Diseases of the Eye and Ear


Herbs For Diseases Of The Eye And Ear

A number of eye and ear diseases may be treated with herbal therapy. They include cataracts, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, glaucoma, keratoconjuntivitis sicca, and otitis (chronic and acute).

Many of today’s ophthalmic preparations have origins in ethnobotanical history. Atropine has been derived from solanaceous plants, physostigmine was used as a poison, and pilocarpine was used by Amazonians as a panacea. For chronic or serious eye problems, referral to an ophthalmologist is always recommended. For mild conditions or as adjunctive therapy herbs can be used as eye washes or eye drops. Fresh herbal tea should be made fresh daily and kept refrigerated when not in use. Sterile saline can be used to infuse the herb.

Consider the systemic implications or associations of eye conditions and consider herbal treatment for pain relief, immune modulation, vulnery (healing) action, antiinflammatory effects, and health support.


Corneal Ulcers


Trauma to the cornea must occur for microbial colonization to occur. Consider herpes virus infection in cats with corneal ulcers. Topical Aloe gel (Aloe vera) has been advocated for the treatment of corneal ulcers and keratitis.

A study using pig cornea showed that biologically active Aloe substances could not penetrate this biological barrier. Therefore, eye drops that contain Aloe and neomycin sulfate may be useful for the treatment of inflammation and infection of external parts of the eye, such as the conjuctiva, eyelid edges, lacrimal sac, and cornea.

Consider herbs that reduce anxiety and relieve pain (conventional pain relief may be necessary).



Glaucoma is characterized by increased intraocular pressure (IOP) in most cases. Some patients have normal increased intraocular pressure but poor circulation with damage to the optic nerve. Therapy is either medical or surgical. An immediate referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended if the clinician is not completely comfortable managing a case, because marked increases in increased intraocular pressure may result in irreversible damage to the retina and optic nerve in 24 to 48 hours. For controlled glaucoma, herbal medicine may be supportive and therapeutic, but should not be used as the sole treatment. Consider herbal treatment post surgery or as supportive care for conventional treatment.

Ginkgo biloba increases circulation to the optic nerve and has been linked with improvements in pre-existing field damage in some patients with normal tension glaucoma. It is claimed that Ginkgo biloba extract has numerous properties that theoretically should be beneficial in treating non-IOP-dependent mechanisms in glaucoma. The actions of relevance include increased ocular blood flow, antioxidant activity, platelet activating factor inhibitory activity, nitric oxide inhibition, and neuroprotective activity. Together, these suggest that Ginkgo biloba could be valuable in the treatment of glaucoma.

Dose: Standardized extract (50:1), 10 to 50 mg per 10 kg (20 pounds) divided BID or TID; tincture, 1:2 to 1:3 : 0.5 to 1 mL per 10 kg (20 pounds) divided daily.

Other herbs and constituents have been studied. Forskolin (an extract from Coleus forskoblii) has been used successfully as a topical agent to lower intraocular pressure.

Dose: 4 to 8 drops 1:1 extract in an eye bath. Eye baths should be sterile and well filtered.

Salvia miltiorrhiza (by IM injection) has shown benefits in improving visual acuity and peripheral vision in people with glaucoma. Cannabinoids effectively lower increased intraocular pressure and have neuroprotective actions, so they could potentially be useful in the treatment of glaucoma.



Diagnosis and appropriate treatment is important. For example, if the cause is allergic, use herbs that treat the allergy. Conjunctivitis in cats is nearly always caused by a primary pathogen — Chlamydia and feline herpes virus are common causes. Consider antiviral herbs for herpes virus infections and L-lysine administration.

Herbal teas are useful for noncomplicated conjunctivitis. The potential for contamination by bacteria that can colonize the eye should be considered. Herbal teas traditionally used for conjunctivitis include Chamomile, Comfrey, Coptis, Fennel, and Golden seal. Aloe vera gel has also been used.

An uncontrolled trial investigated the efficacy and tolerability of Euphrasia eye drops in humans with conjunctivitis. It yielded positive results in all but 1 of 65 patients. The authors recommend 1 drop TID in the affected eyes.

Keratoconjucntivitis Sicca


Treatment is directed toward stimulating tear production, replacing tears, and correcting any underlying cause. Consider herbs if immune-mediated disease is the cause. Also consider antiinflammatory herbs.

In a randomized study of 80 dry eye patients, a Chinese herb formula, Chi-Ju-Di-Huang-Wan, was shown to be an effective stabilizer of tear film and it decreased the abnormality of corneal epithelium, providing an alternative choice for dry eye treatment.

Herbal Eye Tonic Formula

Use alcohol or glycetract tinctures for best results; alternatively, use teas. This formula is taken orally.

Bilberry: Asoprotective, antiedema, antioxidant, antiinflammatory; 2 parts.

Gingko: Antioxidant, circulatory stimulant; 1 part.

Eyebright: Anticatarrhal, antiinflammatory, astringent; 1 part.

Adaptogen: Withania, eluethero, or Panax ginseng; 1 part.

For tinctures, give 1 ml per 10 pounds twice daily in food for 3 weeks. For teas, give 1 dessert spoon full twice daily in food for 3 weeks. Repeat if necessary.


Herbal Ear Oral Formula

Use alcohol or glycetract tinctures for best results; alternatively, use teas. This formula is taken orally.

Burdock: Alterative, mild laxative, mildly antiseptic, diuretic; 1 part.

Echinacea: Immune stimulating, antiinflammatory, antibacterial, vulnery; 1 part.

Calendula: Antiseptic, lymphatic, antiinflammatory, astringent, vulnery, cholagogue, spasmolytic; 1 part.

Pau d’aco: Antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral; 1 part.

St. John’s wort: Vulnery, antiinflammatory, antidepressant, nervine; 1 part.

For tinctures, give 1 ml per 10 pounds twice daily in food for 3 weeks. For teas, give 1 dessert spoon full twice daily in food for 3 weeks. Repeat if necessary.