DIY Herbal Eyewashes and Herbal Remedies for Eye Health and Optimal Vision

DIY Herbal Eyewashes and Herbal Remedies for Eye Health and Optimal Vision

How to Make an Herbal Eyewash

I purchased this little vintage ceramic eyecup a few months ago for doing eyewashes and just recently got the chance to use it. I love making up little batches of herbal eyewash for those mornings when you wake up with eyes that are red and crusty, inflamed, dry, or sore. There are a couple of different methods I use when making an herbal eyewash:

Herbal Eyewash for Conjunctivitis, Pink Eye, Itchy, Red, Inflamed Eyes

Method 1. Make a strong base of an herbal tea or infusion and add herbal tinctures into it to make your eyewash. A cooled tea of yarrow, horsetail, calendula, green tea, or chamomile makes a fantastic base for an eye formula. Our Vita-Min tea blend works well, too. 

Method 2. Make a saline solution and add your herbal tinctures into that. I make fresh homemade saline with one cup of boiled, filtered water to 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirred together so that the salt dissolves. Let that cool and then add in your herbal extracts.

Method 3. Use a premade saline solution or sterilized eye solution as your base and add your drops of herbal tinctures into that. You can also just use water if you don't have salt on hand (though it may irritate the eye more than saltwater will).

With any of these methods, it's best to use distilled, filtered, or sterilized and boiled water to eliminate any opportunity for bacteria to get into the eye area. 

There are a few herbs with affinities for and a long-standing tradition of treating the eye area. Some of my favorite herbal extracts for eyewashes that we have in the apothecary are:

  • Chickweed (pictured below) for moistening and clearing
  • Calendula for overall health and as an anti-inflammatory (extract available by special request - order Lymph Love and in the notes at checkout state 'please bottle calendula only')
  • Plantain as a drawing, anti-inflammatory, and clarifying agent
  • Goldenrod for drying and relieving itch and redness
  • Ground ivy as a very traditional remedy for a range of eye issues, including soreness and weakness
  • Yarrow as a catch-all for all of the reasons listed above
  • I’ve used a drop or so of echinacea, too. It's a little tingly but a very effective anti-infective.

Chickweed Fresh Herb Poultice for Eye Health

I simply add a few drops of these herbal tinctures (I was taught no more than 10-20 drops of total tinctures per oz) to one oz or two of boiled, distilled water, or saltwater, or straight saline solution (and let it cool if you did the boiled water, obviously). I have never had any issues with the very small amount of alcohol in the extracts irritating sensitive eyes. With any of these remedies, you want to be sure your herbal extracts or teas are well-strained of particulate matter which could further irritate the eye. 

Running low on kitchen/apothecary supplies? No problem. Kitchen cupboard medicine to the rescue. In a pinch, I've also used a green tea bag (chamomile also works well) as a warm herbal eye compress. Simply make a cup of tea as you normally would, but when you take the tea bag out don't wring it out all the way: leave it a little soggy and apply it to your closed eye for a few minutes, allowing the tea to soak into your eye area as best you can. Got a cucumber? It's a cliche, but not one without its basis in truth. Even slices of cooling cucumber will do something to help draw inflammation out of the eye area - and you get a bonus spa moment.

Using Herbal Tea Bag Compress for Conjunctivitis, Pink Eye, Sore, Red, Itchy Eyes

Making a fresh herb poultice to reduce inflammation and support the eye area is a great option if you have any of these herbs growing around you: chickweed, plantain, calendula, or violet (all leaves or leaf/flower). Simply chop up or crush the fresh plant until it's moist and juicy enough to be clumped into a ball or paste and apply this to the eye area, covering it with a moist cloth if desired. 

Calendula Officinalis Flower Blossoms Herbs for Eye Health

Back to the herbal eyewashes made via the three main methods described above, if you're using a clean, sanitized dropper then simply drop the solution into the affected eye, blinking to help it fully absorb and reach everywhere. If using an eye cup like the one pictured, pour enough into your eye cup to fill it up halfway, hold it up to your eye (head down) to create a seal, then tip your head up and let the solution permeate your eye area, blinking and opening your eye, for 30 seconds to a minute. Use the mixture applied to the eyes 2-6 times daily until the desired outcome is achieved. 

