This cosmopolitan genus includes some 450 semi-parasitic species. Euphrasias are difficult to cultivate because of this habit of growth. The genus is generally considered to be a group of similar species, sometimes given to separate species status. As a medicinal herb, eyebright may be derived from E. officinallis, E. brevipila, or E. rostkoviana. Euphrasia officinalis, as a grassland species, parasitic on Trifolium pratense (See, Red Clover)and Plantago (See, plantain) species., as well as on grasses, is the best known.. It was first recorded as a medicinal herb for "all evils of the eye" in the 14th century, gaining credibility through the Doctrine of Signatures: "the purple and yellow spots and stripes which are upon the flowers of the eyebright doth very much resemble the diseases of the eye, as bloodshot, etc., by which signature it hath been found out that this herb is effectual for the curing of the same". The safety and effectiveness of eyebright for eye problems has not been established. Euphrasia is a translation of the Greek, meaning "good cheer".

Eyebright has been used since the Middle Ages to relieve eye strain, eye inflammation or irritation, and itchy watery eyes due to allergies or colds. It is taken internally in the form of the fresh herb, a tea, or a tincture, or used externally as a compress or an ingredient in eyewash.

Variable annual, with upright stems and rounded, toothed leaves, usually less than 1cm (½in) long. Small, white flowers, often purple-veined, with a yellow-marked throat and 3-lobed lower lip, appear in summer.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Casse Lunette, Euphrasy, Meadow Eyebright, Red Eyebright
Botanical Name:
Euphrasia officinalis syn. E. rostkoviana
Native Location:
Grows in natural grassland, near host plants. Tolerates a wide range of soils and conditions.
By seed, scattered around host plants.
Plants are cut when flowering and dried for use in infusions, liquid extracts, tinctures, and homeopathic preparations.
5-30cm (2-12in)
5-30cm (2-12in)
Eyebright is a premier example of one of the herbs that inspired the medieval Doctrine of Signatures medical "theory". That theory (largely and sometimes disastrously erroneous) maintained that the physical appearance of a plant was directly related to it's medicinal use. Plants with lung-shaped leaves were believed good for coughs; plant roots or stems that excreted red sap would stop bleeding (this was true for St. John's Wort); yellow-flowered plants could cure jaundice. In the case of eyebright (another rare exception), the theory also held true: The plant's white or purple flowers are speckled with red spots, and the overall visual effect is one of "bloodshot eyes". Long before the Middle Ages—and ever since—eyebright has been used successfully to treat a variety of eye ailments, as well as, according to some folk herbalists, to restore poor vision. Perhaps that is why the Greeks gave it the name euphrasia, derived from euphrosyne for "gladness".
Parts Used:
Whole plant, All above ground parts.
A bitter, astringent herb that reduces inflammation and secretion of mucus.
Vitamin Content:
Vitamin A, Thiamin
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for mucus, sinusitis, alergic rhinitis, hayfever, and upper respiratory tract infections. Excess causes a range of symptons, including mental confusions, redness, itching and swelling of eyes, dimming of vision, and photophobia. Externally for conjunctivitis, eye injuries, herpes, and weeping eczema.
To treat eye infections, eye fatigue, and hay fever.
Eyebright has astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, decongestant, expectorant, and general tonic properties. Herbalists prescribe it internally for allergies, chest and nasal congestion, colds, coughs, hay fever, and sinusitis. For congestion, eyebright is often combined with elder. Externally, eyebright is used in compresses to relieve the infected, irritated, itching, and/or red eyes associated with colds, conjunctivitis, eye strain, hay fever and other allergies, and sinusitis.
Eyebright is available as dried herb and in teas and tinctures. To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 2 teaspoons of fresh herb, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 2 cups a day. To make a compress, boil 2 tablespoons of dried herb in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain. Dip a sterile cloth or compress in solution, wring out, and place on the eyes for 15 minutes. May be repeated up to three times a day.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of eyebright is approximately 2 to 4 gm of the dried herb, taken as an infusion, three times a day.
Any chronic eye condition should always be evaluated by a medical practitioner. In some people, eyebright may cause a skin rash or nausea. If this happens, discontinue use and consult your practitioner.
Possible Side Effects:
Eyebright's side effects include weakness, fatigue, sneezing and headache.
Drug Interactions:
Taking eyebright with these drugs may interfere with drug absorption:
Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (FeroGrad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
Encyclopedia of herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 210
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD. Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.214-215
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 30-31