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Ask The Herb Lady

With Cathy Schram

Herbs & Vitamins For Eye Health

Q: I am a senior citizen and I take very good care of myself, however, I am worried about my eye health. A lot of my friends have macular degeneration. What can I do to help prevent this from happening to me?

A: Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in seniors. This disorder causes a progressive visual loss to the portion of the retina (the macula) which is responsible for fine vision. It may appear suddenly or progress slowly. It is believed that macular degeneration is caused from free radical damage similar to the type of damage that causes cataracts. Other factors include aging, high blood pressure, environmental toxins and sometimes heredity.

Fortunately, there are many nutrients in the form of herbs and vitamins that can help prevent, slow down or halt macular degeneration.

Powerful antioxidants such as CoQ10 and grape seed extract can certainly protect against macular degeneration. Perhaps the most important herbals for the eyes are bilberry and eyebright. Bilberry contains anthocyanidins, very potent antioxidants. They strengthen the small capillaries in the eyes, which, in turn, provide better circulation to the eyes. Bilberry has also been shown to improve night vision and decrease light sensitivity. Eyebright helps relieve sore, inflamed eyes. It provides astringent effects, tightening the mucus membranes of the eye. Lutein is a carotenoid found in abundance in the macula tissues of the eye. Research has shown that when large amounts of lutein condense in the eye, the macula is protected. Daily supplementation helps prevent macular degeneration. Lutein is also found in dark green, leafy vegetables. Beta carotene and zeaxanthin will also help protect the eyes from free radical damage.

Try to increase your consumption of the green, leafy vegetables and the flavonoid-rich berries such as blueberries, blackberries and cherries. Foods rich in vitamin C and E are also very helpful.

I am glad you are asking about prevention. That is the key. Don’t wait until you experience loss of vision to try these nutrients. Protect your eyes now, while they are still healthy.

This herb information is for health education purposes only. It is not intended to replace the services of licensed health practitioners. Consult with a physician for any condition that requires professional care.

Do you have questions about herbs or vitamins? Send them to Cathy Schram, CNHP and Certified Herbalist. Write to: Herbs & More, 16021 Manchester Rd., Ellisville, MO 63011. www.morethanherbsonline.com

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