Home Conditions Eye Conditions, A-Z Conjunctivitis (Pink eye) Pink eye natural remedies

Can you “cure” pink eye naturally?

Woman using tea bags as cool compresses for her eyes

There are several types of pink eye (conjunctivitis), including allergic, bacterial and viral conjunctivitis, which all share two similar main symptoms: irritation and red eyes

Each type of pink eye should be treated appropriately and safely, whether using medically prescribed, at-home or natural remedies.

If you’re leaning toward natural remedies for pink eye, be warned that many have not been clinically approved, or approved by the FDA, even if many people swear by them. Before you begin any sort of treatment, consult an eye doctor.

Some important initial steps to take before beginning any treatment plan include the following:

SEE RELATED: Pink eye (conjunctivitis) treatment

Natural remedies for pink eye

Use the following natural remedies for pink eye with caution, and always talk to an eye doctor before starting any treatment for a chronic infection on your own.

Essential oils

Using essential oils for pink eye is possible, but only if the oils are diffused with water vapor first. If essential oil is applied directly in or around the eyes, it can cause irritation and burning, something you’re likely already experiencing as a result of your pink eye.

To use essential oils for conjunctivitis, place the oil in a humidifier and let your eyes take in the vapor or steam. The most commonly used essential oils for eye infections include:

  • Peppermint oil

  • Tea tree oil

  • Lavender oil

  • Eucalyptus oil

  • Myrrh oil

Coconut oil

Coconut oil, though not an essential oil, has also been used as a pink eye ointment to relieve symptoms such as dryness and inflammation. Coconut oil has not been clinically proven for this use, however, so it’s important to be careful and attentive when applying it.

If you do decide to try coconut oil as a treatment for pink eye, do not apply any closer than an inch or two from the eyes.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and boosting skin health. Many take ACV as a daily supplement for these, among other benefits. 

Can you use apple cider vinegar for pink eye? Though it is widely discussed on the internet, applying ACV in or near your eyes, even if it has been diluted, is not a proven or safe remedy for conjunctivitis. If used improperly, it can cause even more irritation to eyes and lead to more problems. 

Before considering exposing your eyes to ACV, consult an eye doctor for a medical opinion.

Turmeric 

Turmeric has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory treatment for many parts of the body. Turmeric should be taken orally and never applied as a topical remedy for eyes.

Turmeric is often used as a powder, although it can also be found in pills and capsules, as an extract or in its original root form, which is used in cooking. Turmeric teas and milks are also popular ways to consume the plant.

Homeopathic remedies for conjunctivitis

There have been few studies on the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies for conjunctivitis, and the body chemistry of each individual can influence how well homeopathic remedies work in general.

That said, some homeopathic specialists may recommend the following when treating pink eye:

  • Belladonna

  • Euphrasia

  • Argentum nitricum

  • Sulphur

  • Pulsatilla

Each homeopathic remedy depends on the type of pink eye you are experiencing, as well as the symptoms and any additional sensitivities you may have. Consult an eye doctor before beginning a homeopathic treatment.

Herbal remedies for pink eye

Herbal remedies should also be used with caution when it comes to treating pink eye. Herbs may interact with other herbs or medicine already being taken for pink eye, as well as medications for unrelated conditions, which can heighten side effects or do more harm than good.

A professional herbalist may recommend one of the following herbal remedies for pink eye to help soothe irritation and/or fight the infection:

  • Chamomile 

  • Marigold

  • Plantain

  • Eyebright

  • Fennel seed

An herbal eyewash may also be recommended to help fight the infection. Should you choose to go the herbal route, consult an eye care specialist and make sure to follow the provided instructions closely.

Green tea for pink eye

The polyphenols found in green tea can reduce inflammation and work as an antiviral treatment for pink eye, when used correctly. 

How do you use green tea for pink eye? Steep two bags of green tea for about 10 minutes, squeeze out excess liquid and place the bags in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Then, close your eyes and place the bags over your lids, letting them sit and work their “magic” for up to 30 minutes.

Warning: Tea bags should always be cooled before coming into contact with the eyes.

Natural supplements for pink eye prevention

Some vitamins and supplements have been said to help prevent viral conjunctivitis. By enriching your diet with certain nutrients, you can protect your eye health, which in turn can help prevent infections. 

Vitamins and supplements recommended for preventing pink eye include:

  • Zinc supplements

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin B

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin K

  • Probiotics

Though these supplements may help prevent pink eye, they will not help “cure” an existing infection. It shouldn’t hurt to incorporate them into your current treatment, however, as long as they’re used as recommended.

Additional considerations for conjunctivitis

Other remedies to consider include cold or warm compresses and over-the-counter lubricating eye drops (artificial tears) to relieve pink eye symptoms. You should also get plenty of rest and hydration. 

If your conjunctivitis persists for an extended period of time or becomes chronic, consult an eye doctor for the next appropriate steps to fight the infection. You will likely need to move to prescription conjunctivitis treatments.

You can also take active steps to avoid coming down with pink eye in the first place, such as washing your hands often and not touching your eyes.

To manage overall eye health, stay up to date with routine eye exams, and don’t hesitate to schedule an additional exam if you begin experiencing problems with your vision.

READ NEXT: Home remedies for pink eye

Find Eye Doctor

Schedule an exam

Find Eye Doctor

Gary Heiting, OD

Gary Heiting, OD, is a former senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 30 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear ... Read more