Herbs for Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition in which pressure inside the eye causes damage to the optic nerve, resulting in loss of sight. According to Dr. Robert Schulman’s book, “Solve It With Supplements,” the flow of fluid in the eye which carries nutrients, the aqueous humor, can get blocked, resulting in increasing eye pressure. Acute glaucoma is a sudden onset of this pressure, which causes eye pain, intense headaches, blurred vision and nausea. Acute glaucoma can cause blindness within hours, so herbal treatment is not appropriate. Chronic glaucoma is a slow process, degrading eyesight over months and years, and there are several herbal options to slow or stop the damage to the optic nerve.

Ginkgo Biloba

Dr. Schulman explains that ginkgo increases blood and liquid flow to and in the eye, thus reducing the pressure that damages the optic nerve. A study published in the June 1999 issue of the “Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics” found that subjects who took 40mg of ginkgo biloba extract daily experienced a significant increase in blood flow to the eye, while those who took the placebo experienced none. Those who took ginkgo experienced no side effects. The researchers concluded that more studies needed to be performed on ginkgo, but that it seemed likely to be an effective therapy for glaucoma.

Coleus Forskohlii/Indian Coleus

Indian coleus is a tropical perennial plant which contains a compound called forskolin. A study published in the April 2001 issue of “Alternative Medicine Review” found that applying forskolin extracted from coleus to the eye was successful at lowering intraocular pressure, and thus preventing further damage to the optic nerve. In “1000 Cures for 200 Ailments,” herbalism expert Dr. David Kiefer notes that Indian coleus can be difficult to find, and that although a standardized extract is the easiest way to apply the herb to the eye, it can be difficult to find as well. If you can find it, he instructs that 50mcl of a 1-percent solution eye drop should be applied, but to watch for eye irritation.

Flax Seed

In “Solve It With Supplements,” Dr. Schulman suggests to supplement with 2 to 3g of omega-3 fatty acids a day, divided between meals. Flax seed is the best plant source of omega-3. You can take an oil standardized to omega-3 content, or grind the seeds up and eat them in your food. Dr. Schulman explains that omega-3 improves vision overall, and that preliminary research seems to indicate that people who consume large quantities of it are less likely to get some types of glaucoma. Though it’s not as well-supported as some other herbs for its effectiveness in glaucoma therapy, it’s a healthy supplement to take regardless.


According to Dr. Robert Rister in “Healing Without Medication,” bilberry contains a very high content of bioflavonoids that improve a number of eye problems, including poor night vision, myopia, cataracts and glaucoma. A small-scale Italian study published in the 1985 issue of “Archivio di Medicina Interna” found that the bioflavonoids in bilberry increased the circulation of intraocular fluids in glaucoma patients after one dose equivalent to 800mg of bilberry extract. For long-term use, Dr. Geovanni Espinosa, naturopathy expert for the book “1000 Cures for 200 Ailments,” advises that 160mg of bilberry extract be taken twice a day. The extract should contain 25 percent anthocyanosides. Or, according to the “PDR for Herbal Medicines,” 20 to 60g of the fruit can be eaten daily for the same effects. There have been reported side effects of gastrointestinal discomfort.

About this Author

Jeffrey Rice became an ACE-accredited personal trainer in 2007, and began writing about fitness to support his business. Soon, however, he found himself writing more than training, and has since written health, fitness and supplement articles for numerous websites. He holds a M.F.A. in creative writing from Cleveland State University.