Cold and Flu Season: Oregon Grape Root for the Eyes

Nettle Class 057

Oregon Grape Root (Berberis spp.) is my go-to herb for the cold and flu season. It’s anti-bactieral, anti-viral, and alterative properties makes for a perfect-storm combination to kill off infections and enable a healthy recovery.

To write a blog on Oregon Grape Root and profile all of it’s amazing abilities would take hours and many pages. So instead this blog will focus on a common type of eye infection – Conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye is simply the inflammation of the conjunctiva (a transparent membrane covering the eyeball) caused by, most commonly this time of year, a bacteria or virus.

Symptoms of Pink Eye may include; redness in the whites of the eyes in both or either eyes, a gritty feeling, crusty discharge that builds during the night while sleeping, and itchiness. Pink Eye is extremely contagious and is passed from person to person through exposure to the infectious mucous secretions.

I have found Oregon Grape Root to be effective against Conjunctivitis when symptoms first appear and even when the infection has become full blown. It is best to start using Oregon Grape when symptoms first begin as the time line of the infection will be shortened significantly. What I like to do is use the tincture of the root internally and externally.

Internal: Oregon Grape Root can help fight the infection from the inside and at the same time help your body recover quicker and more efficiently.

External: Yes, I do use the tincture externally on my eyes, however it is very important to do it correctly since tinctures are made with alcohol.

A healing tool I strongly suggest having in your herbal toolbox is an eyecup. These glass cups are designed perfectly to fit snugly over the eye so that the liquid does not drain off your face and will give your eyes a complete and thorough washing.



Use a clean eyecup (clean it between every use)
Use previously boiled water for every wash (let cool to a safe and comfortable degree)

Ratio: 10 drops of Oregon Grape Root tincture (important this is drop dosagenot dropperfuls) to 1 ounce of water

Hold eyecup over eye for several seconds then you can dab dry. I have never had this sting or cause discomfort in the many times I have used this method for varying reasons. Please be sure to clean the eyecup if you are using the wash for both eyes. I use the wash many times a day while symptoms persist. Make sure you listen to your body because it will let you know if you need to back off on the wash or do more.

Conventionally a bacterial Conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic eyedrops while viral ones have no treatment and may take 2-3 weeks to run it’s course! Oregon Grape Root can be used for both types and in many cases can take care of the problem without the use of antibiotics.

As always when in doubt with any infection or sickness please make an appointment with your doctor or practitioner. I am happy to say that I haven’t had to use any antibiotic or conventional medicine since I began using herbs and living healthily for the past 6 years. That being said antibiotics do save lives – don’t gamble with your life!


7 comments on “Cold and Flu Season: Oregon Grape Root for the Eyes

  1. Pam Barone says:

    Would it be possible to tincture with glycerin?

    • People do use glycerite extracts however I find them not to be as effective as alcohol because many of the soluble constituents will not be extracted using the glycerin. I also am not sure how using an eye wash using a glycerine extract would react on eyes. πŸ™‚

    • Hello! Yes you can make an herbal glycerite which is very common with kids and for people sensitive to alcohol. There is debate as to how strong glycerites actually are as compared to tinctures. Here is a great recipe for making one from Mountain Rose Herb’s blog: Good luck!

  2. Adam says:

    Great post, and very relevant! I haven’t familiarized myself with Oregon grape root yet, but I will check it out. I personally use the medicinal mushrooms during the cold and flu season, and love the results I’m getting. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for reading and posting! I am just starting to get into the medicinal mushroom realm myself. I work at Mountain Rose Herbs and so have a great resource in sourcing mushrooms like Reishi or Chaga.

  3. Paula Campbell says:

    Hi πŸ™‚
    Have to clarify… you don’t want people using barberry when thinking it’s oregon grape. The correct taxonomy name is Mahonia aquifollium.

    ~Be well~

    • Hi Paula! Thank you so much for commenting and reading my blog. The subject of Berberis vs. Mahonia is a really interesting one and I am glad you brought it up. There is some complicated history between the two genus names that is somewhat confusing but here is the long story short. 100 years ago Mahonia was the genus name for what we know as Oregon Grape Root, then at some point botanists realized that there were too many similarities between “mahonia” and other “berberis” species and so they lumped the two together in the same genus Berberis. This has been the case ever since, however many field guides have still used the incorrect taxonomic genus of mahonia adding to the confusion of the most up to date botanical naming. The three references that reflect the most accurate and up to date taxonomic usage are: Jepson Manual, Flora of North America, and Flora of Oregon. All three are still using the genus of Berberis. Also in regards to using other barberry species for medicine all of them can be used interchangeably whether it is an oregon grape or some type of barberry. I double checked on that with my herbal teacher because I wasn’t 100% certain and he did confirm that. Thanks again for the conversation!

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