Eyebright is an annual herb that is common to dry fields and pasture lands in its native Britain and also in the U.S. where it has become naturalized. It is about 2-8 inches high and bears spikes of small labiate flowers in white or purple veined with darker purple from July to September. In richer soil, it is a larger, more shrubby plant. In poor soil it is small and unbranched. When there are branches on the plant they are opposite. The leaves can be round or oval shaped depending on conditions and are deeply toothed. Seeds appear in flat capsules in the autumn.
History and Folklore
The name Euphrasia is taken from the name of one of the three Greek Charities, Euphrosyne, meaning gladness. According to legend, the linnet, a bird whose Greek name comes from the same root, first used this plant to clear the sight of its young and then passed the knowledge on to mankind.
Spenser, Milton and other poets mention Eyebright in their poems.
In the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Eyebright Ale was a beverage believed to cheer the spirit.
Eyebright prefers alkaline soil and does not do well in perfect well-tended beds. It prefers to grow weed-like in the shadow of other plants. It doesn’t transplant well, so scatter the seeds randomly among your other plants in your herb garden. It is notoriously difficult to grow in the garden and prefers to the wild grasslands. You could try growing it in your lawn if you have a section you won’t be mowing.
Eyebright is best harvested in late summer when it is in full bloom. Cut the full herb and hang upside down to dry. Use within one year. The leaves and flowers are all used together.
Eyebright is of masculine nature and associated with the element of air, the sun, and Leo. It is named after one of the three Charities of the Hellenic Pantheon, Euphrosyne, Goddess of Joy and Mirth. It is also associated with the Tower Tarot card.
Place a few drops of infusion of eyebright on your eyelids before sleeping to have prophetic dreams and during the day to see that which is normally unseen.
Use in spells to help you (or others) see situations clearly and objectively, to avoid or remove deception and metaphorical cloudiness.
Use also in spells to help rise above difficult situations and to see the silver lining on dark clouds.
Appropriate for all rituals and celebrations of thanksgiving and any ritual associated with the Graces or any joyous event, especially one that marks the end of one era and the beginning of another.
It is appropriate for offerings of thanksgiving.
Eyebright is an ingredient in British herbal tobacco and makes a decent smoke.
Eyebright, as its name implies, is traditionally used for just about any ailment of the eye. An infusion of one ounce of herb per pint of water is an excellent all-purpose eyewash good for removing dust, debris and relieving irritation caused by allergies and mild conjunctivitis. Just put it in an eyewash cup and perform the eyewash as you would normally. (Read the directions that came with the cup)
For external eye irritations and inflammations, and to reduce general puffiness and dark circles, make the infusion with milk instead of water and apply to the eyelids and surrounding area with a cotton ball.
Eyebright can also be smoked to help relieve chronic bronchial inflammation.
Eyebright tea may be drunk as needed for general allergy symptoms, dry coughs and sinus infections. This is also said to enhance memory function.
Dimming of eyesight can result from prolonged use, or use of strong concentrations of eyebright.
None of the traditional uses of eyebright have ever been officially studied.
Because the safety of eyebright’s use during pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been established, it is best avoided during these times.
Infusion of eyebright is a must-have for your herbal first aid kit.
Eyebright can be added to teas.