By Bethany Hayes
You know that you can grow and consume herbs to support your heart and gut health, but you might not realize you can take herbs for healthy eyesight as well. Too many people think that there is nothing that they can do to support their eyes; vision loss must be entirely genetic, so, therefore, you can’t change it, right? Wrong!
Eye conditions happen slowly, with the changes being so small that you might not notice the difference at first. Then, by the time you realize there is an issue, it’s severe, and vision loss already happened. Taking herbs for healthy eyesight and going to your yearly eye exams are big steps towards preventing and catching vision problems before they cause a loss.
Here are some herbs that can keep your eyes healthy through nutrition.
Have they never heard of bilberry? It’s an herb that is full of potent antioxidant flavonoids called anthocyanins. It’s in the same family as blueberries and cranberries; they also contain healthy flavonoids.
The belief that bilberry helps with vision started during World War II. Pilots claimed that eating bilberries helped with their night vision, but no studies have proven their claims. However, we know that anthocyanins help vision health, so it’s worth considering adding these to your garden.
You can grow bilberries in your garden! Here’s how!
- The best time to plant these berries is in March or April, and they come to harvest in July and August.
- Plant as soon as the last frost ends in your region.
- Bilberries prefer to grow in moist, acidic, well-draining soil with either full sunlight or partial shade.
- While they’re easy to grow, they need to be pruned yearly after harvesting, and mulch must be laid down in the spring.
If you want the same effects as bilberries but struggle to find a source for them or don’t want to grow them in your garden, black currants have similar amounts of anthocyanins. Studies suggest that black currants might help your eyes adapt to the dark faster while also reducing eye fatigue. If you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen, you know that eye fatigue can make you feel worse.
Aside from those benefits, early studies in the 1980s suggested that berry extracts have several benefits that can be helpful for healthy eyesight. Some of those benefits include:
- Decreases the risk of cataracts and glaucoma
- Protects the nerve cells in your retina
- Strengthens your blood vessels
- Improves blood circulation
- Has an antidiabetic effect (people with diabetes tend to have a higher risk of eye problems)
Black currants are easy to grow in your garden. Try these tips for growing black currants.
- Black currants need rich, nutrient-dense soil with a pH range between 6.0 to 6.5.
- Pick a spot that receives morning sunlight and afternoon shade. Dappled shade throughout the day works as well.
- These berries are hardy to -40℉; they prefer colder climates. If you live somewhere that the temperatures go above 90℉, they rarely grow well.
Eyebright Herb (Euphrasia)
Based on the name, you can tell that this herb is for healthy eyesight; it has a long history as a folk remedy for eyes. You can find eyebright in different pre-made forms, such as herbal teas, tinctures, and eyedrops.
Here are some ways you can use eyebright:
- The eye drops can be used to quicken your healing from conjunctivitis (pink eye). The redness and discharge decrease rapidly with its use.
- In studies with rats, it extracted lower blood sugar; diabetes increases the risk for eye diseases.
You can grow eyebright at home, but it’s considered a semi-parasitic plant that can suck nutrients from other plants. That’s why it’s often better to grow eyebright in a container to stop it from sucking nutrients from other plants.
- Plant the seeds in the fall; the seeds need 90 days to chill to break dormancy and trigger germination in spring. If you want to plant in the spring, you need to put the seeds in the refrigerator for 90 days.
- Pick a spot to grow eyebright that has full sunlight.
- Spread the seeds over an area with loosened soil; don’t pack tightly.
- The seeds germinate best in moist soil, but don’t overwater.
Let’s be honest – what can’t garlic do? Aside from tasting fantastic in nearly every culinary dish imaginable, we know that garlic contains healthy antioxidant levels, reducing the free radicals in your body. That can help reduce glaucoma.
That’s not all! Some studies suggest that garlic can help prevent cataracts as well.
You can grow garlic at home. Here’s what to do.
- Pick a warm, sunny spot to grow garlic. It’s best in fertile, well-draining soil.
- You can plant garlic cloves in the fall or early spring. The best time to plant garlic is in the fall because cloves need cold weather to develop bulbs.
- Only water the garlic plants when the soil is dry and keep the area weed-free.
This herb has a multitude of uses, including aiding in the health of your eyes. Some research suggests that it can help improve your vision if you have glaucoma. Ginkgo Biloba is an antioxidant, flushing toxin out of your body that might damage your eyesight.
Using ginkgo for your eyes can help:
- Increase the blood flow to your retinas, which is the light-sensitive tissue towards the back of your eyes.
- Protect nerve cells inside of your eye.
Ginkgo is a deciduous tree that is native to China. You can grow it in USDA zones 4-9. Here are some things you should know about growing ginkgo at home.
- These trees need full sunlight, but in the south, they can survive in partial sunlight.
- They have average watering needs, and they’re considered a salt-tolerant plant, so they grow well near the ocean.
- You can grow these trees in nearly any soil type or condition, but they prefer well-draining soil.
You might have heard that green tea is good for weight loss, but you might not realize it also can help keep your eyes healthy. Green tea is full of beneficial antioxidants that will clean up the free radicals in your body. Free radicals can cause oxidative damage, often causing many different chronic diseases, such as glaucoma.
That’s not the only reason to take green tea as an herb for healthy eyesight. Some studies show that the polyphenols without green tea protect retinal cells from UV damage. Reducing UV damage also reduces the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
You can grow green tea at home! Here’s what you need to do.
- The plants need to be in a spot with full sunlight to partial shade in USDA zones 7-9. If you live outside of those zones, you can grow it in a pot and move the plant inside when the temperatures dip too low.
- Keep the tea plants to a height of three feet tall; prune and harvest the leaves.
- You can harvest the flowers that appear in the fall and add them to enhance the tea’s flavor.
- To make green tea, you need to harvest the top two leaves and leaf buds on the new spring growth.
Learn about growing a tea garden.
In recent years, turmeric gained popularity as more people learned about its amazing benefits and healing powers. It’s also a source of a potent antioxidant called curcumin. Curcumin helps to reduce the risk of cataracts forming.
Here’s how you can grow turmeric at home.
- You need bare rhizomes or established plants. It takes 120-360 days to reach maturity.
- If you live in USDA zones 8-11, you can grow turmeric as a perennial plant, just like potatoes or ginger.
- Turmeric tubers should be planted in the early spring, four inches deep into the soil.
- You also can grow turmeric in containers that you store indoors during the winter.
Learn more about growing turmeric.
Keep Your Eyes Healthy
You want to keep your eyes healthy, and one way you can do that is by eating herbs for healthy eyesight. These herbs help to reduce pressure, decrease the risk of cataracts, and decrease the effects of glaucoma. Try to add these herbs to your garden.
Learn more about using herbs for your eyes here: