Our eyesight is precious, often taken for granted until something goes wrong. Our eyes provide a way for us to see the world and for the world to see us. One of the greatest problems we are faced with as an aging population is eye disease.
Diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish our eyes, leading to damage to the eye. The sun takes its toll too and although we don’t necessarily get too much here, on holidays we can get sun damage. As an aging population, we are faced with increasing levels of cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and pterygium, all eye diseases. We hear that we are at risk of these things and how important it is to get tested but what exactly can we do to prevent eye disease?
In Chinese medicine it is said that the liver opens into the eyes. The liver blood nourishes and moistens the eyes. Dry eyes, red, bloodshot eyes, blurred vision, spots or floaters, poor eyesight and poor night vision are due to liver blood deficiency or liver fire.
Eating liver is good for your liver. Go for a seared calf’s livers on the menu. Chicken livers are nice when they are called pate. Chicken livers are medicine, but they must be hormone free. They can move liver Qi, tonify liver blood and restore eyesight.
For years we’ve been told carrots are good to help us see at night. They are naturally rich in beta carotene, an anti-oxidant that protects vision. In Chinese terms carrots enter the liver, lung and spleen channel. They are sweet and slightly warm. Their function is to tonify the spleen to promote digestion, tonify the liver blood and nourish and strengthen the eyes, to stop cough and clear heat. Try carrot and coriander soup for a cough. Make a Beetroot Blast for your eyes. Remember, beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger.
We know that spinach makes us strong. But do you know why? Spinach of course is a rich source of iron. Energetically, spinach is sweet and cooling. It is used to tonify the blood in general but it also used to tonify liver blood. It is also incredibly rich in vitamin A, which means it keeps the eyes healthy. It is particularly useful, along with carrots, for night vision.
Not only does it tonify and build the blood, it also cools it. In this case it is used for toxic heat skin conditions such as acne. In Chinese medicine it is said that the blood moistens the intestines and the stool. If the blood is deficient there can be constipation as a result. This is common in the elderly and in women after childbirth. Spinach moistens the stools and is a laxative. Caution needs to be taken with this vegetable if you suffer from kidney stones.
Gou Qi Zi
In Chinese medicine, Gou Qi Zi is translated as wolfberry fruit. The taste is sweet and neutral and it is said to enter the liver, kidney and lung channels. Primarily it is kidney tonic and promotes the production of yin and body fluids. It also nourishes the liver and is said to brighten the eyes and it moistens the lungs.
It is used to treat deficient yin of the kidneys and liver manifested as dizziness, blurred vision and weak vision. It is also used to treat deficient yin of the kidneys and liver producing symptoms such as sore lower back, knees and nocturnal emissions and premature ejaculation. The beauty of this herb is that it tonifies yin and yang. Not many herbs do this. In this way, it can be used to regulate sexual function, particularly in men. It is also useful for a dry cough.
Wolfberries can be bought from an Asian grocer. There is one near shop sheet. I throw them in a soup mix for a chicken soup. Also called Goji, the juice may be worth a try, particularly if you have problems with the eyes.
Bilberry is called vaccinium myrtillus. Traditionally bilberries were stewed with a little lemon peel in an open tart, these tarts however, are proving to be powerful medicine. They have long been employed to treat vitamin C deficiency, as they are incredibly rich in vitamin C. They are also an astringent used to treat diarrhoea. Astringents should not to be used by breastfeeding mothers as they can dry up milk.
Recently bilberries have been found to be rich in a pigment that is a potent anti-oxidant, which specifically protects the eyes called anthocyanidins. Apparently, World War II fighter pilots were given Bilberry jam prior to flying in low-light conditions.
Lutein is a member of the carotenoid family, like beta-carotene in carrots and lycopene in tomatoes. All the carotenes are good for vision. Lutein is found naturally occurring in egg yolks, cabbage, corn, broccoli, lettuce, and fruits and vegetables. Lutein is the strongest carotenoid and has been scientifically proven to reduce macular degeneration and prevent cataracts.
Vitamin A Retinyl palmitate
It is synthesised from betacarotene in the liver and stored in the liver. The most function of vitamin A important is for eyesight, particularly night vision. It is involved in the rod and cone perception of colour and light. It is responsible to moisten the eyes to prevent dryness and retinal and corneal damage. Vitamin A is just so important to maintain healthy tissues everywhere in the body. Good food sources include carrots and spinach.
Taurine and the liver and eyes
Taurine is a protein found in meat and fish proteins. It is also produced in the liver and is involved with the formation and excretion of bile salts. It is an anti-spasmodic and sedative. In regard to the eyes, taurine protects eyes from light and chemical damage.
So, do what your mother said, “eat your spinach” and “eat you carrots”. They actually do what they don’t say on the tin. Eat berries and cherries until your tongue is purple, then you know that you are getting enough anthocyanidins. Look after your eyes. Buy a pair of quality sunglasses because you only get one pair of eyes. Remember, if you have poor vision and also suffer from melancholy, depression or mood swings, the liver may well be the root of all evil.