Herbal Eyewash Cup for Inflamed and Sore Eyes

This does *wonders* for tender eyes and I have never had soreness or redness last for more than a day after using an herbal eyewash made with the herbs above.

Herbs for Eye Health and Optimal Vision

We get a lot of inquiries about herbs for overall eye health and optimal vision, and I'll summarize our typical recommendations below. This is not an all-encompassing deep dive whatsoever as eye health is a complex and nuanced issue. Lifestyle and diet (a deficiency in vitamin A leads to night-blindness, for example, and is relatively common) is all-important here, including everything from getting enough sleep to reducing your exposure to blue light and increasing your exposure to natural light to getting plenty of antioxidants in your food (especially blueberries).

Our favorite herbs to use internally to support an overall lifestyle and nutritional effort toward eye health are:

These are all herbs known to support healthy vision through their effects on the cardiovascular system and circulation, the blood, and the pineal gland, or because of their nutrient density. A well-rounded eye health formula might include any or all of the above depending on your constitution, your diet and lifestyle approaches, and the big picture of your overall health. 

Herbs for Eye Health

And don't forget what's perhaps the most important aspect of modern eye health: regulating your screen time and making sure to use your long-range vision so that it doesn't atrophy. Go outside and fix your eyes on a tree on the horizon or a natural element as far away as possible to strengthen your ocular muscles in this way. 

Herbs for Toddlers and Young Children

Herbs for Toddlers and Young Children

If illness is the great teacher, it certainly doesn’t spare the littles. But as parents, we have such a diverse arsenal of herbal medicines available to us that using them one way that we can best show our babes to appreciate the natural world. Let's walk through some basic information about safely and effectively incorporating herbs into our everyday routines with our kids, using herbs for immune system regulation, digestive health, the nervous system, and skin health. 
Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis Herbal Remedy Poke Root to the Rescue

Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis: Poke Root to the Rescue

Issues like mastitis and clogged or plugged milk ducts can pop up when least expected - and least wanted - especially during times of stress and depressed immunity. Poke root oil or poke root salve is a wonderful herbal remedy for nursing mamas who are looking for a safe, traditional, effective treatment that really kicks the healing up a notch.

Allergy Alert: Support in Season

We all know it’s coming – some of us may already be in the thick of it. The congestion, the bleary eyes, the runny nose, the headaches, the pains, the stuff. Allergy season is in prime time at the moment, and it happens to fall right at the time of year when the dogwoods are exploding into blossom, the birdsong is melodious, and all we want to do is be outside. “What a cruel joke nature plays!” we may think to ourselves while sniffling and gazing longingly out the window. We’ve heard of all the natural remedies: local honey, bee pollen, and locking yourself indoors until summer…but have you met the nettles?

Know Your Nettle

NettlesStinging nettles, Urtica dioica (and also wood nettles or Laportea canadensis, which can be used fairly interchangeably), are an incredible green ally for those with persistent allergies and seasonal symptoms. On top of using locally produced bee by-products like honey, royal jelly and pollen to combat allergies, incorporating nettles as a superfood and super-infusion can give springtime allergies a kick in the pollinated pants. Mineral rich, incredibly high in iron and chlorophyll, and densely nutritious, nettles are a food-herb and can be consumed in abundance with absolute safety. Mid-late spring is the optimal time to harvest nettles, when their formic acid content is lower and they are more tender and less fibrous than their summer or autumn selves.

In her book Healing Wise: The Wise Woman Herbal, Susun Weed advises that “Nettle is an ally which – combined with the Wise Woman ways – can help the gradual healing of a person with a condition such as hay fever, allergies etc… Try a cup/250 ml of nettle infusion, or a half cup/125 ml cooked fresh greens and pot liquor, or a teaspoonful of the juice every nice spring day for at least a month.”

Nettles are best used as a tonic herb for chronic allergy sufferers. Expect to use nettles regularly for one week to one month before realizing significant improvement and relief. See Susun Weed’s website for more on this juicy food and medicine. Need nettles?

Rusty on the exact process of making a full-strength medicinal herbal infusion? Lucky for you, it takes less than the time it takes to brush your teeth, and we’ll remind you how simple it is in this article in one of our earlier newsletters. Check out our archived newsletter for a recipe for a rich Russian Nettle Tonic to get even more nettles into your life.

