There is evidence that more people are seeking complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) for eye diseases and conditions. But you might want to wait for more studies before practicing CAM on your eyes.
Making your own eye drops at home may come with more risks than benefits. Tears are a mix of oil, mucus, and water. They also contain oxygen, nutrients, and antibodies that protect your eye. More importantly, tears are naturally infection free. It’s hard to keep your home workspace completely sterile and ingredients uncontaminated like the labs where scientific studies take place.
Read on to learn what science says about the effectiveness of homemade drops and what you can do to safely relieve irritation, redness, or puffiness.
You may be more interested in oils as eye drops because they provide more lubrication and longer lasting effects. One study found that oil-water emulsions were more effective than solution-based eye drops. But there are no studies about the safety of homemade remedies using oils for dry eyes. Not all options have been tested on humans either.
Here’s what research on certain popular eye-drop ingredients say:
Castor oil: One pilot study found that an eye emulsion of castor oil from Allergan effectively produced more stable tear film for at least four hours. Allergan has discontinued this product in the United States.
Coconut oil: There are no human trials involving this ingredient yet. One study that used rabbits suggests virgin coconut oil is safe for human use, but it has no significant benefit compared to traditional eye drops and saline. In addition, coconut oils can be contaminated.
Omega-3 and omega-6: No human trials have been done for these. A 2008 cell study suggests more research on its benefits for a topical application.
Chamomile tea: A 1990 study concluded that a chamomile tea eye wash induces allergies and swelling. It’s best to avoid a tea-based eye wash due to potential contamination.
The safest option is to buy commercial eye drops. For safe oil-based eye drops, try Emustil, which contains soybean oil. If you’re interested in using natural ingredients, you can try Similasan eye drops. This Swedish company is known for their homeopathic eye drops. Homeopathic solutions don’t require review from any governmental body, so their benefits may be misleading.
There are natural ways to treat irritated eyes. Whether you’re looking for relief for pink, red, dry, or puffy eyes, here are some home remedies to stimulate tears.
Fast relief: Warm compress
Warm compresses are an effective therapy for people with dry eyes. One study found that heating the eyelids with a compress increased tear film and thickness. If you’re interested in the benefits of a certain oil, you can try putting that oil around your eyes, and then placing a hot towel over your face for one to two minutes.
Tea bags: Cool compress
Although doctors advise against washing your eyes with tea, you can use tea bags as a cold compress. A wet, cool tea bag can be soothing on your eyes. Black tea may even decrease puffiness.
Blink and massage
If you have dry eyes due to eyestrain, try blinking more often or setting a timer to step away from your computer every 15 minutes. You can also perform a simple eye massage to stimulate your tear glands. In a quick pinch, try yawning to help stimulate more tears.
Prevention through diet
You can also take supplements specifically for dry eyes. One study concluded that omega-3 fatty acid supplements can benefit dry eyes, especially for people with blepharitis or Meibomian gland disease.
Here are a few things to add to your diet to help alleviate dry eyes:
Try to eat
- two servings of fish high in omega-3s per week
- 300 milligrams (mg) of gamma-linoleic acid per day
- 1,000 mg of flaxseed oil per day, split over three doses
Eating citrus, nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, and fish is also good for your overall eye health. Other ways you can protect your eyes from drying out are:
- increasing the humidity in your home
- changing filters on heaters or air conditioners
- avoiding hair dryers, or closing your eyes when using them
- wearing protective eyewear when it’s sunny or windy outside
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, as dehydration can also cause dry eyes.
Many traditional methods are available for treating your eyes. You can try over-the-counter products. Artificial eye drops benefit more than just dry, red, and puffy eyes. People also use them for reducing allergies, ear infections, and acne. Look for eye drops that are preservative-free to avoid irritation. You can use eye drops two to four times a day.
|Condition||What to buy|
|dry eyes||artificial tears (Hypo Tears, Refresh Plus), blood serum drops|
|redness||decongestant eye drops|
|allergies and itchiness||antihistamine eye drops|
|soreness, swelling, discharge||saline eyewash, artificial tears|
|pink eye||antihistamine eye drops|
See a doctor if your eye condition causes pain. It may be a sign of an infection, and you may need antibiotics. Your doctor may also prescribe oral or topical medications for your dry eyes. Some can help with tear production. Another short-term treatment may be steroids. In more severe and persistent cases of dry eye, your doctor may recommend surgery or another treatment method, such as an eye insert or light therapy.
Avoid treating your eyes with homemade eye drops if you can. Tears are a delicate protective layer and it’s easy for microbes from your DIY eye drops to:
- make your condition worse
- impair your vision
- cause eye infections
- delay the real diagnosis for your eyes
If you still decide you want to use homemade eye drops, make sure you:
- only use a fresh batch to avoid bacterial infections
- use clean equipment that’s been recently washed in hot, soapy water
- throw away any solution after 24 hours
- avoid the solution if it looks cloudy or dirty
Contact a doctor immediately if you experience double vision, blurred eyesight, or pain from using homemade eye drops.
Eye health is a combination of diet, habits, and overall health. It’s best to treat the cause for long-term relief. Talk to your doctor if your eyes continue to bother you after treatment.