Let the store-bought eyedrops stay on the market shelf.
ILLUSTRATION: KENNETH LIN
The Natural Remedies column shares information on how to create your own household remedies.
Homemade Natural Remedies
The wink of an eye may attract a love partner. The scorn of the eyes may result in enemies. The literature of our civilization is full of such references, but whatever their romantic or symbolic use in literature, most people take their eyes for granted and seldom take precautions to protect them or have them examined regularly. We usually get around to having them checked only when they are sending signals that something might be wrong.
Considering this part of the body that is so important to daily living, it's virtually incomprehensible that we don't know more about how to take care of them. And such care doesn't have to be complicated; there are some simple home remedies we can prepare to insure a useful life for our eyes.
Let's begin with some preparations that clean and strengthen the eyes. One of these consists of placing a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of borage leaves, which can be obtained at local health food stores if you don't have any in your herbal garden. Steep this mixture until it is cool, then strain through a piece of cheesecloth and place in a clean, preferably sterile, bottle. You can put a few drops of this in your eyes each day or place some of the solution on cotton or cloth and use as a compress.
Another good home remedy consists of adding one teaspoon each of parsley and calendula (marigold) to two cups of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes and strain. When the solution has reached room temperature, but not before, you are ready to use. An eyecup is the best method for applying this solution. You can make yet another eye-strengthening remedy by placing a teaspoon each of fennel, elder flowers, and verbena in a cup of boiling water. Strain this mixture, cool to room temperature, and use as an eyewash.
Some eye-strengthening remedies are not solutions applied externally to the eyes but rather good dietary intake which helps them internally. Two of these are carrots and sunflower seeds. Both of these vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to the eyes. Each day eat a raw carrot or a half cup of sunflower seeds. Make sure, of course, that the sunflower seeds are unsalted. Strengthen those eyes so you can get a better look at her (or him).
Eye strain is a common ailment which affects most of us at times. Strain causes eyes to become irritated. One good remedy for eye irritation is to add a half teaspoon of calendula to a cup of boiling water. Let it stand until cool. Strain well and place in a sterile bottle. Dip a cotton ball in the calendula solution and place over the eyes for 10 minutes in a compress.
Another remedy for relief from eye irritation is to put one drop of castor oil in each eye. It relieves pain fast. So does slicing a cucumber and placing the slices over the eyes. Cucumber has the ability to refresh the eyes and relieve the puffiness around them. Finally, you can soak a cotton ball in witch hazel and cover the eyes for 10 minutes. Witch hazel (Hamamelis water) is a natural astringent obtained from the common tree of the same name, which has the ability to relieve irritation caused by tired or strained eyes. If you're an extra conscientious student, and staring for long hours at that algebra or Latin book is beginning to bother your eyes, these remedies are not guaranteed to help you pass the upcoming exam, but they can relieve the eye irritation that could hamper your performance on the test.
Sometimes we also have to deal with those telltale bloodshot eyes. This condition may cause us to be accused by our friends of engaging in wild parties, and while such may be the case in some instances, bloodshot eyes can result from many factors. One of these is, curiously enough, the use of many of the commercial eyedrop preparations. Many of these preparations contain preservatives which can further irritate sensitive eyes, causing them to appear red or bloodshot.
Bloodshot eyes can be dealt with using simple preparations which can be made at only a fraction of the cost of commercial stuff: One method won't cost you a dime. Apply to the eyes alternating hot and cold compresses using faucet water and washcloths. This results in alternating dilation and constriction of blood vessels, which serves to stimulate circulation and relieve the too-much-party-last-night look in your eyes.
Sometimes, in my mind, I have accused a student of sleeping during my chemistry lectures only to discover that he or she was suffering from conjunctivitis, which is an irritation of the mucous membranes lining the eyelids resulting in that heavy eyelid or sleepy look. A couple of simple remedies may help.
One of these is to pour one cup of boiling water over two tablespoons of yarrow flowers. Steep for 10 minutes, strain, and cool. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and apply to the eyes as a compress.
Finally, what about sties? Those ugly little monsters always seem to appear at the most inopportune times, like the day of a conference with the boss. Sties are bacterial infections which cause a localized swelling of the sebaceous glands of the eyelid. Several home remedies come to the rescue. One is to place one teaspoon of tansy in a cup of boiling water, steep 10 minutes, and dip a clean cloth in the herbal liquid. Apply to the affected area with a compress. Steaming fresh cabbage leaves until just limp (don't boil) and applying these warm leaves to the affected eye will help, as will scraping a raw potato and placing it on the eyelid. You can also apply a moistened tea bag that has been removed from boiling water to the sty area as a compress.
Our eyes are so important to our lives that we dare not neglect them. There are so many remedies as close as the kitchen, the backyard herb garden, or the local health food store that nourish them as well as care for them in times of distress. Keep an eye on good health and keep your eyes in good health.