A bug flew into eye my while biking along the river on Saturday. I blinked repeatedly and my eyes watered until the bug was washed out. My eye felt scratchy and irritated for a few minutes and then felt fine for the rest of the day. However when I woke up on Sunday morning my eye was red and the scratchy, irritated feeling had returned. So I made myself an herbal eye wash.
In a small bowl I broke up and added a few plantain and violet leaves, marshmallow leaf, flower and bud and chamomile flowers. I poured boiling water on top, covered the bowl and let the plants steep. When the infusion was cool, I strained it through a coffee filter (an important step for anything that goes into the eyes!) into a cup. With a clean dropper, I flushed my eye with the herb infusion. (If you don't have a dropper, you could take a clean cloth, dip it in the infusion and squeeze the cloth to flush the eye.)
Within minutes most of the redness cleared up and I had relief from the scratchy feeling. When the scratchy feeling came back, I added a few more drops into my eye. At first, I was doing this every 10 or 15 minutes, but as the day wore on, more and more time passed without any feeling of irritation, and I only added drops every couple of hours until bedtime. When I woke up this morning my eye felt fine, with no redness.
Violets, marshmallow and plantain all contain mucilage, which is a gooey, slippery substance. Mucilage is soothing, cooling and lubricating and is well-suited to delicate mucus membranes, especially if they are dry, inflamed or otherwise irritated.
Plantain is also astringent, which tightens and tones tissues, and specifically in this case, reduced the redness in my eyes.
I love chamomile for eye conditions. It cleared up a case of conjunctivitis I had a couple of years ago, when I was really sick with a bad head and chest cold. It's antiseptic as well as anti-inflammatory, and I added it to prevent the possibility of any kind of infection.
I grow both chamomile and marshmallow, but violets and plantain pretty much grow all over the place, and are very easy to find. In fact you might even have some growing in your backyard, and just those two together would make a fine eye wash.
I actually have a generic bottle of eye drops in my first aid kit, that I looked at and thought about using. The drops contain tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride. A little research revealed that it is a vasoconstrictor, which means it causes blood vessels to contract, taking away redness. It should not be used for prolonged periods of time or in large amounts. Some of the side effects include, headaches, hypertension, weakness, sweating, cardiac irregularities, tremors, drowsiness, lightheadedness, and insomnia. It should be used with caution in patients with thyroid disease, heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes mellitus. It should never be taken orally, because it can cause severe nausea, vomiting, seizures or coma.
Uh, yeah. I think I'll stick with my herb eye wash thanks. It's nice to know that, if I wanted to, I could drink it. In fact, that combination of plants would make a lovely tummy tea, useful for nausea, vomiting, constipation, heartburn, colic, bloating and acid reflux. It'd be safe for children too. You'd never have to worry about leaving it out, and having the little ones accidentally get into it.
That's my kind of medicine!