Alternatively Speaking: A sight for sore eyes

Alternative medicine expert Natalie Marx answers your questions: What natural remedies can cure dry eyes?

April 2, 2013 12:23

Woman's eyes 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Q. Dear Natalie, there is a history of poor eye health in my family. Are there any foods that I can eat, to help protect me from inheriting a serious eye disease? Yours gratefully.

A. One of the many advantages of a good nutritious diet is that it helps supports your vision. There are certain nutrients that are essential for your eyes found in certain fruits and vegetables, specific nuts and fatty fish.

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Vitamin A is very important for healthy vision because it allows your eyes to detect light as part of the visual cycle. Try to include more fruits and vegetables with vitamin A including orange vegetables such as carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes, spinach, pumpkin, cantaloupe and mango. Good sources of vitamin C include most citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries. Vitamin C can reduce your risk of cataracts. Cataracts can result from oxidation in the eye, and vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant vitamin that can help prevent cataracts. A deficiency in vitamin E can cause retinal damage. You can find vitamin E is in all kinds of nuts including almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. Avocados and vegetable oils such as canola, soybean and sunflower also have good levels of Vitamin E.

For vitamin A to function properly, Zinc is necessary. A zinc deficiency can cause night blindness. As well as in nuts you can get zinc from meat, poultry, beans, milk and yogurt. Finally I recommend including more fatty fish into your diet. For excellent sources of Omega – three fats try salmon, herring and mackerel. Omega three fatty acids are essential in your diet since our body cannot make them, however we need them for healthy cell structure, good nervous system function and healthy eye development.

These essential fats help the retina develop properly. For vegetarians sources of Omega three fatty acids include walnuts, canola oil and flax-seed oil.

Q. Dear Natalie, I work in an eye clinic and our clients are often inquiring if there are any herbs that can help different kinds of eye diseases. Can you advise?

A. I frequently prescribe herbs to treat various eye conditions, ranging from eyestrain to glaucoma. There are also several herbs that contain healthful substances that could prevent and support eye vision. Although ginkgo biloba is best known for promoting circulation, it can greatly benefit those who have eye damage from diabetes, glaucoma or macular degeneration.

The University of Maryland Medical Center published a report confirming that a study of people with glaucoma found that taking ginkgo biloba every day for eight weeks improved their vision. Goldenseal herb is very effective in fighting mild infections such as conjunctivitis because of its berberine content. Make sure you consult an herbalist who can prepare a well-diluted goldenseal tincture.

One of my favorite herbal remedies for eyes, as the name suggests, is the herb Eye Bright. I use this most commonly to treat eyestrain and mild infections. It can be taken as a dietary supplement or used in eye washes or compresses.  The active constituents in Eye Bright are responsible for alleviating swelling, redness of the eye and vision disturbances. Eye Bright helps improve blood circulation, which delivers nutrients to the eyes, improving their health. It can also be used effectively as a topical treatment for eye infections, including sties, blepharitis and conjunctivitis. For internal use, take about 50 drops of the tincture in water three times a day.

The antioxidants' in the herb bilberry have a medicinal action that help support the growth of connective tissue and strengthen capillaries. Therefore bilberry is appropriate for the treatment of eye disorders characterized by poor circulation and weak blood vessels. It depends upon the type of eye disorder, however a standard dosage for bilberry extract or tablet form is 240 to 480 mg daily.

Q. Dear Natalie, I have heard that certain teas can be good for dry, burning eyes. Please can you clarify?

A. There are several types of herbal teas, which are used regularly in holistic medicine for swollen or puffy eyes. I often advise people to use mint tea bags as a form of hot compression under the eyes to help reduce swelling.

Chamomile a cooling and anti-inflammatory herb that soothes tired eyes and helps restore moisture to dry eyes. Steep 1 tsp. of the dried herb or one chamomile tea bag in 1 cup of freshly boiled water. Chill the tea in the refrigerator until it's cold enough to soak cotton pads in the tea and apply to your closed eyes for at least 15 minutes at a time for relief. You can also soak two mint tea bags in hot water for several minutes. From here, place both of the two tea bags firmly on your closed eyelids for approximately 15-20 minutes. During this time, the tannins found in the mint tea will work to reduce inflammation and pain in your eyes. If you suffer from sty’s, the heat from the mint tea bag can often help the bacteria in the sty come to the surface, directly helping you to eliminate your sty.

I also recommend trying a fennel tea compress. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp. of dried fennel, allow the mixture to steep for 15 minutes. Make a compress by soaking a cotton cloth or cotton pads in the warm tea. Apply to closed eyes and leave on for 15 minutes.

Natalie runs a clinic both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offering a wide range of natural treatment, including a women’s clinic every Wednesday. To make an appointment please email [email protected]

Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer, email Natalie with your question at [email protected]

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