By Steve Goodman
It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. In TCM the eyes are more accurately described as the window to the inner workings of the body, for in TCM the eyes are connected to all of the internal organs.
In Chinese medicine each part the eye is associated with a particular element and corresponding zang organ. The iris is represented by the liver zang. The heart zang relates to the corners of the eyes or the canthi, the upper and lower eyelids correspond to the spleen, the conjunctiva the lung, and the pupil the kidney.
TCM recognizes six environmental or external pathogens that can lead to vision loss. A person’s resistance to environmental pathogenic factors is based on how healthy their immune system is, which in turn is a function of Qi. This balance between vital Qi and external pathogens forms the basis for all aspects of TCM, with degenerative eye diseases and vision loss being no exception. According to TCM a person with poor Qi flow or imbalances in Qi in any of the zang organs relating to the parts of the eye will have decreased resistance to the six specific environmental pathogens that can influence vision.
Environmental Pathogenic Factors Affecting the Eyes
- Heat – Leads to swelling, inflammation, and the redness commonly found in many eye diseases such as conjunctivitis
- Cold – Will yield pain and slow vision loss over time, as in chronic degenerative conditions such as macular degeneration and glaucoma
- Wind – Results in sudden and dramatic onset of vision loss
- Dampness – Causes secretion of mucus, and swelling
- Dryness – Results in dry itchy eyes and redness
- Summer Heat – Inflammation and mucus discharge
Of these six external factors, wind and fire bring on “Yang” conditions of the eye. As the eyes look out onto the world they are susceptible to the attack of wind pathogens which enter the body through the eye. Wind born eye disorders are characterized by rapid onset of acute conditions. The result of Fire pathogenic invasion is indicated by inflammation, ulceration, and redness.
The other environment pathogens, cold and dampness, result in “Yin” conditions. According to TCM the most common cause of poor vision is exposure to cold and dampness, which results in poor circulation to the eyes. The invasion of cold blocks flow of Qi, depriving the eyes of vital warmth and nourishment. Coldness also settles into the muscles, vessels, and skin around the eyes, resulting in further degeneration of visual acuity.
TCM treatment for eye disorders and vision loss center around the use of oral formulations of herbs in varying combination known to improve the eyes and related zang organs, and application of herbal heat using Moxibustion. Herbs used to Treat Eye Disorders
- Ju hua (chrysanthemum flower): Clears the liver. Improves red, eyes, and decreases excessive tearing, clears floaters, and blurred vision.
- Qing Xiang Zi (Celosia Seeds): Used for painful, red, swollen eyes, and cataracts.
- San Qi (Pseudiginseng Root): Repairs broken blood vessels in the eye, clears “blood spots”,
- Chan Tui (Cicada Moulting): Clears blurred vision and reduces redness, also used to treat painful, swollen eyes.
- Mi Menghua (Buddleia Flower Bud): Improves sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing
- Qou Qi Zi (Chinese Wolfberry Fruit or Lycium Fruit): Acts on liver and kidney deficiencies of Qi , correcting blurred vision and vision loss
- Huai Hua Mi (Pagoda Tree Flower): Used to treat dizziness, blurred vision and red eyes due to liver heat.
Patients who have turned to TCM for the treatment of chronic eye conditions found that they have been able to significantly reduce their reliance on drugs and corticalsteroid eye drops. Patients also discovered after starting a course of Chinese Herbal Therapy to treat an eye condition, many seemingly unrelated health problems such as eczema, asthma, and gastric distress also spontaneously improved.