Eyebright (Xiao Mi Cao)Eyebright (Xiao Mi Cao)

Botanical Name: Euphrasia

Eyebright has a long history for being used to treat eye disorders. It is famous for treating even severe inflammation of the eyes. It reduces inflammation, conjunctivitis, and can be used as an eye wash, drops or as an infusion for internal use to treat eye problems. Eyebright is also used to treat sinusitis and help heal wounds. It can also help treat skin problems such as acne and stretch marks. Eyebright is primarily used as a poultice and wash, but it can be taken internally in teas and tincture.

Below is an overview of Eyebright (Xiao Mi Cao), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Eyebright (Xiao Mi Cao).

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Western Name: Eyebright

Also Known As: Meadow Eyebright, Broomrape

Organs/Systems: Eyes, Lungs, Skin

Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Astringing, Antibacterial, Slightly Tonic, Anti-inflammatory. Swollen nasal passages, allergies, hay fever, colds, bronchitis, sinusitis, coughs, conjunctivitis, earaches, headaches, epilepsy, inflammation, jaundice, runny nose, skin disorders, sore throats, eye fatigue, inflamed eyes.


Pin Yin: Xiao Mi Cao

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Lungs, Liver

Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Clears Heat/Resolves Toxins/Stops Urination: febrile diseases with thirst, coughs, swollen throat, mouth sores, swollen abscesses, urinary stones, pus in the urine. Restores the Eyes: swollen eyes, conjunctivitis, red irritated eyes, cloudy eyes.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Eyebright is an annual herb that grows two to eight inches tall. There about 450 species of eyebright. It has deep cut leaves and white or purple blooms with some yellow variations. It is a member of the Figwort family of plants, blooming between July and September. Eyebright is a semi-parasitic plant, living off the roots of grasses growing near by.

Many species are found in alpine or sub-alpine meadows where snow is common.

Eyebright (Xiao Mi Cao)Parts Most Frequently Used: Stems, Leaves, Flowers

Flavors/Temps: Slightly Astringing, Bitter, Cold, Dry

Caution: Considered Safe.

History/Folklore: In the 14th century, it was described as a cure for all eye ailments. Its botanical name, “Euphrasia” comes from the Greek word meaning gladness, presumably because of the plant’s ability to help someone see again.  It was described as strengthening the head, eyes and memory and helping to clear sight.  In Elizabethan England it was recommended to drink a small drought of eyebright wine every morning.

Eyebright has been used in Britain as an herbal tobacco, which was smoked for on-going lung conditions and colds.

In Iceland, the expressed juice is used to treat most eye ailments and in Scotland an infusion of the herb in milk is used as a gentle wash to treat inflamed eyes.

Culpepper described the herb as, “an excellent water to clear the sight.”

Eyebright is a strong astringent and good at drying mucous and nasal or lung congestion. Topically, this same property makes eyebright useful for healing skin wounds, acne, or inflammation of the skin.

Typically, an adult dosage is 2-4 grams of the dried herb up to three times a day. The same dosage can be added to 5 ounces of boiling water for a wonderful medicinal tea. 1 drop 1-5 times a day, is a common dosage for treating eyes. Another recipe for tea calls for 1 teaspoon of carefully washed fresh eyebright, boiling it in 1 ½ cups of water for 10 minutes, drain the leaves, let the mixture cool and use a small cotton pad as compress, three to four times daily.

For cataracts, weeping eyes or pink eye (conjunctivitis) use 5-8 drops of eyebright tincture in 2 cups of water as a wash for the irritated eyes.

Eyebright does not transplant well in a garden, unless it is surrounded by grass, which seems to act as a “protector” for the transplanted plant. Eyebright relies on the roots of other plants for nourishment.  It will not kill the grass, just live off its roots!

Key Constituents:

Tannin, Glucose, Mannite, Glycosides, Vitamins B, C and E, Beta-carotene, Alkaloids, Caffeic acids, Ferulic acid and Flavonoids.

Did you know?

A Flavoring Agent

In foods, eyebright is used as a flavoring agent.


Herbal Smoking Mix

An herbal smoking mix of the dried herb can be used for bronchial colds, allergies and nasal irritations.

Fun fact!

The Doctrine of Signatures

Eyebright is a pretty eye-like flower that is a good example of the “Doctrine of Signatures.” It says, “What a plant looks like is what it treats best.”


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