Found in abundance in summer time on our heaths, and on mountains
near the sea, this delicate little plant, the Euphrasia
officinalis, has been famous from earliest times for restoring and
preserving the eyesight. The Greeks named the herb originally
from the linnet, which first made use of the leaf for clearing its
vision, and which passed on the knowledge to mankind. The
Greek word, euphrosunee, signifies joy and gla
ness. The elegant
little herb grows from two to six inches high, with deeply-cut
leaves, and numerous white or  purplish tiny flowers
variegated with yellow; being partially a parasite, and preying on
the roots of other plants. It belongs to the order of scrofula-curing
plants; and, as proved by positive experiment (H.), the Eyebright
has been recently found to possess a distinct sphere of curative
operation, within which it manifests virtues which are as
unvarying as they are truly potential. It acts specifically on the
mucous lining of the eyes and nose, and the uppermost throat to
the top of the windpipe, causing, when given so largely as to be
injurious, a profuse secretion from these parts; and, if given of
reduced strength, it cures the same troublesome symptoms when
due to catarrh.
An attack of cold in the head, with copious running from the eyes
and nose, may be aborted straightway by giving a dose of the
infusion (made with an ounce of the herb to a pint of boiling
water) every two hours; as, likewise, for hay fever. A medicinal
tincture (H.) is prepared from the whole plant with spirit of wine,
of which an admirably useful lotion may be made together with
rose water for simple inflammation of the eyes, with a bloodshot
condition of their outer coats. Thirty drops of the tincture should
be mixed with a wineglassful of rosewater for making this lotion,
which may be used several times in the day.
What precise chemical constituents occur in the Eyebright beyond
tannin, mannite, and glucose, are not yet recorded. In Iceland its
expressed juice is put into requisition for most ailments of the
eyes. Likewise, in Scotland, the Highlanders infuse the herb in
milk, and employ this for bathing weak, or inflamed eyes. In
France, the plant is named Casse lunettes; and in Germany,
Augen trost, or, consolation of the eye.
 Surely the same little herb must have been growing freely in
the hedge made famous by ancient nursery tradition:--
Thessalus acer erat sapiens proe civibus unus
Qui medium insiluit spinets per horrida sepem.
Effoditque oculos sibi crudelissimus ambos.
Cum vero effosos orbes sine lumine vidit
Viribus enisum totis illum altera sepes
Accipit, et raptos oculos cito reddit egenti.
There was a man of Thessuly, and he was wondrous wise;
He jumped into a quick set hedge, and scratched out both his eyes;
Then, when he found his eyes were out, with all his might and main
He jumped into the quick set hedge, and scratched them in again.
Old herbals pronounced it cephalic, ophthalmic, and good for a
weak memory. Hildamus relates that it restored the sight of many
persons at the age of seventy or eighty years. Eyebright made into
a powder, and then into an electuary with sugar, hath, says
Culpeper, powerful effect to help and to restore the sight decayed
through years; and if the herb were but as much used as it is
neglected, it would have spoilt the trade of the maker.
On the whole it is probable that the Eyebright will succeed best for
eyes weakened by long-continued straining, and for those which
are dim and watery from old age. Shenstone declared, Famed
Euphrasy may not be left unsung, which grants dim eyes to
wander leagues around; and Milton has told us in Paradise
Lost, Book XI:--
To nobler sights
Michael from Adam's eyes the film removed,
Then purged with Euphrasy and rue
The visual nerve, for he had much to see.
 The Arabians I mew the herb Eyebright under the name
Adhil, It now makes an ingredient in British herbal tobacco,
which is smoked most usefully for chronic bronchial colds.
Some sceptics do not hesitate to say that the Eyebright owes its
reputation solely to the fact that the tiny flower bears in its centre
a yellow spot, which is darker towards the middle, and gives a close
resemblance to the human eye; wherefore, on the doctrine of
signatures, it was pronounced curative of ocular derangements. The
present Poet Laureate speaks of the herb as:--
The Eyebright this.
Whereof when steeped in wine I now must eat
Because it strengthens mindfulness.
Grandmother Cooper, a gipsy of note for skill in healing, practised
the cure of inflamed and scrofulous eyes, by anointing them with
clay, rubbed up with her spittle, which proved highly successful.
Outside was applied a piece of rag kept wet with water in which a
cabbage had been boiled. As confirmatory of this cure, we read
reverently in the Gospel of St. John about the man which was
blind from his birth, and for whose restoration to sight our Saviour
spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the
eyes of the blind man with the clay. More than one eminent oculist
has similarly advised that weak, ailing eyes should be daily wetted
on waking with the fasting saliva. And it is well known that
mothers' marks of a superficial character, but even of a
considerable size, become dissipated by a daily licking with the
mother's tongue. Old Mizaldus taught that the fasting spittle of a
whole and sound person both quite taketh away all scurviness, or
redness of the face, ringworms, tetters, and all kinds  of
pustules, by smearing or rubbing the infected place therewith; and
likewise it clean puts away thereby all painful swelling by the
means of any venomous thing as hornets, spiders, toads, and such
like. Healthy saliva is slightly alkaline, and contains sulphocyanate