Eyes, and how to care for them

As we go through life, the eye problems we are likely to encounter change. Younger people get more infections and acute illnesses, but they can get away with more potentially harmful activities. Things like staying up all night, smoking, staring at screens for hours or going out in bright sunlight are all things that take their toll as we get older. It becomes necessary to take more care, if we want to preserve good vision into old age.

Some of the herbs traditionally used for eye complaints, like Eyebright and Chamomile for example, were not really thought of as helpful for problems like cataracts or age-related macular degeneration, but that’s mainly because fewer people lived well into old age. Nowadays, we are asking new questions, and finding some surprising answers. We know now that nutrients like lutein and various antioxidants are important to eye health, and when we look for these in the herb world, we find them. Hence the rise of Bilberries as a superfood in recent years, and the discovery that the seeds of Evening Primrose, Starflower and Blackcurrant are rich in useful anti-inflammatories.

But the old rules still apply. Anything that improves circulation to the eye muscles will help keep them in good health, so herbs like Ginkgo, Yarrow and Rosemary can play a part. Dry eyes can benefit from herbs that help to keep all tissues moist and flexible, like Mullein and Asparagus root. And of course, eyes need exercise like everything else; they need to change focus frequently, and that’s best achieved through movement: walking, interacting with other people, looking at the world rather than a television or a computer screen. All things that can be left behind as we get older. But they really do matter, not just for our eyes but for our general wellbeing.