EYEBRIGHT. Euphrasia officinalis, or "Eyebright," is an annual, belonging to the family SCROPHULARIACEAE. It is common in northern Europe and in England, and is found in the northern United States. The Latin, as well as the English name, shows this plant to have had popularly ascribed to it healing virtues in diseases of the eye. Milton and Shenstone both speak of it as a well-known eye remedy. Since the year 1100 A.D. it has been mentioned as such in medical works. But, within fifty years, since it has become the fashion to ignore the specific properties of drugs, and to base prescriptions directly upon physiological and pathological hypotheses and the generic action of drugs, Euphrasia has been utterly neglected. Now, we may be sure that no substance ever gains, and for centuries maintains, over a whole continent, a high reputation for power to cure diseases of any organ, without there being something of solid foundation in fact for this reputation, whatever errors in degree, whatever absurdities in hypothetical explanation, may have grown up around this fact, and obscured and disfigured it. Hahnemann says that "it was not without reason that this plant received the name it bears," and that " it has fallen into unmerited disuse in the present day."
The same may be said of our own day. You will hardly hear of Euphrasia at the Eye Infirmary or at the hospitals, and yet you will there hear of no single remedy that will promptly and completely cure so many cases of catarrhal ophthalmia and of keratitis as Euphrasia will.
Our knowledge of the physiological properties of Euphrasia is derived from a proving of Hahnemann and his pupils, and one by the Austrian Provers' Society (Zeitschrift des Verein, 1857). These provings are not very complete, or if complete they show that Euphrasia does not embrace in its sphere of action the whole circuit of the organs of the body. I shall speak chiefly of the symptoms produced by it on the eyes and the respiratory organs.
The eyes appear to be affected in almost every part ; eminently, however, the conjunctiva, the cornea, the lachrymal gland and sac, and the special sense. (Whether or not the retina be organically affected we cannot say positively, from absence of physical inspection.)
The conjunctiva is reddened, the vessels enlarged, the mucous secretion at first diminished but speedily increased, and so modified as to become semi-purulent in character.
As necessary concomitants of these physical conditions occur the following subjective symptoms: A sensation as if dust or sand were in the eyes ; pressure and tension of the globe ; sudden and momentary obscuration of vision, relieved by winking, and evidently caused by the presence of opaque mucus upon the surface of the cornea; and nocturnal or rather morning agglutination of the lids. The secretion of tears is wonderfully increased in quantity, the eyes are constantly suffused; the lachrymal duct does not suffice to carry away this excessive secretion (perhaps its calibre is diminished through turgidity of its lining membrane), and the tears overflow upon the face and run down the cheek.
The secretion of tears is not only increased in quantity; it is altered in character. The tears are very acrid, excoriating the lids, which swell and ulcerate on their margins, and causing inflammation and even suppuration of that part of the cheek which is kept wet by them.
It might be inferred from our knowledge of the natural history and course of ophthalmic disease, that where the globe of the eye is kept bathed in muco-purulent secretion and with acrid tears, as is the case under the action of Euphrasia, softening and ulceration of the cornea would speedily take place. We see this in cases of purulent ophthalmia, especially of a specific character; and we see it in cases where this condition of the eye is provoked, promoted or fostered by the constant injudicious application of hot fomentations and poultices to the eye.
From these facts it is a legitimate function of pathology which leads us to infer that the proving of Euphrasia would, if pushed further, develop ulcers of the cornea.
Acting upon such an inference, or else guided only by the other symptoms of the case, homeopathic physicians early gave Euphrasia in cases of ulceration of the cornea; and the clinical record of its application is long and brilliant. It has been very successfully used in ulcers, both superficial and deep ; and for the removal of obscurations and opacities of all grades.
Ulceration of the cornea is found also in cases not marked by the conjunctivitis and profuse discharges here described — cases of keratitis, or, as it was formerly called, scrofulous ophthalmia. The conjunctiva is even unnaturally bloodless, and the globe of the eye has a pearly aspect. The palpebral conjunctiva alone may be congested, striated, or studded with granulations. In such cases, when the photophobia is excessive, Conium maculatum is a remedy of exceeding value. It will, where indicated, be found to cover the symptoms of the depraved nutrition and innervation of the patient.
In other cases the lids are swollen and the secretions more abundant than where Conium is indicated, and the photophobia excessive in the morning and forenoon, so that the child buries its head in the pillow, while in the afternoon it will use the eyes freely. In such cases, the general symptoms of the digestive tract and of the sleep almost always indicate Nux vomica, which cures the eyes as well, and very speedily.
As regards the special sense it is both exalted —photophobia resulting in a very marked degree, the patient being unable to endure the light— and it is perverted. The patient becomes very near-sighted. Again, the prover dreams of fire, lightning, flames, etc. Such dreams, if frequently repeated, are regarded as indications of deep-seated disease of the eye.
The nasal mucous membrane is affected much as the conjunctiva is. It is swollen, and secretes an abundance of water, and, later, of a mucopurulent substance, with sneezing and some degree of dyspnoea.
It is noteworthy that whereas the discharge from the eyes is acrid, excoriating the lids and cheek, that from the nose is bland, not excoriating the alae nasi and lip.
Exactly the reverse is true of the discharges produced by Allium cepa from the eye and nose respectively. The tears are bland while the nasal discharge is acrid. This difference often serves to distinguish the indications of the two remedies.
The mucous membrane of the throat and bronchi is similarly affected. There is abundant mucous secretion, a loose cough, and a loud bronchial rale.
One prover speaks of a "red rash" upon the face, produced by Euphrasia.
The fever is not of a high grade. Chilliness predominates.
Among the clinical indications for Euphrasia I mention first, catarrhal ophthalmia; in fact, any inflammatory state of the eye which is characterized by congestion of the conjunctiva, or great photophobia conjoined with excessive lachrymation, the tears being acrid. Beside helping in these cases, it often removes chronic opacities ; and it is said to have cured several cases of cataract. It is my belief that these chronic cases, which Euphrasia cured, once presented (viz., in their acute stage) the symptoms above described as indicating Euphrasia. And this statement of my belief induces me to call your attention to a mode of prescribing for certain chronic conditions which present no symptoms whatever to indicate a remedy. The method is to prescribe for the acute malady in which these chronic conditions originated. It can only be done when we can get a clear and trustworthy picture of the acute affection as it once really existed. As a striking illustration of this method of selecting a remedy, I venture to refer to a cure of deafness (Deafness cured by Mezereum. See " Homeopathy the Science of Therapeutics," page 462) reported by myself in the "American Homeopathic Review," vol. i., and which I may add was a permanent cure. (1868.)
Certain cases of measles present chiefly eye-symptoms, and these of such a character as to call to mind the symptoms of Euphrasia. Conjoined with eye-symptoms are more or less of nasal and bronchial catarrh, and these symptoms find their analogues in Euphrasia.
As a matter of fact no less than of inference, Euphrasia is a remedy of prime importance in measles whenever the eye-symptoms are strongly pronounced as well as in ophthalmia, and is a valuable remedy in simple nasal and bronchial catarrh.