Osha: An Ocean of Possibilities

Osha Root

While nettles is one of our best green allies for allergies over the long-term, a wise woman surrounds herself with not one but many friends. Sweet, spicy osha (Ligusticum spp.) is another one of these allies that are useful in soothing the redness and inflammation of the allergy season. But unlike nettles, osha is fast-acting to support at the scene of the issue.

In the form of a potent low-dose botanical, the aromatic osha root assists in allergic reactions and anaphylactic situations until one can seek medical treatment should an acute situation arise. On an allergy that manifests itself through redness, irritation and inflammation on the skin such as hives and rashes, osha tincture can be used both topically and internally in tandem to support the body’s extreme histamine response. Got an itchy throat from allergies? Osha is helpful for soothing the esophageal passages.

If you or someone you know has an allergy – whether bee sting or nut butters – it’s a wise investment to have a bottle of osha tincture on hand for those unexpected reactions. As a bonus, osha is also excellent for use on any painful, swollen insect or animal bites or stings that you might experience. Don’t be caught without this powerful root medicine, and may the osha and the nettles help you to enjoy an allergy-less spring singing with the birds!

April 29, 2015 — Heather Wood Buzzard

New Wild Cherry Bark Syrup!

Our new Wild Cherry Bark Syrup supports healthy respiratory function and is just the thing for soothing raspy coughs and sore throats from winter colds or allergies. We tested several formulas and found that this blend of elecampane root, wild violet leaf, slippery elm bark, and wild cherry bark extracts mixed with local raw honey offers the most relief for a variety of coughs.

Fresh local elecampane root is an expectorant to make coughs more productive while violet’s demulcent qualities help coat agitated areas. Wild cherry bark is traditionally used by Natives for aches and calming cough and slippery elm bark soothes internal inflammations and sore throats. And the raw mountain honey makes the syrup yummy and smooth.

The adult dosage is only 1 teaspoon per serving so a little goes a long ways. Add some to your medicine cabinet today to be ready for the next cold or sore throat.

December 07, 2014 — Jeannie Dunn

Herbs: Short vs. Long Term Use

by Jackie Dobrinska

Herbs are used in two distinct ways. One is in acute situations, providing relief for things like an upset tummy or menstrual cramps. The other is to nourish and regulate organs and systems, revitalizing the body’s own ability to maintain overall good health.

The first way is fast. The second often takes time. A robust herbal medicine chest contains both types of herbal remedies.

Herbs like yarrow, skullcap, plantain, wild lettuce, motherwort, and lemon balm are usually used for acute situations.  It is best to take them immediately at the on-set of the issue and at regular intervals to have the most desired effect.

Tonics such as elder, hawthorne, vitex, astragalus, and reishi are helpful for more long term support for the immune system, the heart, the hormonal system and others. A tonic works best when taken consistently on a daily basis, over three to six months.

Some herbs are both tonics and fast acting. For example, St. Johnswort (also known as St. Joanswort) is both a tonic that supports the nervous system and an herb that is used acutely for viral infections and burns.

Knowing the manner in which to use an herb will help determine how much to have on hand. Taking two full droppers of an extract a day, a 1 ounce bottle will last approximately 20 to 25 days.  This is probably enough for most acute situations.  Since tonics need to be taken for at least three to six months to see results, a 4 or 8 ounce bottle helps keep the herb at hand, and also cuts down on cost and waste.

To learn more about choosing the appropriate sizes for your needs, please visit our FAQ page.

Know that herbal tonics require a commitment to reap the rewards, and immediacy helps with acute situations.  Both are important for herbal remedies to work their magic best.

October 01, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs

Jewelweed

by Anne Knoflicek

Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, is a flowering plant with beautiful orange horn shaped blossoms that bloom from early summer and into the fall.  It is also known as spotted touch-me-not, because of how the mature seeds spring out from the pod when touched.

Jewelweed tends to grow in moist soil, often near creeks or streams.

The juicy stems and leaves can provide some cooling relief from the irritating itch of the poison ivy rash.  If applied soon enough after coming into contact with poison ivy, it can sometimes help ward off the rash from appearing at all. 

September 03, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs

The Beauty of the Honey Bee

by Corinna Wood
As we reap the harvest of what has been sown and tended this year, we must also take a moment to honor the honey bee – an amazing anthropod that has helped make this abundance possible! The bee is a symbol of the potency of nature. Like us, bees are attracted to a plant by its fragrant, colorful flower. In this symbiotic relationship, the flowers blossom, the world is beautified, and the bee gathers nectar from which it creates the sweet elixir of life – honey!

