The conjunctiva is a mucous membrane that lines the inside of your eyelids and covers the white part of your eye. This thin layer of tissue is prone to infections and can develop a common eye disease called conjunctivitis – also called “pink eye” or “red eye.”.
Bloodshot eyes, crusty discharge, and general discomfort – pink eye can be quite the downer. So what exactly happens when you have pink eye? Pink eye may affect one or both eyes. While it usually is a minor infection, there are chances of the infection getting out of hand and causing serious eye problems.1
Conjunctivitis can be triggered by bacteria, virus, or allergens like dust mites, pollen, cosmetics, and some medicines. A bacterial infection is usually indicated by a thick, crusty discharge, while swollen glands and a watery or mucousy discharge indicate a viral infection. Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis start in one eye and often spread to the other. When both eyes are affected, accompanied by a lot of itching and a watery discharge, it indicates an allergic cause.2
The symptoms of conjunctivitis may last for a period of 10–15 days.
The first line of treatment advised by doctors against pink eye is usually a warm or cold compress to reduce the itching and swelling, and artificial tears to wash out irritants from the eye. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, doctors may also recommend antibiotics for bacterial conjunctivitis, and antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medications for viral conjunctivitis. However, there are things you can do at home to obtain relief from the symptoms.
Turmeric is a natural antibiotic and its components can help fight inflammation and boost healing.3
A study showed that mice with allergic conjunctivitis displayed an improvement in their symptoms after turmeric treatment. Turmeric produced an antibody that suppressed the activity of the allergen (foreign agent) and decreased the severity of conjunctivitis.4
- Mix 1 tsp turmeric with water and use the mixture as an eyewash.
- For a warm compress, add 1 tbsp turmeric to a cup of boiled water. You can then soak a clean cotton pad or a washcloth in the liquid and apply on the eye.5
Keep An Eye Out For: While turmeric has no side effects as a topical compress, it can cause irritation if it enters the eye. So, be careful and keep your eyes gently but firmly closed while using a turmeric compress. Also, make sure you don’t use turmeric in excess as it could leave a yellow stain on the skin.
Avoid using honey that’s more than 5 years old as it may not work as efficiently as fresh honey.
Honey is a rich antimicrobial and antibacterial product and can be safely applied around the eye. It soothes the inflammation and irritation caused by conjunctivitis.
In one study, honey is seen to reduce redness, swelling, and pus discharge in the infected eye and decrease the overall time taken to flush the bacteria out of the system. Another study showed that the application of honey 4 times a day significantly reduced the swelling.6 7
- Add 3 teaspoons of honey to 2 cups of boiling water.
- Cool the mixture and apply it around the eye.8
3. Holy Basil Leaves
Fresh tulsi leaves are more effective than the dry ones.
According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi or holy basil leaf has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral properties that can provide relief from conjunctivitis.9
How to use
- Use tulsi leaves to make tea or eat a few leaves directly as part of your daily routine for good eye health.
- Alternatively, you can soak tulsi leaves in 2 tbsp honey and use the liquid as an eyewash.
- You can also soak a clean cotton pad or a washcloth in the liquid and use it as a warm compress.10
4. Aloe Vera
In Arabian medicine, aloe vera is used as a traditional remedy for conjunctivitis. Aloe vera is a super plant with antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Aloe vera extracts contain substances like ethanol and ethyl acetate. These alcohol extracts are capable of modulating cellular functions and properties. As a result, they are often used in eye drops to treat inflammation and other eye-related ailments.11
How To Use
- If you have an aloe vera plant in your backyard, you could just cut off a little piece and apply the juice or the gel around your eye and eyelids. The fresher the gel is, the more potent it can be against the symptoms of pink eye.
- You could also use aloe extracts to make tea. This liquid can then be used either as an eye wash or to soak a clean cotton pad for a warm compress.
- You can even protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by washing them with aloe juice.12
If you have allergic conjunctivitis or hay fever, exercise caution while using chamomile tea.
