Could it be the blinding light of this high solar time of summer, or the winter shadow time of our opposite season that makes it hard to see? One can easily say it has nothing to do with it at all, but for decades now I see in my people that I'm called to tend to infected eyes the most at these polar opposite times of the year. Thinking in metaphors is an option but it does help the minds of healers who work close to the earth and what ails us among the living. There's less memorizing when thinking in cycles and metaphors. Recall is a process you can 'feel into', instead of it being a 'doing' action. And for me, my recall is so much sharper this way. The need for books or running to google falls away. This steamy beautiful summer brings eye ailments forward and I've been spurred to write on the heels of the surging eye infections common during summertime which also prompt us to prepare for winter too.
While there are so many plants we can lean on here for infected eyes and affected vision on many levels, I speak to two that have not failed me in over two decades for getting right down into the physical of it all, such as with conjunctivitis (the catch-all term for you got something even though we don't know what it is') or pink eye of sorts. There is an easy bit of planning that happens now so one is prepared at all times. Depending on where you live, there may be other plants that fill the actions these two provide and I do encourage you to work with what grows close to you. Learn the technique here.
Chickweed & Calendula Succus for the Eyes
These two plants are abundantly present this time of year. Calendula (C. officinalis) basks in full sun. Chickweed (Stellaria media) likes the sun but prefers cooler weather and so travels under larger plants where the medicine can be made within the leaves and flowers but it's in the more shadowy places of the garden. Light and shadow working together to make the medicine needed, catch me here? I like to make a succus you can drip straight into the eyes. But what is a succus?
Official Definition: succus
succus suc·cus (sŭk'əs)
n. pl. suc·ci (sŭk'ī, -sī)
A fluid, such as gastric juice (ignore this part of the definition) or vegetable/plant juice (we're going for this one), contained in or secreted by living tissue. Yes, an old term not in technical use much anymore, though herbalists from time to time will toss the term on the table to honor the old ways we are discovering to be quite relevant today.
Yes, good for any weepy eye infections, conjunctivitis, styes, or irritated redness. We often hear 'yes, good for eyes infections' but many need the walk from the garden to the actual drops in the eyes. Below are pics to walk you through how to actually make this succus. A beautiful side note, make larger amounts for oral infections and gum disease and swish twice a day for great results too.
Things to Remember When Treating the Eyes
- A small handful of fresh Chickweed leaf and flower and a few Calendula flowers makes about one ounce of succus, which could treat a small neighborhood! You only need 1-3 drops in each eye 2-3x/day or every 4 hours for intense situations. One can treat less frequently, such as morning and night, as things begin to shift well.
- This is good for 1 week in the refrigerator. Then make fresh again, but rarely is a second batch ever needed.
- Always treat both eyes even if only one looks like it's ailing. Chances are, being so close together, they will both get 'it'.
- Cleanliness matters and is actually imperative so the one who is treating doesn't get infected. Hand wash before and after with a good castile soap. It's that easy.
- The eyes are not a sterile environment. It is one reason why we make tears loaded with enzymes to keep them clean and flushed frequently. They are also not a place the immune system can get too easily which is why these infections can be persistent. Our eye ball is in a bony socket. Our tears wash this cave-like socket to keep it lubricated, wash dust and debris out, kill potential invaders, and of course cleanse the heart and soul.
- Children usually hate this. Adults often do too. I treat my eyes in front of the child if toddler age and up, even have them help, so they can see what it's like. Lay flat and place a few drops at the inner corner of the closed eye. It pools perfectly there (called the inner canthus of the eye). Now simply take a deep breath and blink several times to allow it to wash into the eye. This is the easiest way always. Have tissue ready for tearing will be stimulated. This is a good wash out with medicine present. There can be initial stinging but only with some people who once acclimated to the process find it is quite minimal. Give the eyes a rest by remaining flat for a bit and warm compresses of Chamomile tea help immensely.
