Author: Rositsa Tashkova, Master of Molecular Biology and Microbiology

herbs against glaucoma

Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that might develop without symptoms and often remains undiagnosed. The most common cause of the disease is increased pressure in the eyes (intraocular pressure), sometimes due to poor drainage of the fluid that normally fills the eyeball.

There is also the so-called normal-tension glaucoma (NTG) when the disease occurs in people with normal internal pressure.

Glaucoma leads to damage of the optic nerve - which ultimately causes blindness. People who have a hereditary factor (someone in the family has also suffered from the disease) are at greater risk.

It is usually found by accident during a routine eye examination, because the symptoms appear at a very advanced stage of the disease, when it is too late. Detected in time, glaucoma can be delayed by appropriate treatment prescribed by a doctor - eye drops, medication, laser or surgery.

glaucoma herbs

In this article, we will address the question of what we can do with natural means to support our prescribed treatment for glaucoma. The condition is serious and should not be underestimated due to the irreversible consequences for our vision and life.

What foods, vitamins and minerals should you take if you suffer from glaucoma

There is evidence that it is important for patients with glaucoma to take food rich in antioxidants [ref.6], vitamin A and C, carotenoids.

These substances are found in fresh fruits and vegetables - especially green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage, turnip, beets, carrots. Dark fruits are rich in antioxidants - chokeberry, blueberries. There is evidence that peaches can also help glaucoma sufferers. [ref.1]

It is advisable to avoid coffee, as it can further increase intraocular pressure. Instead, it can be replaced with green tea, which contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) - an extremely powerful antioxidant that, according to some studies, can help people suffering from glaucoma and retinal diseases caused by oxidative stress. [ref.2]

green tea in glaucoma

Despite the variety of affordable foods today, some people suffer from deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals. These deficiencies may worsen the condition of glaucoma patients, but the good news is that they can be diagnosed using a simple blood test and measures can be easily taken to address them.

These include: magnesium, calcium, zinc, vitamin D [ref.3], vitamin B-complex, A, C and E, folic acid. Melatonin, lipoic acid and vitamin B12 can also help as supplements [ref.7].

What medicinal plants might help with glaucoma

According to some studies, certain herbs and medicinal plants could improve the condition and slow down to a certain extent the progression of glaucoma, combined with the conventional treatment prescribed by the doctor.

Baikal skullcap or Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)

In 2015, a study was published [ref.4], according to which the substance baicalein - flavon, isolated from the roots of the Baikal skullcap or also known as Chinese skullcap plant, can lower intraocular pressure by improving the rate at which fluid drains from the eye.

Baikalein is also found in other plants, such as thyme.

baikal helmet glaucoma
Credit: Dr Henry Oakeley.

Ginkgo biloba might lower intraocular pressure

Ginkgo biloba extract has been found to increase blood flow to the eyes, improve the survival of retinal cells and protect against oxidative stress - properties that are important for fighting glaucoma.

It is believed that decreased blood flow to the eyes is the main cause of glaucoma, in which intraocular pressure is normal, not elevated. Several studies have been conducted to check whether Ginkgo biloba extract can help sufferers of this type of glaucoma and the results are encouraging. [ref.5]

European blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

It is also called bilberry, wimberry, whortleberry. There is evidence that European blueberry extract taken orally has a neuroprotective effect and can protect retinal ganglion cells in sufferers of glaucoma and other diseases affecting the retina. [ref.8]

cranberry in glaucoma

Saffron (Crocus sativus)

According to one study from Iran, after a 3-week intake of saffron capsules, there was a significant decrease in the intraocular pressure of the test group of patients. According to scientists, this may be due to the antioxidant effect of saffron. [ref.9]

Coleus forskohlii also known as Plectranthus barbatus

The tubers of this herb contain the substance forscoline. It can lower intraocular pressure when externally administered.

There is evidence that when taken orally, forscoline reaches the eyes and can exercise its effect there. [ref.10]

 

Given the severity of the disease, it is advisable to discuss the intake of new herbs and supplements with the attending physician.

 

References:

  1. Glaucoma risk and the consumption of fruits and vegetables among older women in the study of osteoporotic fractures, 2008,
  2. Oxidative-induced retinal degeneration is attenuated by epigallocatechin gallate, 2007, Brain Research
  3. Serum vitamin D status is associated with the presence but not the severity of primary open angle glaucoma, 2016, Maturitas
  4. Potential therapeutic effects of baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin in ocular disorders, 2015, Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  5. Ginkgo biloba extract and bilberry anthocyanins improve visual function in patients with normal tension glaucoma, 2013, Journal of Medicinal Food
  6. The Potential Value of Natural Antioxidative Treatment in Glaucoma, 2008, Survey of Ophthalmology
  7. Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part two: cataracts and glaucoma, 2001, Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic
  8. Bilberry extract administration prevents retinal ganglion cell death in mice via the regulation of chaperone molecules under conditions of endoplasmic reticulum stress, 2017, Clinical Ophthalmology
  9. Saffron supplement maintains morphology and function after exposure to damaging light in mammalian retina, 2008, Retinal Cell Biology
  10. Oral administration of an association of forskolin, rutin and vitamins B1 and B2 potentiates the hypotonising effects of pharmacological treatments in POAG patients, 2011, Clinica Terapeutica

 

The author:

👩 🔬 Rositsa Tashkova-Kacharova has a Bachelor degree in Molecular Biology and a Master's degree in Microbiology and Microbiological Control. She completed her Master's thesis at the University of Nantes, France. At that time she painted a Christmas tree of bacteria and inspired the announcement of the first competition for drawing with microorganisms Agar Art. For 3 years she was the editor of the journal Bulgarian Science and continues to write about science and medicine.