
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