Macular Degeneration
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Name not given
Posted on: February 07, 2005

A friend of mine has just been diagnosed with macular degeneration. I know there is an herb to help. Please direct me in the proper direction.

Macular degeneration is damage to the eye’s macula, the centre of the retina. Herbs, diet and supplements have shown in research trials to bring some improvement and to prevent further deterioration.

The macula uses its carotenes as nourishment and to protect it from damage. Lack of the proper carotene nutrients in the diet can result from poor circulation to the eye. Other factors are free radical damage from the ultraviolet light of the sun, an improper diet and poor digestion. Because the digestive process usually deteriorates with age, macular degeneration is fairy common in the elderly, as nutrients from the diet are not properly digested or absorbed into the blood stream.

Herbs that are used include Ginkgo biloba (three times daily according to dosage recommended on the bottle) to improve circulation to the eye, bilberries or blueberries (one cup of fresh or frozen berries daily) to nourish the blood vessels to the eye and improve circulation, and digestive herbs to improve the digestion and absorption of nutrients (for example, chamomile, dandelion root and fennel seed). I recommend that your friend visit a qualified natural practitioner, such as a medical or clinical herbalist, or a naturopath, who can do a full assessment and recommend the specific digestive and general circulation herbs that may be needed, as well as checking specific requirements for any drugs your friend may be taking, and assessing needs according to other pathologies that may be involved, such as diabetes.

Excess sugar hastens eye deterioration and should be avoided.

Studies show that large daily supplements of lutein and zeaxanthin, the carotene pigments of the macula, can help: 30mg lutein daily for three months was the amount used in one study.

Alan Tillotson in "The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook" (available at Richters) notes the following: "To get high levels of the important carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin, eat lots of spinach, collard greens, kale and mustard greens. Studies show that this is beneficial for the eye. The red carotenoid called lycopene has also been shown to be important. It is found in watermelon, guava and pink grapefruit, but tomatoes are by far the best source. It is made more bio-available by cooking, so tomato sauce is the best source. "

Avoid blood thinning drugs and aspirin if possible. A complication of macular degeneration is bleeding in the eye, which is promoted by blood thinners and aspirin.

It is, of course, necessary to follow the advice of your opthamologist.

There are excellent books that will provide you with more information on natural therapeutic approaches to eye disease: The Eye Care Revolution, by Robert Abel, Jr. MD. Kensington Books, 1999, and Relearning to See: Improve Your Eyesight - Naturally!, a book by Thomas R. Quackenbush that includes the Bates eye exercises.

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