Ophthalmology Meets Herbal Medicine
Updated: Feb 7
Are carrots good for the eyes? How effective are carrots in improving vision? Scientists have evaluated many plants as potential natural products to treat ocular diseases, despite the everlasting controversy on whether “the Carrot Myth” is true.
Many factors can result in reduced vision, such as eye damage, macular degeneration, or even diabetes. “Nearly one billion people have a preventable vision disorder or one that has yet to be addressed,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Reduced vision has prominent effects on one’s life, including physical activity, accessibility to public services, and communication with the external environment.
As stated by the Shree Dev Bhoomi Institute of Education, Science, and Technology, “[h]erbal medicine is the most ancient form of health care known to men.” This field has a significant influence on alternative medical therapies that involve herbal remedies, such as naturopathy and orthomolecular medicine. Due to plants having such low toxicity and lack of side effects, these factors make them one of the most common materials in prescription drugs (nearly a quarter of prescription drugs are derived from plants)!
Several researchers have taken advantage of plant properties and have innovated the ancient branch of herbal medicine in ophthalmology. For instance, one study published in the Journal of Natural Remedies suggests that ginger can lower intraocular pressure (IOP) in rabbits. IOP refers to the fluid pressure inside the eye, and it is an important factor when evaluating a patient’s risk for glaucoma. Based on the results, the study concluded that ginger may be beneficial in managing glaucoma in humans.
Another example is from Adebukunola O. Adefule-Ositelu, a professor of ophthalmology at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), who developed eye drops containing bitter kola, a tropical plant commonly grown in Central and Western Africa, for preventing blindness in patients with glaucoma. She and her team have seen great progress with the eye drops and reported that they are successfully treating patients with glaucoma in their clinic.
Moreover, two other studies published in the Archives of Ophthalmology contributed to the decrease of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD is one of the leading causes of blindness, and it is caused by abnormal development of blood vessels in the eye, called retinopathy. Led by Jennifer S. L. Tan, her team conducted an investigation on dietary fatty acids and their impact on AMD, concluding that “[a] regular consumption of fish, nuts, olive oil, and other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids and avoiding trans-fats may significantly lower the risk for AMD.”
Even for people without any vision impairments, there are still countless other studies that recommend different foods and nutrients to be implemented into a diet to ensure healthy eyesight! Plants such as garlic, pumpkin, and almonds contain Vitamins C and E, which studies have shown contain antioxidants that can reduce the progression and development of cataracts.