Herbal Pink-Eye Cure

When my son was four, he got conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye. This highly contagious, incredibly itchy condition of the eyes is quite common in children, especially in these times of ubiquitous day care. Because pink eye is a bacterial infection, it is easily cured with a topical penicillin ointment that can be obtained by prescription. Most people opt for this solution.

As a general rule, I try to avoid penicillin and other antibiotics whenever possible, both for myself and for my child. Thus, when Harley got pink eye, I contacted a naturopath to see if I could find a herbal medicine that would help. For those of you unfamiliar with naturopathy, these doctors are like the general practitioners of the alternative health scene. They have the equivalent of a medical degree, with not only a bachelor’s degree, but also a graduate degree from a college of naturopathy, which includes an internship. They learn about many areas of wellness promotion and disease prevention, including but not limited to herbs, diet, acupuncture, homeopathy and hydrotherapy. They have a broad base of knowledge that they can delve into when trying to resolve their patients’ health issues. Furthermore, they look not only at the physical domain but also at the emotional and spiritual dynamics that could be affecting wellness.

I was relieved to discover that there is an herbal cure for this common yet irritating infection, conjunctivitis. It takes a bit of time and effort, but if you want to avoid penicillin as I do, it is well worth it.

The Eyewash

The first component is an herbal eyewash. You will need to find these herbs in bulk form, usually available at a good natural foods store like Whole Foods Market or Wild Oats. One Internet site I have found where bulk herbs are available is Penn Herb Co., Ltd.

Here’s what you will need:
calendula (calendula officianalis)
eyebright (euprasia officinlis)
goldenseal (hydrastis candensis)

Take one tablespoon of each and add it to one cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 20 minutes (in other words, turn the heat off). Strain twice through a coffee filter.

Apply this tea (thoroughly cooled, of course!) to the affected eye with a dropper or sterile cotton. I used an eyedropper; my son did not like getting drops but the relief the eyewash gave him enabled him to tolerate it.

Refrigerate the eyewash, and reboil it every 12 hours for thorough sterilization.

Use the eyewash three to four times a day until the pink eye is relieved. When my son had this, even though he had symptoms in only one eye, I applied it to both. I also used it on myself even though I was symptom-free. Pink eye is, after all, extremely contagious! To me, one of the benefits of an herbal remedy such as this is that it is so gentle that using it as a prophylactic measure will do no harm.

Internal Herbal Support

In addition to the eyewash, the naturopath recommended that I support the immune system by giving my son several herbal tinctures. I have found HerbPharm to be an excellent tincture manufacturer; again, their products are readily available at any reputable natural foods store.

Here’s what to use internally:

echinacea (echinacea augustfolia/echinacea purpura)
goldenseal (hydrastis candensis)
licorice root (glycyrrhiza glabra)

For a child, give 30-60 drops (1/4 – 1/2 tsp.) of each in water or juice. For an adult, give 11/2-3 tsp. of each in water or juice.

Be forewarned that goldenseal tastes pretty bad: A strong-flavored juice might be your best bet, especially if you’re giving this to a child. You can also split up the dosage into several smaller amounts taken throughout the day. Another thing to note is that many herbalists believe that the augustfolia form of echinacea is stronger than the purpura. Often echinacea tinctures are made with a combination of both.

My Experience

I found this herbal remedy to be very effective. I made up a cup of the eyewash and used it consistently for a week to ten days, supporting it with the internal herbal tinctures. My son’s conjunctivitis completely cleared up, and I never got the condition at all. I stored what I could of the eyewash in a small brown glass dropper bottle, putting the remainder in a closed glass jar, both in the refrigerator. I made sure to boil the eyewash every 12 hours. One cup was enough to cure the condition.

I highly recommend this regimen for pink eye if you need to avoid penicillin due to an allergy or just because of philosophical objections. It is definitely worth the trouble.

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