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#30dayswild - eyebright

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#30dayswild - eyebright

Blink and you’d miss this tiny wildflower Eyebright. Its small pretty flowers peep out from lawns and grasslands and you have probably crushed it underfoot while out walking. But behind this tiny plant is a big history which goes back to Ancient Greece. Its botanical name is Euphrasia, named for one of the Greek goddesses of grace, Euphrosyne who represented fun and joy. (Her sisters were Aglaea [Splendour] and Thalia [Abundance]). It was thought to be good for the eyes because the patterns on its petals resembled the human iris. Legend says that the linnet used the plant to cure the eyesight of its baby brood, and passed on the knowledge to mankind. It was used in Elizabethan times to flavour beer - Elizabeth I liked to drink it - and people in the 17th century were urged to “drink everie morning a small draught of Eyebright wine”. The herbalist Culpeper went so far as to claim: “If the herb was but as much used as it is neglected, it would half spoil the spectacle maker’s trade.” It’s still used today by herbalists to treat sore eyes and inflammation. Harvested in late summer, the herb is dried and used in infusions for eye baths (infuse 1oz dried herbs in a pint of hot water, let cool, strain and bottle). Cotton wool pads soaked in the infusion can be placed over the eyes to reduce puffiness. A cold poultice can help wounds heal by tightening the skin.

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