Traditional Chinese Medicine for Better Eye Health

By Paula Bruno

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) regards the body and its well-being as part of a holistic entity where one aspect is inextricably connected to all others. In accordance with this philosophy, TCM holds that the eyes are connected to the entire internal organ system and reflect their health therein. Mindful eating can enhance eye health and, in so doing, nurture whole-body wellness.

Macular degeneration due to age is not inevitable according to Chinese medicine. TCM treatment that includes acupuncture and herbal formulas can stave off the decline of vision in cases of macular degeneration. Other conditions, such as early stage cataracts and glaucoma, are best treated with a combination of Western and Eastern approaches. Functional stresses caused by daily life, including over-use of computers and electronic devices, can lead to dry or excessively-tearing eyes. These issues may be resolved with dietary changes and herbal remedies. In treating the eyes, the organs become healthier and vice-versa. TCM ophthalmology patients might find that as their eyes improve, so do other conditions that they did not realize were related.

According to TCM, the liver opens into the eyes and correspond with the iris, and the shen, or spirit (which is housed in the heart), shows in the eyes and pertains to the inner and outer corners of the eyelids. The sclera, or white of the eye, relates to the lung, and the kidney finds representation in the pupil. The upper and lower lids relate to the spleen. Antioxidant-rich foods, including leafy greens, nuts and fish, are especially good for the eyes. Chinese herbs, such as gou qi zi (wolfberry or Fructus lycii) for kidney and liver health, or ju hua (chrysanthemum), for heat and wind conditions, also nourish eye health.

There are no health issues that occur in isolation in the philosophy of Chinese medicine. Stress, too much time on the computer or other forms of overwork, or irritation from air pollution can all affect eye health. By attending to stress levels, in taking breaks, and by remembering to wear sunglasses, it is possible to support and nourish the eyes without further intervention. By eating well and, as needed, consulting with a TCM practitioner, it is that much more probable that the eyes become and remain bright, healthy and beautiful.

Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is an acupuncturist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. For more information, visit TwoHeartsWellness.com.