Glaucoma is a group of common eye diseases which impair the eye’s optic nerve and may lead to vision loss or blindness. This degenerative condition is usually associated with a buildup of fluid in the eye (intraocular pressure), obstructing the optic nerve’s ability to transmit images to the brain. Glaucoma typically presents itself later in life and is passed down genetically, and has few symptoms to begin with, therefore making it more difficult to identify until damage is already taking place. It is recommended that adults over the age of 40 with a family history of glaucoma receive an eye exam every one to two years, and more frequently if you have diabetes or are at risk for other eye diseases. Once you reach age 65, your risk is even higher, regardless of family history.
Also known as hypertension of the eye, an unmanageable amount of intraocular pressure is present in people with glaucoma. Pressure increases when fluid (aqueous humor) cannot circulate in the front part of the eye, or drain properly through a channel (trabecular meshwork) on the eye. If the channel is blocked, fluid builds up, pressure grows, and some form of glaucoma begins. There are several forms of glaucoma, including primary open-angle, angle-closure, normal-tension, pigmentary, and developmental. Most of these forms identify where and how the fluid is building up to cause pressure, like how primary open-angle glaucoma is a partial blockage of the drainage channels at the meeting point of the iris and cornea. Normal-tension glaucoma, on the other hand, indicates optic nerve damage without any change in pressure.
If you’re searching for a natural, home remedy to alleviate your eye pressure, chances are you have already reached the advanced stages of the disease. Those who are aging and genetically predisposed to the condition may also be looking for ways to treat or prevent glaucoma naturally. As an alternative to prescription eye drops, medications, and surgery, some cases of glaucoma can be treated with herbs, vitamins, and even spices. Eye surgery can sometimes result in further health problems, including cataracts, and other conventional treatments come with the potential of unpleasant side effects such as blurred vision, short-term memory loss, lowered heart rate, and a burning or stinging sensation in the eyes. In addition to the risks associated with these methods, they are much more costly than those you can make at home.
How to Treat & Prevent Glaucoma Naturally
Omega-3 Fish Oil
At this point, it seems everyone should be getting more omega-3s in their life, regardless of their health woes. For those who want to keep their eyes in tip-top shape, taking an animal-based supplement such as fish oil can help immensely. Fish oil supplements contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fat which has been linked to brain health as well as promoting smooth retinal function.
When the eye’s retina contains a high concentration of DHA, there is strong evidence that the substance helps prevent macular degeneration, the main cause of blindness. According to naturopathic doctor Joseph Mercola, only animal-based omega-3s translate for eye health, so flaxseed and other plant sources will not provide desired results.
Reducing Insulin Levels
Lowering your eye pressure takes some dietary adjustment, and as glaucoma and diabetes often go hand-in-hand, insulin regulation is key in alleviating glaucoma. Steer clear of sugars and grains, as they will cause your insulin to spike. What about organic, whole grains, you say? Those, too, can quickly break down into glucose and are unfortunately off-limits for anyone with either condition. Foods such as pasta, breads, rice, and cereal should be eliminated from your diet if you have been diagnosed with glaucoma or want to prevent it from occurring.
Spinach & Green Vegetables
Leafy greens such as spinach contain a significant dose of lutein and zeaxanthin, produced by the carotenoid that gives these veggies a yellow-green hue. Both of these potent phytonutrients have been known to support vision and healthy eye function as they increase retinal function. Other vision problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration have been combated by lutein, as it helps build retina and eye tissue. Eating lots of kale, collard greens, spinach, avocado, and honeydew melon can improve your eyes, or you can take a spinach or lutein extract as an alternative.
Ginkgo biloba has been used for a wide variety of conditions, including glaucoma, as this herb may help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the eye. Particularly in patients with the rare diagnosis of normal-tension glaucoma (where no pressure increase is present in the eye), Ginkgo biloba extract performed well in a study on those with this type of glaucoma. With no side effects noted by any participants, and noticeable improvements in vision, it seems Ginkgo may be an effective, risk-free treatment. In this particular study, the participants were taking 120 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract daily (6 mg of dried herb) over the course of several months. Speak to a doctor or holistic practitioner to find out what dose is right for you.
Fennel is an herb commonly found in a variety of foods, but works well as a vision enhancer. It is said that when snakes molt a layer of skin, they are blinded for a short period of time and eat fennel to regain their vision. Whether ingested as a raw herb or consumed in tea form, fennel reduces the damage of glaucoma. A fennel tea is also a safe eyewash.
Native to the Amazon, jaborandi is a multipurpose herb that has been tested on glaucoma patients for over a century as it contains pilocarpine. Pilocarpine is an alkaloid found in the plant’s leaves which reduces intraocular pressure, and was first introduced into conventional medicine in 1876. Certain types of glaucoma which involve increased pressure have benefited from pilocarpine supplements and eye drops, only available naturally as scientists have been unable to synthesize it. Combined with physostigmine, pilocarpine is a staple in modern opthamology.
The spice that adds an ethnic pop of flavor to your food is also beneficial for your eyes. Cayenne contains anti-inflammatory properties targeting the mucus membranes. It also increases blood flow to the eye and other areas of the body, improving circulation, which can help diabetics as well as people with glaucoma. One source recommends making an eye solution, heavily diluted with water and just a pinch of cayenne. Use very small quantities as an eye drop or wash.
Highly beneficial for eye health, bilberry is a relative of the blueberry and therefore bursting with antioxidants that may fight cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Though not many studies have focused on bilberry’s health benefits, those that have show promise that it can help diabetes and high blood pressure of the eyes. Proponents say bilberry improves retinal health, reduces pressure, and strengthens and protects blood vessels and veins. It may also stop the formation of cataracts.
1. WebMD. Glaucoma and Your Eyes.
2. Mayo Clinic. Glaucoma.
3. Homemade Medicine. Home Remedies for Glaucoma.
4. Dr. Joseph Mercola. 6 Sure-Fire Tips to Prevent Glaucoma Naturally.
5. Wright Newsletter. Using Ginkgo Biloba to Relieve Glaucoma.
6. Rain-Tree.com. Jaborandi.
7. Cathy Wong. About.com. Bilberry for Better Eyes.
Image: Peter Forster via Wikimedia Commons