MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR EYES WITH EASTERN MEDICINE
Your Eyes Could Probably Use Some TLC
You might not realize it, but your eyes work hard. And they stand up to some pretty tough conditions. UV rays from the sun can damage your eye tissue and increase the likelihood of cataracts. Pollen, mold and dust can give you allergic conjunctivitis. Too much screen time can cause chronic dry-eye. Even high blood pressure can be bad news for your eyes!
Clearly, it’s important to keep an eye on your eye health. Here’s how you can keep your peepers healthy with some gems of wisdom from Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Eastern Medicine For Your Eyes
Ayurveda And Your Eyes
In Ayurvedic medicine, there are 3 different energy types known as doshas–vata, kapha, and pitta. Each energy type combines two of the five natural elements. Vata dosha is made up of space and air, Pitta dosha combines fire and water, and Kapha dosha has water and earth.
Now let’s take it a little deeper. Each dosha has five sub-doshas throughout the body. One of the pitta subdoshas is known as alochaka pitta and is found in the eyeballs. You can think of alochaka pitta as the fire that powers our ability to see.
Problems with the eyes tend to arise when this alochaka pitta becomes unbalanced. Too much fire in alochaka pitta is usually the result of overuse. Think too much screen time, sun exposure, or environmental allergens like pollen. When this happens, your eyes will feel irritated, dry, itchy, and inflamed.
On the other hand, when this fire becomes weaker, so do our eyes. This is usually a result of the natural aging process, but it can sometimes be caused by other things. Whether you have too much or too little fire in your alochaka pitta, it’s key to balance it out to find relief.
The Eyes According to TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine understands the eyes very differently from Ayurveda or Western medicine. In TCM, the eyes are connected to the Liver. Your eye health basically relies on your Liver because that’s the organ that delivers all the nourishment and energy your eyes need. That means that problems with your Liver, like too little blood or stagnant Qi, tend to manifest in your eyes. It makes sense–after all, a yellowing of the eyes is a major symptom of Jaundice in the liver.
3 Eye-Care Tips From Eastern Medicine
Have you ever zoned out while staring into a fire? The flame’s movement gives you something to concentrate on while your mind clears. Well, that’s the basic idea behind Trataka.
Trataka, or candle gazing, is a yogic cleansing practice where the meditator focuses on the flame of a candle made out of ghee (clarified butter). The candle should be about two feet away from you and at eye level in a dark room. First, close your eyes and let your breath slow. Once your mind is calm, open your eyes a little wider than usual and stare at a fixed point–aka the flame of the candle. Try to blink as little as possible until you can see the image of the flame even after you’ve closed your eyes. Focus on that image and try to keep your mind as empty as possible until the image fades completely and your practice is done.
According to the ancient Sanskrit manual Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue, and sloth, and closes the doorway creating these problems.” Not much research has been done on Trataka specifically, but researchers have found that guided meditation can help lower a glaucoma patient’s eye pressure, so there does seem to be a connection. At the very least you’ll be less stressed and have a better attention span!
Ayurvedic Eye Drops
Another Ayurvedic eye remedy is castor oil eye drops. Just grab some high-quality pure organic castor oil and place one drop in each eye before bedtime. As you might expect, your eyes might feel blurry right after you put the drops in, but that goes away pretty quickly. This is supposed to help soothe scratches, itchy, or inflamed eyes.
Luckily, western researchers are catching up to Ayurveda. One animal study found that castor oil eye drops formed a protective layer on the eyes of pigs to help defend against dryness. That’s because the fat in the castor oil helps to boost the fatty layer that keeps your eyes protected and moist. So whether you’ve been putting in overtime in front of the computer screen or you’re dealing with seasonal allergies, try castor oil eye drops to soothe your tired eyes.
Acupressure, or Tui Na, is a TCM practice where you stimulate by rubbing or gently pressing certain parts of your body. This pressure tells your body where to turn on its natural healing mechanisms. It’s like giving yourself a very targeted mini-massage.
And researchers have found that acupressure can be very effective. One study found that injured athletes experienced less pain after stimulating acupressure points, and another experiment discovered that the practice can reduce nausea and vomiting.
Here are three acupressure spots to target to help rest and rejuvenate your eyes.
- Zan Zhu (UB-2): This spot can be found right underneath the inner corner of your eyebrow on either side. This spot is great if you’re feeling congested or have blurry vision. Just gently massage the spot in a circle for 1-3 minutes a few times a day.
- Si Zhu Kong (SJ 23): While Zan Zhu is located under the inner corner of your eyebrow, this spot is found at the outer edge of your brow. If you’re experiencing headaches because of eyestrain (like staring at a computer all day long), this is a great acupressure spot.
- Cheng Qi (St 1): To find the last spot, look for the center of your eyeball, then go a few centimeters down to your under eye area. This point targets eye swelling and pain–even conjunctivitis!
So the next time your eyes need a little TLC, a little acupressure should have you feeling better in no time.
It’s easy to see that taking care of your eyes is an important part of your overall health. Eastern medicine is all about prevention, so try these practices to keep your eyes strong and healthy before any problems arise.