Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)

Does your horse have weepy, crusty eyes? Eyebright might be just the natural fix you’re looking for.

Eyebright is a very efficient herb – during flowering season, you can use all parts of the plant for its medicinal properties. This annual grasslands herb is typically used for suppressing mucus production around the eyes, ears, and sinuses, and can be helpful for treating allergies. Scientific studies regarding the medicinal use of eyebright have focused on its effectiveness in treating conjunctivitis, or pinkeye.  Eyebright can be prepared as tea or tincture to be used in an eye compress, or can also be dried and digested internally. Its medicinal attributes include tannins, aucubin, and quercetin, which each provide anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antihistamine properties.  Additionally, the herb contains vitamins A, some Bs, C and E as well as zinc, selenium, and copper – all of which provide nutritional support for eye health.

Common uses for horses

Eyebright is most commonly used for horses with persistent eye irritation (weeping, stinging, light sensitivity), but can also be used to calm sinus congestion and allergic reactions. Note that eye irritations can be symptoms of serious underlying conditions, such as uveitis and corneal ulcers, so you will want to discuss these issues with your veterinarian before using eyebright to treat them.

You can make an eye compress by gently boiling, then simmering a ½ teaspoon of dried herb in a ½ cup of water. Apply after cooling, making sure to sterilize your compress material. You can also pour the same tea on your horse’s feed to help clear eye issues and allergic irritations from the inside out. If you prefer not to make a tea, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of dried herb in his feed twice a day.

Home grown

Eyebright is an annual herb native to the grassy meadows of Europe. It prefers to be grown in poor, well-drained soils with full sun and cool temperatures. If you want to grow your own, you will need to plant the herb with grasses, as this herb attaches itself to the stems and roots of grasses to obtain needed minerals. Sow the seeds in the fall to allow for 90 days of chilling, to trigger growth in spring. Continue to allow undisturbed growth through late summer, when the plant flowers and is ready to harvest.