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An easy place for a virus to sneak in and get us is our eyes. That’s all that pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is: a cold virus in the eyes! Honey works fast to kill the virus. Surprisingly, there are many medical studies showing honey as an effective treatment for conjunctivitis! Our family sees great results within one day when using honey! I want to share how effective this remedy has been for us when we’ve had conjunctivitis, and given our experience and the medical studies, it is likely to provide relief for you too. (If you appreciate home remedies, you’ll also love my most-read post on How to Remove Moles and Warts with Essential Oils [here], How and Why to Drink Bentonite Clay [here] and How to Treat First and Second Degree Burns at Home [here].)
Here are the most asked questions (with answers!) about pink eye:
- What are the symptoms of pink eye? Pink eye manifests itself through itching, redness, discharge, burning and blurred vision.
- What causes pink eye? Pink eye is caused by a cold virus. Viruses may enter the body through any open orifice: the mouth, nose, eyes or even an open wound. Viruses target cells, enter the cells and basically take over, creating viral proteins that allow the viruses to proliferate.
- Do antibiotics work on pink eye? Viral pink eye can not be treated with antibiotics because antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.
- How does bacterial pink eye occur? Bacterial pink eye occurs when bacteria enter the eye. The symptoms are similar to viral pink eye, but the discharge may be thicker.
- How do pink eye home remedies work? In the case of honey, raw honey has a wide range of compounds that give it anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties: It dehydrates invasive cells, its pH inhibits their growth, its phytochemicals are antibacterial and it produces hydrogen peroxide that kills invasive cells. Why use honey in place of antibiotics? As one study says, “Unlike most conventional antibiotics, it has been reported that honey does not lead to development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and it may be used continuously” (source).
- What are pink eye home remedies? Pink eye home remedies include using lavender essential oil (NOT inside the eye, see below), breast milk, neem oil (source), aloe vera (source), warm herbal compresses, zinc supplements and internal immune boosters. I discuss a few of these below. Raw honey is the most widely and universally used natural treatment, being used for millennia and internationally for a myriad of health problems, including pink eye.
- Is pink eye contagious? It is. Be sure to wash your hands after touching eyes and don’t share or re-use eye products or tools, such a make-up or wash cloths.
WebMD.com defines the condition as follows:
Pinkeye — also called conjunctivitis — is redness and inflammation of the clear membranes covering the whites of the eyes and the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids. Pinkeye is most often caused by a virus or by a bacterial infection, although allergies, chemical agents, and underlying diseases can also play a role (source).
Because pink eye is so often a viral infection, the eyes are just one outlet for the virus. We can also treat it, therefore, internally by taking tinctures of anti-viral, anti-bacterial herbs. Two effective herbs to consider are thyme (find it here) and garlic (find it here).
Lavender Essential Oil
When I first looked up natural pink eye remedies as an adult (years ago), I also found lavender essential oil recommended externally. In one forum, someone suggested painting the shape of glasses around one’s eyes with the oil, being cautious not to get the oil anywhere near the actual eye.
I tried it. The oil’s fumes were very strong and almost irritating but my symptoms were soothed by 25% almost immediately. I continued to apply the oil to my face 4 more times throughout the day and my symptoms abated about 75%. Pretty good. (By the way, I love Lavender Essential Oil [find it here]. It’s also great for pesky bug bites. For me, two back-to-back doses of the oil on any bite is the only remedy that relieves itching.)
Because I needed to be well, completely well, I decided to try another remedy mentioned: honey. It took a bit more research and a few steps to make; different sources suggest different ratios of water to honey for the eye drops. I tried a few variations and found that I liked the stronger concentration of honey to water. Over the course of a few days I could contrast the effects of the different potencies on my two eyes.
How the Honey Worked
It does sting a bit (my friend who used this method told me she thought it stung a lot!…but it worked), depending on the severity of the pinkeye and the ratio of honey. As with most cases of pinkeye, one eye was worse than the other. This eye predictably stung worse with the honey and the greater ratio of honey was more intense.
When my husband thought that he was coming down with it too, he tried just the lavender EO and found the fumes to be very strong and disagreeable. Yet recently, he commented that he thought it was effective and he’d use the method again.
So, we are all sensitive in different ways to different sensations. Overall, I recommend both remedies but I personally experience great, dramatic improvement of symptoms from honey. See the recipes options below.
Mildest Honey Recipes- best for kids or if you’re nervous about it stinging
- 1/8 teaspoon honey (find it here) + 2 tablespoons filtered water + optional pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon honey + 1 tablespoon filtered water
Strongest Honey Recipe- if you just want to be well now!
Straight honey! Many natural health sites advise simply wiping straight, raw, local honey across one’s eye, where the eyelashes and tear ducts are, and then blinking to allow some of the honey to coat the eye.
Eventually I had a mild flair-up again and I tried this method, as the itching was primarily near my tear duct, and I didn’t want to fuss with making the honey:water solution. It worked great! The itching was gone immediately and never returned. The stinging was intense for a full minute with this method, though = not for the faint of heart. Having a tissue handy for the watering eye is advised too, when you use pure honey; it really makes your eye tear.
Pink Eye Drops
Place the honey water in a sterilized dropper bottle and keep the bottle in the refrigerator between uses, administering the eye drops every 3 or so hours, as needed.
What I Do Now
I’ve made the process easier and easier for myself over the years! Now, all I do is put a dab of raw honey by my tear duct and blink. It stings a lot. I dab the tears with a clean tissue. I repeat several times the first day, and that’s it. The condition is gone in one day.
If You’re Nursing
Breast milk is another soothing remedy, and can be excellent for babies with pink eye. Breast milk can be used to dilute raw honey for a stronger treatment.
For more ways to treat children with pink eye, see this post.