Ayurveda, the healing tradition of ancient India, has used herbal medicine for centuries to promote eye health. It matches herbs and other treatments with your dosha, or bodily constitution: vata (made up of air and space elements), pitta (fire and water), or kapha (water and earth). (To discover your dosha, take the “What’s Your Dosha?” test.) “Ayurveda always looks at any health issue in relation to body constitution and dosha imbalance,” says Vishnu Dass, ayurvedic practitioner and director of Blue Lotus Ayurveda, an ayurveda and panchakarma clinic in Asheville, North Carolina.
When your doshas become unbalanced and one dominates another too much, your health suffers. “Common problems like dry and burning eyes, irritation, and even minor infections could be the result of a pitta or vata dosha imbalance,” says Dass. In those instances, he recommends herbs that soothe and cool pitta and pacify vata, such as shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), gotu kola (Centella asiatica), and jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi).
People with a predominate kapha dosha often have to worry about more serious conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts, which typically result from excess kapha, says Dass. “The herb punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa) helps reduce excess water element in the body, thus relieving interocular pressure that can trigger glaucoma,” he explains. Another helpful herb: shankapushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), which helps cleanse the liver and reduces excess kapha.
You can take any of the above herbs for prevention or to treat an acute condition. It’s OK to take up to 500 mg daily, says Dass, but you’d be better off visiting an ayurvedic practitioner for a more tailored regimen.
For all-around eye health—no matter what your dosha—try triphala, a popular herbal formula made from the dried fruit of the haritaki, amalaki, and bibhitaki plants. “It’s one of the best eye rejuvenators,” Dass says, because it calms stressed-out eyes and detoxifies them. Try brewing a triphala tea, either when your eyes need some TLC or as part of a daily eye-health routine:
1. Mix 1?2 to 1 teaspoon triphala powder with 1?2 to 1 cup hot water, in equal parts, and let steep for five to 15 minutes.
2. Strain the tea through a coffee filter.
3. Fill an eyecup with the strained liquid, and bathe your eyes. “You can also soak cotton balls and apply around the eyes to reduce puffiness,” says Dass.
For everyday eyestrain or to relieve dry, burning eyes irritated by stress, pollution, or allergies, put a drop of room-temperature, melted ghee (clarified butter) into each eye before bed. “It’s great for soothing computer eyestrain too,” says Dass. You can also use rosewater: Just place a few drops in each eye for instant relief.