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Conjunctivitis

General characteristics

General characteristics

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye ( the thin outermost layer) and sometimes the inner surface of the eyelid. Symptoms include soreness and redness of the eye, watering, itching as though sand is in the eye and yellowy green discharge that can cause the eyes to stick together on waking.  It does not normally cause symptoms of severe pain or persistent visual disturbances.
It can be caused by infection, either viral or bacterial, an irritant entering the eye, chemical contamination or as a result of common allergies. If any harmful chemical enters the eye, wash thoroughly with water and  go to hospital immediately, taking an example of the chemical with you if possible.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

A diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds and plenty of fluid will go a long way to building good health and preventing future infections. Foods containing high quantities of vitamins A, B2, C and E as well as zinc are particularly useful (see the natural healing section of this site for foods containing these).

If you are constipated, take dietary steps to alleviate ( see constipation in the common ailments section) as stagnated bowels can both predispose to and worsen conjunctivitis and many other eye complaints.

Keep fingers away from your eyes and try not to rub as this will exacerbate the problem.

If you wear contact lenses, make sure that cleaning fluids or hygiene practices are not responsible. Consider wearing glasses until the problem is resolved.

If conjunctivitis occurs when you have a cold sore, it may be that the herpes virus has infected your eye. Get your doctor to take a swab to make sure.

Minimise your exposure to bright lights and sunlight if possible until healing is complete.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

When bathing the eyes, always use a fresh piece of cotton wool or fresh eyebath full of herbs for each eye to prevent cross infection.

The simplest remedy to alleviate infectious conjunctivitis is fresh lemon juice. Squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon (organic if possible) through a strainer into a clean cup and soak a piece of cotton wool in the juice. Squeeze the lemon soaked cotton wool over the affected eye whilst holding it open, then close the eye for several minutes. It does sting but if you keep the eye closed it lessens the discomfort. Lie back and relax until the eye can be opened without  stinging. Keep doing this every few hours and for several days, by which time the problem will almost certainly have cleared up. Use fresh lemon juice for each day and drink any that is left over after each day.
For the uninitiated you can dilute the lemon juice with an equal amount of cooled boiled water then gradually lessen the amount of water until you are  using the neat lemon juice.
An excellent herbal recipe contains half a teaspoon each of bayberry bark, eyebright, raspberry leaves and plantain with a pinch of golden seal and cayenne powders. Make as a tea and allow to cool. Bathe the eyes with the herbal solution using an eyebath or soaked piece of cotton wool. Make a fresh batch daily. This is especially useful when allergies are responsible for the conjunctivitis.
Other very useful herbs include barberry bark, yarrow, turmeric powder, chamomile, elderflowers, marshmallow root, marigold (calendula) and rose petals. Make a tea containing half a teaspoon of 2 or 3 of the listed herbs and bathe throughout the day. Ginkgo can also help.
If you are regularly prone to episodes of conjunctivitis you could look at improving your general health with the immune supporting herbs such as echinacea, reishi mushroom, myrrh, golden seal, astragalus etc. If you suspect stress plays a role then feed the nervous system with herbs like siberian ginseng, skullcap, oatstraw and vervain.

Natural healing

Natural healing

If you have no herbs to hand you can use the following foods from the kitchen...

Grated raw potato as a poultice over the eyes will reduce inflammation and sooth irritation.


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