- Nasty pink eye infections can be gone in 24-48 hours with the infection pooling and crusting at the corners of the eyes. Simply wipe with a most paper towel, tissue or gauze. Wipe from the center outward, one swipe along the eye, and throw paper away. Repeat as needed with clean gauze each time if needed. Do keep treating for several more days after symptoms are gone. Meticulous hand washing helps halt the spread so be diligent.
-Yes, at first it stings a tiny bit. Anything in the eye will do this a little at first but within less than a minute it eases.
-Think immune support for a few days to a week. Include herbs, a light nutritious diet, plenty of water, and more rest than you think.
How to Make an Herbal Eye Succus for Tending Our Eyes
How to Prepare for Winter?
Ah yes, this is also easy and I take apothecary tending quite serious because it can be frustrating to have a loved one in distress and you have the skills but no supplies. We avoid this by thinking ahead and seeing each condition that comes along as a teaching moment for how to prepare. During the summer, harvest for winter by placing fresh Chickweed (Stellaria media) and Calendula (C. officinalis) flowers in a freezer container, enough for 2-3 batches or more if you have a large household or are treating through a clinic setting.
Other Options Exist: If you forget, no worries. Make a strong Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) infusion with 10 drops fresh Calendula tincture added to each 1 ounce batch will do the trick well too. I've also added 3 drops of Goldenseal root tincture (Hydratis canadensis) to this for particularly persistent infection. The berberine content of Goldenseal works well for resistant bacterial strains. And no, the alcohol in this 10-13 drops added to one ounce (30ml) of Chamomile tea is so small that it does not hurt the eye. These herbs actually reduce pain.
-Consider investing in an eye cup. These are great for filling 1/2 full and cupping over the eye and blink it in for a good minute or two. Use fresh medicine for each eye. I love this for scratched corneas as Chickweed, Calendula, and Chamomile will all speed this healing.
- Fresh Aloe - I once rubbed my eye while chopping hot peppers and the moment I did it I knew I was in for pain. It took about a minute to set in and WOW! My quick thinking husband Jay said 'aloe' as he went to our plant to harvest a leaf. The gel was scooped straight into my eye and the relief was instantaneous. so yes, aloe for the eyes has proved amazing again and again since then.
-Mama's Breast Milk - Yes, this is an old, old remedy and babes where treated often in the first days with colostrum and mama's milk once in on day three. This may be... the. most. effective. care... for infected eyes. I've seen this work with 1-2 treatments. While is raises many feelings for some, I suggest we remember that we are mammals and nature provides in unique, efficient, and magical ways.
- Why do I shy away from Eyebright (Euphrasia spp.)? Simple. It's on the 'at risk' list at United Plant Savers due to being over-harvested for medicine and more difficult to grow. Let's take the strain off of Eyebright and lean into more abundant and easy to grow wild and cultivated medicine plants.
Honey, yes HONEY!
Yes, dilute with distilled water 1:1 (that's equal parts) and drip into eyes. You can re-purpose a saline eye dropper container by popping the tip off and washing well, or just get a 1oz amber glass dropper bottle (better) at the health food store. There are many who report after months of treatment twice a day that there is a reversal of advanced eye disease. Research is under way for glaucoma and cataracts. Do keep this in your bag of tricks for those middle of night 'I can't sleep because my eyes hurt.' complaints.
Honey Compress is also an easy one for tired, exhausted, strained, or infected eyes - simply apply a fingertip full of good raw local honey or herb infused honey to both closed eyelids and massage the lids and into the eyelashes gently. Rest with a warm wash cloth compress for 15 minutes before rinsing with clean warm water.
Thank you for coming into my world for a bit today. I do hope I planted a seed deep within you so this may help you one day. Do check out our Monthly Herbal Councils (completely beginner friendly) where we go even deeper into the world of eyes and clear vision and draw medicine from more than the plants. xo-Jen
Ready to build an apothecary for yourself and loved ones? It's my primary health care system and gives so much support. Let's work together to get yours up and running. It's easier than you think and so much fun too. See course details:
Jennifer Costa, Herbalist, Teacher, BS, RN, CST, and Founder of ElderMoon School of Herbs & Earth Medicine