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Common Name: Eyebright
Euphrasia officinalis is an annual plant that can grow up to 0.15 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
W. Europe, including Britain, to E. Asia.
Moist grassland and chalky pastures, semi-parasitic on grass[
Succeeds in most soils, preferring chalk or limestone[
]. Eyebright is a semi-parasitic plant, growing on the roots of various species of grass[
] and also on Trifolium pratense and Plantago species[
]. The grass does not seem to suffer unduly from this parasitism since eyebright is an annual and its cells do not penetrate very deeply into the grass[
There is some doubt over the validity of the name of this species, some botanists now call it Euphrasia rostkoviana.
Eyebright is a variable aggregate species, some botanists divide it into a number of different species[
]. Only those forms of eyebright which have glandular hairs on the calyx possess medicinal qualities[
]. It hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[
Leaves - raw[
]. They are occasionally used in salads for their slightly bitter flavour[
Eyebright has a long history of herbal use in the treatment of eye problems and is still in current herbal use[
]. It is important that only the correct forms of eyebright, with glandular hairs on the calyx, are used, since other forms do not possess medicinal virtues[
]. Eyebright tightens the mucous membranes of the eye and appears to relieve the inflammation of conjunctivitis and blepharitis[
]. Its ability to counter catarrh means that it is often used for infectious and allergic conditions affecting the eyes, middle ear, sinuses and nasal passages[
The whole plant is anti-inflammatory, astringent, digestive, ophthalmic and slightly tonic[[
]. It is taken internally in the treatment of catarrh, sinusitis, hay fever, upper respiratory tract infections etc[
]. As an ophthalmic, an infusion of the plant can be taken internally or used as an eye wash. Alternatively, the diluted juice can be dropped into the eyes[
]. Some caution should be exercised, experimentally it can induce side effects including dim vision[
]. The plant's astringency makes it inappropriate for treating dry or stuffy congestion[
]. The plant can be used externally as a poultice to aid the healing of wounds[
]. Eyebright should be harvested when in flower and can be dried for later use[
The dried herb is a ingredient of herbal smoking mixtures, used in the treatment of chronic bronchial colds[
A homeopathic remedy is made from the expressed juice of the plant[
]. It is used particularly in the treatment of eye inflammations and colds[
Sow the seed outdoors in situ in early spring amongst grass in a moist but not marshy soil[