Chamomile is one of the oldest, well-documented, and widely used medicinal plants in the world. Its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties have been used to treat various health problems for centuries. It is also used to treat eye infections and disorders such as conjunctivitis and blocked tear ducts.13
One study noted that using chamomile tea as an eyewash worsened the condition in patients with allergic conjunctivitis or hay fever. However, drinking chamomile tea did not aggravate the infection.14
- Press cool chamomile tea bags on closed eyes for about 10 minutes each, and repeat the process every couple of hours.
- You can also use chamomile tea to wash your eyes. To do that, pour the tea into a commercially available eye-cup and hold it to your eyes.
- Or soak cotton balls in cooled chamomile tea and wipe your eyes often to keep them free of any dirt and reduce irritation.15
Keep An Eye Out For: People who are prone to allergies (especially allergic to the chrysanthemum family), are likely to react to chamomile when chamomile is used for topical treatment. It is best not to use chamomile to treat conjunctivitis in children.16
Eyebright has long been used traditionally to treat conjunctivitis and inflammatory conditions affecting the eyelids. It can help fight infection and also dry up any excess fluid. Further, watery solutions of the herb show antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects.17 In one study, the application of 1 drop of eyebright 1–5 times a day improved the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis within 17 days in more than 95% of the participants.18
How To Use
- Boil a cup of water and steep a teaspoon of eyebright for 5–10 minutes. Soak cotton balls, a clean cloth, or gauze pads in the cooled tea and use as a compress 3–4 times a day.
- Take an eye-cup or sterile dropper to use the tea as an eyewash.19
Use the juice of dried coriander leaves around your eyes.
Coriander is rich in vitamin A and C and has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. It is a good disinfectant too. Using the juice of dried coriander leaves in an eyewash can help relieve swelling, burning, and pain and reduce discharge.20
How To Use
- Take a cup of dried coriander leaves and steep for about 5 minutes in 2 cups of boiled water. Strain the herbs and cool the liquid.
- Use the liquid as an eyewash 3 times a day to soothe the inflammation and reduce pain.21
Fennel extracts have traditionally been used to treat conjunctivitis and other inflammatory conditions affecting the eyelid. The essential oils and extracts of fennel seeds have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties and can help fight infection.22
How To Use
- Boil a cup of water and add 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds in it.
- Cool the tea and use as a compress or as an eye wash 3–4 times a day.23
Watery extracts of marigold have high antioxidant properties and can fight inflammation, bacteria, and viruses. Using marigold flowers as an eyewash or compress can soothe irritation during conjunctivitis.24 Marigold also has a detoxifying and cleansing action, which helps those with conjunctivitis.25
How To Use
- Boil a cup of water and steep 1 tsp dried marigold flowers for 5–10 minutes.
- Cool the tea and use as a compress 3–4 times a day.
- It can also be used as an eyewash.26
Plantain leaves have long been used in traditional medicine the world over to treat a variety of conditions, including infections. Extracts have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunity-boosting properties, among a host of other properties, that have made its use popular in folk medicine.27 The fresh leaves of the plantain have a soothing effect, which can come in handy during conjunctivitis.
How To Use
- Boil a cup of water and steep a spoon of cut plantain leaves for 5–10 minutes.
- Cool the tea and use as a compress 3–4 times a day.
- It can also be used as an eyewash.28
Keep An Eye Out For: Some people may be allergic to plantain, especially in areas with a temperate climate. People prone to allergies should be cautious.29
11. Vegetable And Fruit Juices
Drinking raw vegetable juices made from carrot and spinach have been found to be effective against fighting conjunctivitis from within. A mix of Indian gooseberry juice and honey can be consumed too.
How To Use
- Prepare a mixed juice with 300 ml of carrot juice and 200 ml of spinach. Drink a cup twice a day until your infection subsides.
- Alternatively, add 2 teaspoons of honey to a cup of Indian gooseberry juice and drink twice a day.30
Since potatoes have astringent properties, they can dry, disinfect, and reduce inflammation caused by conjunctivitis.
