New uses for an old friend: Euphrasia officinalis
Research has shown that changes in global warming are leading to more severe seasonal allergies. A 2010 report (1) by the National Wildlife Fund and Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America found that unchecked global warming will increase respiratory allergies which can cause an increase in asthma attacks. As the environment warms and more CO2 is released in the air it is a boom for plants who use CO2 as food to make sugar and oxygen, but it is harmful for humans. The study went on to say that increasing C02 levels in the air has shown to correlate with an increase in pollens.
In a similar warning, the Union of Concern Scientist released a study (2)“ A changing climate worsens allergy symptoms” Their main findings are rising temperatures extend the growing season and the duration of allergy season, and an extended spring season alters the amounts of blooms and fungal spores that are known to exacerbate allergy symptoms. So it seems we are in for much more severe allergy symptoms and exposure to allergens. It is stated that one in five Americans have allergies.
Understanding how to support the body when it responds to allergies is important. Of course, there are prescription medication and over the counter medication but they can have side effects. Natural medicine offers us other choices such as supplements, botanicals medicine, and lifestyle modifications that can help.
Botanicals have long had a role in helping support the symptoms of allergies. Herbal anti-inflammatories are often able to provide an effective anti-inflammatory effect without the negative side-effects associated with the pharmaceutical steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Herbs like Turmeric, Ginger, and Feverfew can help stabilize the mast cell response and prevent degranulation before it occurs. This is can be a better approach than trying to inhibit the enzymes after the arachidonic acid has been released. In general, the following approach can be helpful
Supportive Symptom management, using appropriate herbal medicines
Decongestants, tissue restoratives, mucolytics
Mast cell stabilization, using anti-inflammatories
- Adrenal support
Modification of the underlying contributing factors by avoiding offending foods, pollens or animal dander.
- Increasing Immune support
- Enhancing Stress management
- Cleansing & detoxification methods
In botanical medicine, the plant Eye Bright (Euphrasia officinalis) has long been used to support, eye, nasal and respiratory system. The aerial parts (dried), gathered in late summer while in bloom are the parts used. The chemistry of Euphrasia includes:
- Iridoid glycosides (aucuboside, aucubin, are anti-inflmatory and antimicrobial)
- Flavonoids (rutin, quercetin, apigenin glycosides)
- Tannin (mild), acrid bitter principle, volatile oil, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, sterols, choline, fixed oils, fatty acids, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.
It has long been used for its astringent and drying effect on the eyes and mucus membranes which can be red and inflamed in seasonal allergies. The key indications are profuse watery discharge from the eyes and nose. This can be used in the form of a tea orally, compresses to the eyes and face as well as tinctures.
Eyebright has been occationally used for skin problems especially hives. A recent 2018 study (3) in the Journal of Molecular Sciences expands on the use of Euphrasia tincture in skin problems. The study Protective called “Effects of Euphrasia ofﬁcinalis Extract against Ultraviolet B-Induced Photoaging in Normal Human Dermal Fibroblasts” In the study, the authors investigated the protective effect of Euphrasia ofﬁcinalis (95% ethanol extract) on UVB-irradiated photoaging in normal human dermal ﬁbroblasts. In their abstract they said “The results show that Euphrasia ofﬁcinalis extract exhibited obvious reactive oxygen species (ROS) and 2,20-azino-bis (3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS) radical scavenging activity, enhanced NHDF cell migration, and reduced UVB-induced apoptosis. The UVB-induced increases in MMP-1 and MMP-3 and decrease in type I procollagen were ameliorated by Euphrasia ofﬁcinalis treatment, which worked by suppressing the mitogen-activated proteinkinase (MAPK) and nuclear transcription factor activator protein 1 (AP-1) signaling pathways. Taken together, our data strongly suggest that Euphrasia ofﬁcinalis ethanol extract could reduce UVB-induced photoaging by alleviating oxidative stress, pro inﬂammatory activity, and cell apoptosis” This study used human cell cultures and ethanol extract of Euphrasia officinalis plant. It is surprising that it showed strong anti oxidant effect and prevented skin aging and promoted the expression of new type 1collagen by mRNA promotion. This study is interesting and gives us a new understanding about the complexity of action that a traditional anti-allergenic herb, Euphrasia officinalis may have on skin and photo aging.
- J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19, 3327;