Eyebright's genus name, Euphrasia, is derived from the Greek "euphrosyne," the name of one of the three Graces who was distinguished for joy and mirth. Eyebright was used as early as the time of Theophrastus (Greek philosopher and biologist, student of Plato and Aristotle) and Dioscorides (Greek philosopher (circa AD 64) who authored a pharmacological account of plants), who prescribed infusions for topical applications in the treatment of eye infections. During the middle ages, eyebright was widely prescribed by medical practitioners as an eye medication, as a cure for "all evils of the eye."
In Europe, the herb eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) has been used for centuries as a rinse, compress, or bath against eye infections and other eye-related irritations (a use reflected in many of its vernacular names). When taken by mouth, eyebright has been used to treat inflammation of nasal mucous membranes and sinusitis.
Eyebright is high in iridoid glycosides such as aucubin. In several laboratory studies, this constituent has been found to possess hepatoprotective (liver protecting) and antimicrobial activity. There is limited clinical research assessing the efficacy of eyebright in the treatment of conjunctivitis (pink eye), and the use of eyebright for other indications has not been studied in clinical trials.
Little data exists regarding the safety and toxicity of eyebright. A concern regarding the opthamalogic (eye) use of eyebright is the potential for contamination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not evaluated eyebright for a generally recognized safe (GRAS) status.
Adhib, ambrosia, augentrost, Augentrostkraut (German), Augstenzieger, briselunettes (French), casse-lunette (French), clary, clary wort, clear eye, eufragia, eufrasia (Italian), Euphraise, Euphraisiaeherba, Euphraisiae herbal (eyebright herb), Euphrasia, Euphrasia mollis, Euphrasia officinalis, Euphrasia rostkoviana, Euphrasia sibirica, euphrasy, ewfras, frasia, herbed euphraise, herbe d'euphraise officinale, hirnkraut, laegeojentrost (Danish), luminella, meadow eyebright, muscatel sage, red eyebright, sage, salvia sclarea, schabab, Scrophulariaceae (family), see bright, Weisses Ruhrkraut, Wiesenaugetrost, Zwang-kraut.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Several iridoid glycosides isolated from eyebright, particularly aucubin, possess anti-inflammatory properties comparable to those of indomethacin (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Although early evidence is promising, there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend for or against eyebright as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Eyebright has been used in ophthalmic (eye) solutions for centuries, in the management of multiple eye conditions. Currently, there is insufficient scientific evidence to recommend for or against the use of eyebright in the treatment of conjunctivitis.
Aucubin, a constituent of eyebright, may aid in liver protection. However, there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of eyebright as a hepatoprotective agent.