How To Use
- Peel a potato and cut into thin slices. Place the slices on the affected eye. Repeat for 3 consecutive nights for best results.
- You can also make a poultice by grating the potato and wrapping it in cheesecloth. Place the poultice on the affected eye for at least 20 minutes for best results.31
Keep An Eye Out For: If you’re allergic to potatoes, avoid this remedy as it may make the condition worse.32
Yogurt is a probiotic that is shown to treat conjunctivitis effectively. One study showed that patients with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis reported a drop in the redness, itching, and heat after consuming mandarin orange yogurt for 2 weeks.33
How To Use
- Drink 2 bowls of yogurt every day to reduce the inflammation.
Cucumber is an anti-inflammatory and analgesic substance that can reduce the symptoms of conjunctivitis.34 Although its effects haven’t been proved scientifically, there’s enough anecdotal evidence to believe that cucumber may benefit those with conjunctivitis.
How To Use
- Cut 2 thin slices of cucumber and place them over your eyes.
- Remove them after 15–20 minutes.
- Alternatively, use 2 tbsp cucumber juice as an eyewash.
15. Neem Oil
Known to fight inflammation and soothe the skin, neem oil may reduce the symptoms of conjunctivitis. Plus, neem possesses anti-microbial properties that can treat bacterial conjunctivitis.35
How To Use
- Gently apply 1 tbsp neem oil around the infected eye.
- Wash off after 15 minutes.
16. Homeopathic Remedies
A professional homeopath will analyze your physical, psychological, and emotional makeup in addition to your body constitution before recommending any medication. Listed below are some of the common homeopathic remedies for various symptoms of conjunctivitis.
- Apis mellifica: This medication is recommended for patients with swollen, red, and burning eyes that tend to feel better with cold compresses.
- Argentum nitricum: This is suggested to patients who complain of severe eye pain and have swollen and red eyes with pus-like discharge.
- Belladonna: This is usually used during the early stages of conjunctivitis by patients who have swollen eyelids and bloodshot eyes, are sensitive to light, and complain of burning sensation in the eyes.
- Euphrasia: This is recommended to patients who have watery tears that may become a thick discharge. The patient may also complain of a gritty and dry sensation in the eyes.
- Pulsatilla: Conjunctivitis patients sometimes have mood swings and become irritable too. In such cases, this is the recommended medication. It also helps patients with itchy eyes, a yellowish green discharge, and eyelids that stick together. A cold compress works well in such situations.
- Sulfur: This is used on conjunctivitis patients who complain of feeling unusually hot and thirsty. It also helps with redness, burning, and pain in the eyes. The eyes stick together and there may be a yellow discharge accompanied by a foul odor.36
Conjunctivitis In Newborns
When a newborn baby shows symptoms of conjunctivitis, don’t wait to see a doctor. Neonatal conjunctivitis can be caused by a blocked tear duct, irritation caused by antimicrobials given at birth, or a virus or bacteria passed to the baby from the mother during childbirth. If the trigger is an infection, the condition can get quite serious. A newborn’s conjunctivitis is best treated under medical guidance. The only home remedy advisable is a warm compress between the eye and nasal area to clear a blocked tear duct or any irritation and swelling.37 You can also use fresh breast milk.
Breast Milk To Treat Conjunctivitis
You can use an eyedropper to administer a drop of milk in the eye. For best results, this process should be repeated as often as possible. In most cases, you’ll see positive results quite soon.
