Pinkeye – caring for conjunctivitis naturally

Are there natural ways to treat pinkeye?

by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCPpinkeye

Note: More information about the products mentioned can be found at the end of the article.

What color should your eyes be? Your eyes should definitely not be pink! Pinkeye is the common name given to the condition technically known as conjunctivitis. There are several kinds of conjunctivitis, but they all have one thing in common: they are inflammatory conditions of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the eyeball.

Symptoms of pinkeye

Common symptoms of this condition are pain, swelling, redness, discharge (clear, green, or yellow), burning, itchiness, gravel-like sensations … none of which are pleasant. Often, the discharge will make the eyelids stick together. Typically, pinkeye will clear up on its own within seven to ten days, but it is very contagious.

Causes of pinkeye

Causes can be bacterial, viral, or allergic, as well as a few others. The bacteria that cause pinkeye include gonococcus (gonorrhea infection in newborn babies, passed on from infected mothers), staphylococci, streptococci, corynebacteria, and chlamydia. The herpes simplex viruses which cause conjunctivitis also cause measles, rubella, scarlet fever, and chickenpox, and can be spread through unchlorinated swimming pools and sharing of face cloths and towels. This type of conjunctivitis often occurs during other viral infections like colds and measles. Allergic conjunctivitis can be caused by any allergen, the most common of which are animal dander and airborne contaminants. Other causes of pinkeye can be a partially blocked tear duct, which prevents cleansing tears from being released onto the eyeball; dust, wind, and irritation from ultraviolet light in sunlamps; and reflections off snow and water.1

The following chart has been paraphrased from The Merck Manual, 18th edition:2

Differentiating Features in Conjunctivitis
EtiologyDischargeLid SwellingItching
Allergicclearmoderate to severeintense

Prevention of pinkeye

There are several important points of hygiene that should be observed to prevent the spread of the infection from one eye to the other or from one person to another. This is the challenging part when working with children who have pinkeye. The infected person should avoid touching the infected eye and wash his hands with soap frequently. Any people who have contact with him should also wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap. Keep the infected eye clean using cotton balls or tissue to wipe away the discharge. Always use a clean tissue or cotton ball for each wipe; never use the tissue from the infected eye on the uninfected eye. The infected person would be well advised to use paper towels instead of cloth towels. This will prevent the infection from being transmitted on the towel. All dirty clothes and towels from the infected person should be laundered separately using hot water and detergent and even a disinfectant. (A few drops of tea tree oil in the washing machine can do this quite well.) The infected person should avoid using contact lenses and eye make-up during the infection. Contact lenses will either need to be cleaned very thoroughly before using them again, or thrown away.

Medical treatments

The medical world uses several different prescription medications to deal with pinkeye. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Allergic flare-ups are treated with antihistamines. Sometimes steroids are prescribed for topical use in conjunctivitis. Caution must be used to ensure a precise diagnosis of the type of pathogen causing the infection, because steroid use for a herpes simplex virus on the eye can force the virus into the cornea and cause permanent damage.

Natural options

Eyebright herb

Written records of the herb eyebright (Euphrasia Officinalis L.) go back to the 1400s, although this herb was probably used and revered in ancient times. Eyebright has been used traditionally for eye problems, including conjunctivitis. It is supposed that the law of signatures was responsible for determining that eyebright would be good for the eyes. The law of signatures is that a plant bears resemblance to what it is good for – for instance, carrot slices look like an eye, and broccoli looks like the inside of lungs. The purple and yellow colorations in the blossoms of eyebright were thought to resemble an inflamed and bloodshot eye.

Eyebright is a flowering plant that  is native to Britain and Europe. It contains volatile oils (these are the types of oils that are extracted for aromatherapy) that have antimicrobial properties. As an infusion (or tea) it is safe to use as eye drops.

I’ve used dehydrated, powdered eyebright leaves and flowers to make eye drops for eye irritations and conditions. Eyebright eye drops should be made fresh daily. For drops, mix one teaspoon of powdered eyebright into ¼ cup (2 ounces) hot, boiled water; use more water for an eyewash. Let steep for 5 minutes. Strain well. Use the cooled (not cold) infusion as eye drops. A warm infusion is considered more soothing to an irritated eye than a cool infusion; pain seems to be more quickly relieved with the warm.

If conjunctivitis is a chronic problem, benefit may be found in using eyebright internally as well as topically. The Chinese believe there is a connection between the liver and the eyes. Eyebright has long been used as a liver-support herb to strengthen and cleanse the liver, and seems to be a sensible choice for internal and topical use to work with the liver and strengthen the eyes at the same time in an effort to prevent outbreaks of pinkeye.3


Another excellent option for resolving pinkeye is SilverGuard. Nano silver particles (not the same as colloidal silver) suspended in purified water or in a gel base have been proven to have impressive antibiotic properties. Additionally, silver helps to speed healing of damaged tissues. Using nano silver, either as a liquid or a gel, can quickly correct pinkeye.

It is always wise to have conjunctivitis assessed by an appropriate medical specialist, and potentially even cultured to verify the type of organism that’s causing the problem. Once properly identified, simple hygiene and eyebright may be all that is needed to resolve the issue.

If you have concerns about your child’s health or yours, or just don’t know where to begin making improvements, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available.

I also invite you to Like us on Facebook (Cobblestone Health Ltd) and to visit my other websites:

Products referred to in above article:

 Nature’s Sunshine Products CANADANature’s Sunshine Products USA
Eyebright herbPerfect EyesPerfect Eyes
Nano silver liquidNatures's Silverguard Liquid (118 ml)
Natures's Silverguard Liquid (473 ml)
Silver Shield w/Aqua Sol
Size selectable on product page.
Nano silver gelSilver Shield GelSilver Shield Gel (20 ppm)


  2. The Merck Manual, 18th edition, edited by Dr. Richard K Albert, et al., Whitehouse Station, New Jersey: Merck Research Laboratories, 2006.
  3. Pedersen, Mark, Nutritional Herbology, Warsaw, Indiana: Wendell W. Whitman Company, 1994.

Copyright © 2015 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).

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