Honey is a powerful healer. Used for ages to heal burns, honey can be applied during the initial “heat” phase of a burn, unlike many oils and salves help after the burn has cooled. Honey has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, and is used for healing wounds of all types including those which do not respond well to antibiotics. Recently, I was awed as I worked with honey for an eye issue ~ honey has been used for centuries to support people with eye diseases, from simple eye infections to corneal ulcers.

When working with honey, use raw honey as it is high in enzymes.

It’s impossible to talk about the magic of the honey bees without acknowledging the difficulty they are currently having. To help support the honey bees:

  • Plant flowers that bees love! Fortunately, bees love herbs–motherwort and bee balm are two of their top picks in my garden.
  • Support organic farming by buying and growing local organic foods, as pesticides are one of the major factors in the bees’ plight.

Bees are almost entirely a group of females (that also includes the very important masculine) working together in mutual support to create something more powerful than they could alone. They remind us that cooperation and symbiosis creates abundance and health in the world.

Bees, Bites, and Poultices

by Anne Knoflicek

Plantain contains healing properties that can be easily accessed through a simple “spit” poultice.  The sooner you apply it, the faster your relief.

PLANTAIN ‘SPIT’ POULTICE

1. Positively identify plantain (very abundant, especially in lawns)

2. Chew leaf until it is soft, and spit onto bug bite, sting or wound

3. Cover with a bandaid to hold it in place

4. Remove, refresh, and reapply whenever pain or itching returns – every few minutes to every few hours.

Saliva contains anti-microbial enzymes that protect our mouths and digestive systems from the outside world. These protective enzymes are the reason most animals instinctively lick their wounds.

Even so, if you or your family member is uncomfortable with the saliva aspect of this method, simply chop the plantain with a knife or put it in a blender with a little water to release its healing juices.

June 08, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs

Poison Ivy

by Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women

For those of us who love green, growing things, it pays to know your neighbors. And in our area, one of the most important wild plants to recognize is Poison Ivy. Whether she’s moved in down the road or right in your own backyard, rest assured, she’s out there.

A nature-loving woman I know likes to tell the story of a romantic interlude from her past. She and her paramour had wandered off one night to the edge of her flowerbeds to enjoy some stargazing. It was a warm night in early spring and they settled down to appreciate the celestial display.

Two days later, however, she realized that she had taken away more than fond memories from her evening of contemplating the heavens. A constellation of itchy, burning bumps had appeared across her back, arms and legs.

Yes. Poison Ivy. What two words in the English language can elicit such an immediate, itchy response (except, perhaps, tax audit)? Anyone who plays in the outdoors, or tends a garden, will, sooner or later, encounter this unobtrusive, yet unforgettable vine. So in the case of Poison Ivy, forewarned is forearmed.

Poison Ivy (Rhus toxicodendron), and her cousin, Poison Oak (Rhus toxicarium) both secrete oils that contain urushiol, a toxin that produces contact dermatitis – in lay terms, a nasty, allergic rash.

So it’s best not to become intimate with this lady. In our region, Poison Ivy is the one to be on the lookout for. Identification is key. The first clue is the three-leafed structure. To further distinguish it from other three-leaved plants, look for an extended stem on the center leaf, while the two opposing lower leaves connect directly to the stem.

The leaves themselves have an undulating, scalloped edge that sometimes resembles a mitten. But the edge of the leaf is not serrated, or saw-toothed, like the three-leaved plants in the Rubus genus (including wild raspberries and blackberries).

In early spring, Poison Ivy may have shiny leaves and a reddish hue. But although the stems may retain some color as the plant matures, the leaves will soon turn a rather pedestrian green shade that acts as camouflage among the surrounding vegetation. So look for the pattern and shape of the leaves – not its shininess or color.

The size of the leaves and growth patterns can also vary widely. She takes many forms – a spreading ground cover, a small bush or a hairy, snaking vine that climbs up trees.

The entire plant is toxic – leaves, stems and roots. In the case of my astronomer friend, it was too early in the season for the telltale leaves to give her warning. The bare stems were the culprits. Also, do not touch any hairy vines growing up trees – the hairy stems themselves carry the toxic oils as well.