Traditionally, human breast milk has been used to treat eye infections by people in India, rural Jamaica, and England.38 Breast milk is a probiotic-rich liquid containing a range of antimicrobial proteins like immunoglobins, lysozyme, and lactoferrin, all of which are important components of the body’s immune system.39
Many swear by this remedy, but there are some questions about its efficiency. While breast milk can inhibit some strains of bacteria that cause conjunctivitis, it was not found to be effective against the bacteria that cause pediatric conjunctivitis.40 In another study, it was observed that while colostrum could inhibit some conjunctivitis-causing bacteria because of its high concentration of antibodies, mature milk did no such thing. In fact, colostrum was found to have half the strength of gentamicin, which is an antibiotic used to treat many bacterial infections.41
Take Measures To Stop The Spread Of Pink Eye
Pink eye caused by a bacterial or a viral infection is extremely contagious. The infection can spread quickly and easily from one person to another. On the flip side, pink eye caused by allergens and irritants aren’t contagious, but there’s a very real possibility of you developing a secondary infection because of contagious virus or bacteria. Taking a few simple preventative measures can certainly reduce the risk of your eyes getting infected.42
- Rinse your eyes at regular intervals.
- The most important self-care step is to wash your hands before and after touching your eyes, whether it is to drain the eyes or to apply any medication.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes as you could end up irritating them further and worsening your infection.
- Don’t use the same cold or warm compress more than once and make sure that you use a different compress for each eye.
- Any towels, washcloths, linens or pillowcases that you use shouldn’t be shared. Remember to wash them once the infection is cured.
- Avoid using window fans as they can draw pollens and mold into your house. You can also wear sunglasses or any protective eyewear when you step outside to minimize the chances of any irritants from getting in your eyes.43
- Sharing makeup, contacts, or any eyewear is an absolute no-no! Don’t even wear contacts when you have an eye infection. Any makeup products, contacts, or eyewear that you did use when you had an infection should be disposed of in a responsible manner.44
In most cases, conjunctivitis is a mild condition and clears up within a week or so. If your eye infection persists for more than a week in spite of you trying out proven natural remedies, it could be time for you to seek medical attention. Other symptoms that should make you seek immediate medical advice are pain in the eyes, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, intense redness, or if you are undergoing treatment for serious ailments such as cancer or HIV. Go to a doctor if you have any pre-existing eye condition to prevent further complications.45
|↑1||Conjunctivitis. American Optometric Association.|
|↑3||Ravindran, P. N., K. Nirmal Babu, and Kandaswamy Sivaraman, eds. Turmeric: the genus Curcuma. CRC Press, 2007.|
|↑4||Chung, So-Hyang, Seong Hyun Choi, Jin A. Choi, Roy S. Chuck, and Choun-Ki Joo. “Curcumin suppresses ovalbumin-induced allergic conjunctivitis.” Molecular vision 18 (2012): 1966.|
|↑5||Prasad, Sahdeo, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Turmeric, the golden spice.” (2011).|
|↑6||Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi. “Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review.” Iranian journal of basic medical sciences 16, no. 6 (2013): 731.|
|↑7||Al-Waili, Noori S. “Investigating the antimicrobial activity of natural honey and its effects on the pathogenic bacterial infections of surgical wounds and conjunctiva.” Journal of medicinal food 7, no. 2 (2004): 210-222.|
|↑8, ↑15, ↑30, ↑31||Billings, Samuel. “The Big Book of Home Remedies”. Lulu Press, 2013.|
|↑9||Verma, Sunita. “Chemical constituents and pharmacological action of Ocimum sanctum (Indian holy basil-Tulsi).” (2016).|
|↑10||Premila, M. S. Ayurvedic herbs: a clinical guide to the healing plants of traditional Indian medicine. Psychology Press, 2006.|
