Degenerative eye diseases – including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy – affect tens of millions of people worldwide, and have a significant negative impact on quality of life. Currently, the treatments offered by Western medicine include eye drops, prescription drugs, laser therapy, and surgery, and while these treatments often give symptomatic relief and slow the progression of eye diseases, they are not curative and sometimes come with a host of undesirable side effects.
Chinese Medicine to the rescue!
On the other hand, Chinese Medicine – a comprehensive natural health care system with a 2,000+ year track record which employs acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, appropriate exercise, stress reduction, and more – offers treatments for eye diseases that not only can stop the progression in its tracks but can, in many cases, actually reverse eye degeneration.
Regeneration of eye cells
Conventional medical wisdom has long held that certain cells – particularly nerve cells in the brain and eyes – do not regenerate once damaged. The understanding was that brain and eye cells, which are closely connected to each other, were finite; the number we were born with were all we would ever have, and once they were injured or died, they were gone forever.
Acupuncture stimulates eye cell regeneration
We now know that under the right conditions, brain and eye cells can be regenerated, and new brain and eye cells grow and develop just like other cells throughout the body. One of the ways to stimulate brain and eye cell regeneration is through the use of acupuncture, which stimulates ocular blood flow and optic nerve regrowth (1), thus helping to preserve and even improve vision in a wide range of eye conditions including macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts, eye floaters, dry eyes, blurry vision, watery eyes (aka excessive lacrimation), impaired night vision (aka night blindness), and much more.
Healthy blood sugar levels are also key
Another important way to stimulate the regeneration of eye cells is to keep blood sugar at an optimal level. As blood sugar increases, pressure inside and around the eye increases, diminishing circulation to the eye, which can cause and accelerate eye diseases. Getting and keeping blood sugar at an optimal level helps to reduce this pressure, thus slowing or stopping further damage to the eyes.
What is optimal?
A 90 day blood sugar average, as measured with an hbA1C test, of <5.0 mmol/L (90 mg/dL), and/or a fasting blood sugar level of <80 mg/dL, are ideal for eye health as well as for overall wellness, longevity, and disease prevention (2). For each 0.1 increase in hbA1C over 5.5, your risk of dozens of diseases increases significantly, so keeping your hbA1C below 5.5, and ideally closer to 5.0, is very important for overall good health.
Additional options for improving vision naturally
There are also several herbs, supplements and lifestyle modifications that can further aid in stimulating the body to repair and regrow eye cells to reverse eye degeneration and improve vision.
Chinese Herbs for improving vision
There are several herbs in the Chinese Herbal Medicine Pharmacopoeia that are good for the eyes and vision, including:
- Bilberry (Yue Ju)
- Chrysanthemum (Ju Hua)
- Dendrobium (Shi Hu)
- Ginkgo Leaf (Yin Xing Ye)
- Goji Berry (Gou Qi Zi)
- Green Tea (Lu Cha)
- Eyebright (Xiao Mi Cao)
Note: When buying Chinese herbs, always make sure to get them from a trusted source that does not use herbs contaminated with lead or mercury or other known toxins. At the Sunflower Wellness Center, for instance, we only use and sell Chinese herbs from Blue Poppy, as they employ rigorous quality checking of all their herbal formulas.
Berberine (aka Huang Lian) has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years and helps to lower blood sugar naturally (which aids vision, as discussed above); Berberine is the main ingredient in the classic Chinese herbal formula for improving vision, Ming Mu Di Huang Wan, or “Bright Eyes”.
Lifestyle changes that can be very helpful and effective for improving vision include appropriate exercise (meaning, not too much, not too little, and the right type(s) for your body), getting sufficient quality and quantity sleep (which Dr. Emily can help you with!), and reducing stress (such as with acupuncture, massage, yoga, meditation, etc.)
- An immediate increase in ophthalmic artery (OA) blood velocity and decreased vascular resistance in the posterior ciliary arteries (PCAs) has been reported following needling of vision-related acupuncture points, and significantly reduced vascular resistance in the central retinal artery (CRA) and PCAs was found following acupuncture in open-angle glaucoma subjects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4018735
- Hemoglobin A1c levels associated with increased cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in persons with and without diabetes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15739998