Poison Ivy loves to intermingle with other plants and usually appears in areas that have been disturbed by human intervention, frequently at the edges of pathways, cleared fields and building sites.

In this way, she actually has a role in the ecosystem as an earth-healing plant, defending her little patch of ground from further human intrusion. She covers Mother Earth’s skin – the topsoil – allowing it to recover and renew itself.

Animals are generally immune to her irritating oils, although they can carry them on their fur and innocently share them with you. Intrepid children may wander into her midst unawares (until they start to scratch within a day or so).

So, if you live or play in an area where Poison Ivy is abundant, it’s important to know the “Poison Ivy status” of anyone or anything you may snuggle.  Always assume the worst and send them off to the showers!

Unfortunately, we often tangle with this nemesis in places where we are without the benefit of running water.

Fortunately, Mother Earth loves balance and often offers some Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis, I. pallida, and other similar species), a healing plant ally, near stands of Poison Ivy.

Jewelweed’s plump, juicy stems are bright green, and so watery-looking that the whole plant is somewhat translucent. Her leaves are oval, with a gently scalloped edge and in summer she exhibits an exquisite, tubular yellow-orange flower, which resembles a golden cornucopia.

Jewelweed is also known as “˜Touch-me-not” because at the slightest jostling her seed pods will spring open and spray seeds up to four feet in the air, an effect that delights children.

Jewelweed Ice Cubes

The medicinal properties of Jewelweed extract best into a water-based solution, so the easiest way to preserve the benefits of this plant is by freezing the Jewelweed broth.

  1. Harvest Jewelweed plants in midsummer, when they are in their early to peak flowering stage. Use the whole top half of the plant, including leaves, stalks, and flowers.
  2. Fold the stalks with leaves and flowers into a pot, cover them with water and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until the liquid turns dark orange.
  3. Strain the liquid, and apply the broth directly to the affected area
  4. Pour the remainder of the liquid into ice trays, and set them in the freezer.
  5. The next day, remove the ice cubes from the tray, place in a clearly marked bag. Rest assured that you have a soothing, cooling Jewelweed preparation for topical use on hand year-round!

Splitting the succulent stem and rubbing the watery juice onto the skin is an old folk remedy to prevent or minimize an outbreak of Poison Ivy. Take a good supply home with you as well, since Jewelweed is also useful for treating and reducing the severity of the irritation and inflammation should a rash develop.

It’s good to keep some Jewelweed extraction (see sidebar) on hand even in winter when Poison Ivy is dormant, but one can still meet up with urushiol oil residue on firewood.

Given Poison Ivy’s ubiquitous presence, you may choose to deal with her by building up some immunity to her “charms”.  So many people have benefited from Rhus Tox, a commercial homeopathic preparation, that it is available not only in health food stores, but also most mainstream pharmacies today.  Homeopathic preparations are made by repeatedly diluting the physical properties, which is said to increase the energetic properties.

Some brave individuals, who have the mettle for a more daring approach, go to the lady herself – engaging the energy directly. Beginning with the tiny, first growth leaves in the early spring, they harvest and swallow a thumbnail sized piece of leaf (wearing gloves, of course).  They say that repeating this procedure every 3 weeks builds up their immunity to the misery of Poison Ivy.

Although I do know people who have found this method to be quite effective, I cannot recommend it  It must be utilized with great caution and at your own risk. Many say that this controversial method risks severe, even fatal, allergic reactions.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the late Eueull Gibbons, author of Stalking the Wild Asparagus, had an ongoing debate with Kingsbury, author of Poisonous Plants in the U.S. and Canada, over this very issue.  The debate began with Kingsbury criticizing Gibbons for sharing his own success story of eating poison ivy leaves, although Gibbons wrote clearly that “it was not a safe or settled scientific practice” (see Mother Earth News, issue #15, May/June 1972).

It has also been suggested that ingesting the milk of animals who have grazed on Poison Ivy will have the same result. Goats are particularly fond of her. Of course this demands that you know your goat and where it dines.

Awareness is the key to co-existing with Miss Ivy. Bear her in mind whenever you commune with nature or don your gardening gloves and maintain a respectful distance. Deal with any close encounters as quickly as possible. As my friend learned: don’t be so caught up in what’s going on over your head that you forget what’s under your feet.

September 05, 2011 — Red Moon Herbs