|↑11||Woźniak, Anna, and Roman Paduch. “Aloe vera extract activity on human corneal cells.” Pharmaceutical biology 50, no. 2 (2012): 147-154.|
|↑12||Kumar, KP Sampath, and Debjit Bhowmik. “Aloe vera: a potential herb and its medicinal importance.” Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research 2, no. 1 (2010): 21-29.|
|↑13||Srivastava, Janmejai K., Eswar Shankar, and Sanjay Gupta. “Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future.” Molecular medicine reports 3, no. 6 (2010): 895.|
|↑14, ↑16||Subiza, J., J. L. Subiza, M. Alonso, M. Hinojosa, R. Garcia, M. Jerez, and E. Subiza. “Allergic conjunctivitis to chamomile tea.” Annals of allergy 65, no. 2 (1990): 127-132.|
|↑17||Paduch, Roman, Anna Woźniak, Piotr Niedziela, and Robert Rejdak. “Assessment of eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis L.) extract activity in relation to human corneal cells using in vitro tests.” Balkan medical journal 31, no. 1 (2014): 29.|
|↑18, ↑25||Hechtman, Leah. Clinical naturopathic medicine-eBook. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2013.|
|↑19, ↑23, ↑26, ↑28||Integrative Medicine Communications. “Patient Information: On Conditions, Herbs and Supplements.” Thieme, 2000.|
|↑20||Rajeshwari, Ullagaddi, and Bondada Andallu. “Medicinal benefits of coriander (Coriandrum Sativum L).” Spatula DD 1, no. 1 (2011): 51-58.|
|↑21||Choudhry, Namrta, and M. B. Siddiqui. “Care For Your Eyes… Naturally.” Science Reporter (2011).|
|↑22||Das, Lipi, Utpal Raychaudhuri, and Runu Chakraborty. “Herbal fortification of bread with fennel seeds.” Food Technology and Biotechnology 51, no. 3 (2013): 434-440.|
|↑24||Conjunctivitis. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑27||Samuelsen, Anne Berit. “The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 71, no. 1 (2000): 1-21.|
|↑29||Gadermaier, Gabriele, Stephanie Eichhorn, Eva Vejvar, Lisa Weilnböck, Roland Lang, Peter Briza, Christian G. Huber, Fatima Ferreira, and Thomas Hawranek. “Plantago lanceolata: An important trigger of summer pollinosis with limited IgE cross-reactivity.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 134, no. 2 (2014): 472.|
|↑32||Jeannet-Peter, Nathalie, Pierre-André Piletta-Zanin, and Conrad Hauser. “Facial dermatitis, contact urticaria, rhinoconjunctivitis, and asthma induced by potato.” American Journal of Contact Dermatitis 10, no. 1 (1999): 40-42.|
|↑33||Hara, Yuko, Atsushi Shiraishi, Yuri Sakane, Yuki Takezawa, Tomoyuki Kamao, Yuichi Ohashi, Sho Yasunaga, and Takuya Sugahara. “Effect of Mandarin Orange Yogurt on Allergic Conjunctivitis Induced by Conjunctival Allergen Challenge.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 58, no. 7 (2017): 2922-2929.|
|↑34||Murad, H., and M. A. Nyc. “Evaluating the potential benefits of cucumbers for improved health and skin care.” J Aging Res Clin Practice 5 (2016): 139-141.|
|↑35||Alzohairy, Mohammad A. “Therapeutics role of Azadirachta indica (Neem) and their active constituents in diseases prevention and treatment.” Evidence-Based complementary and alternative medicine 2016 (2016).|
|↑36||Conjunctivitis. University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).|
|↑37||Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) in Newborns. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.|
|↑38||Singh, Meharban, P. S. Sugathan, and R. A. Bhujwala. “Human colostrum for prophylaxis against sticky eyes and conjunctivitis in the newborn.” Journal of tropical pediatrics 28, no. 1 (1982): 35-37.|
|↑39||Black, Gordon M. “Mother’s milk.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 320, no. 7236 (2000): 691.|
|↑40||Baynham, Justin TL, M. Allison Moorman, Catherine Donnellan, Vicky Cevallos, and Jeremy D. Keenan. “Antibacterial effect of human milk for common causes of paediatric conjunctivitis.” British Journal of Ophthalmology 97, no. 3 (2013): 377-379.|
|↑41||Ibhanesebhor, S. E., and E. S. Otobo. “In vitro activity of human milk against the causative organisms of ophthalmia neonatorum in Benin City, Nigeria.” Journal of tropical pediatrics 42, no. 6 (1996): 327-329.|
|↑42||Home Treatments for Conjunctivitis. NYU Langone Medical Center.|
|↑43||Eye Allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology|
|↑44, ↑45||Pink Eye: Usually Mild and Easy to Treat. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.|