Remedies for Conjunctivitis, aka Pink Eye
A common irritation to babies and children, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the whites of the eye and inner eyelid. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, allergies, clogged tear duct, or general irritation to the eye. (Chronic conjunctivitis indicates allergies, either food, airborne or chemical.)
Conjunctivitis can be as mild as pinkness of the eye, to more severe pus-filled eyes and encrusted eyelids. It is not a dangerous infection, but it is uncomfortable. A few days of natural treatment should clear up the infection completely.
It is important that your child not touch/rub the eyes; keep in mind that the infection can be easily spread to the noninfected eye and to other children through contact (including washcloths and anything that the child touches after touching his eye). The following are some remedies for treating and healing conjunctivitis.
For infants/babies, an easy and extremely effective cure is breastmilk. Yes, this divine substance is more than just food! Breastmilk is full of antibodies and immune boosting properties, and has the potential to heal myriad ailments. Dropping some breastmilk into baby's affected eye will soothe irritation and speed healing. Apply as much breastmilk as often as you like...I generally remember to give the wee one's infected eye a bit of a squirt a few times throughout the day during a nursing session.
Another effective remedy is the broad-spectrum antibiotic, colloidal silver. This general antimicrobial is also extremely gentle and is a useful family first aid remedy. You can drop CS directly into the eyes...it might be slightly less soothing than breastmilk because it doesn't have the fat content; CS is in a water base. Apply three drops three times daily.
Herbal remedies for conjunctivitis include:
- Eyebright: centuries-old remedy for eye diseases; healing to mucus membranes and eye inflammation
- Chamomile: anti-inflammatory and antibacterial; healing to tissues
- Red Raspberry leaf: gentle for children; astringent, anti-inflammatory, tissue building
- Chickweed: extraordinarily soothing emollient (soothes and nourishes inflamed tissue)
- Immune boosters such as echinacea, golden seal, red clover
A combination of eyebright, raspberry, chamomile and goldenseal is a potent eyedrop treatment. Please be sure your eyedropper is sterile by cleaning it in boiling water or rinsing it with hydrogen peroxide. To make drops, steep 1 tsp. eyebright, raspberry, and chamomile with 1/2 tsp. golden seal for 10 minutes in one cup boiled pure water. Strain and administer 2-3 drops/3 times daily. To apply eyedrops, have child rest his head on your lap; place the drops into the inner corner of the eye and allow to drain away down the outside. This helps to prevent contamination of the other eye.
If that combination of herbs is not easily available to you, use chamomile with raspberry (both these herbs can usually be found in tea form at a health food store). Make drops as above. Red clover, chickweed and echinacea fights infection, boosts immunity and soothes irritated membranes of the eye; make a tea (for drinking) and give 1/2 cup four times daily.
Any of these herbs can be given internally (as tea) or used externally as eye drops. Both approaches are desirable and will speed healing. An additional way to administer the herbal remedies is a compress. You can soak a cloth in the tea and apply it to the eye(s), or you can apply soaked tea bags right to the eye(s).
If you cannot obtain any of the individual herbs listed above, you might look for Dr. Christopher's Herbal Eyebright Formula, which is an excellent conjunctivitis treatment. It is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and a nutritive tonic for the eyes, speeding tissue recovery. The capsules can be opened and made into a tea for dropping into the eye (one capsule in 1/2 cup boiled water). Older children can ingest the capsules as well. The formula contains bayberry, eyebright, goldenseal, raspberry and a tinge of cayenne (this makes the herbal combination more potent; when using as a tea, the cayenne will not hurt the eyes...it may cause a slight sting but will fade and be unnoticeable).
Honey, the all-around therapeutic wonder, can help heal conjunctivitis. Raw, unfiltered honey is strongly antibacterial and would be a good addition to the aforementioned treatments. Using equal parts honey and warm water (or breastmilk or even your raw, grass-fed milk...gently warmed on stove), stir to dissolve/liquefy the honey. Drop into affected eye(s) and/or apply as a compress by soaking a washcloth or flannel in the mixture and applying to the eye(s) for as long as your child will allow, multiple times daily.
The homeopathic remedy Euphrasia is the homeopathic version of the eyebright herb. This remedy is very useful for treating conjunctivitis and, as with all homeopathic treatment, is gentle and easy to administer. I prefer the soft-dissolving tablets (like Hylands). A 30x potency can be given as 3 tablets/3 to 5 times daily. Stop dosing as soon as you see improvement. If you can only find the pellets (like Boiron) and you are treating an infant, you can crush or dissolve the pellets and place in the mouth...same dosage. (Various homeopathic remedies can be indicated for conjunctivitis; see links below for more information.)
I recommend the following books (see more on my Library page) and information links:
- Homeopathic remedy indicator
- Natural Conjunctivitis remedies
- Conjunctivitis in the Herbs2000 database
[If you do not see any improvement in the eye's condition after three days of consistent treatment with any/all of the above remedies, you may want to consider consulting a health practitioner's assistance.]