Cataracts

Article by Angela Haldane

Q. I have the beginnings of a cataract developing – how can I slow its progress in a naturopathic way?

A. Cataracts are characterized by the loss of transparency of the crystalline lens of the eye – severe enough to impair (blur) vision. The population at greatest risk are those aged over 55 years.

The key herb I like to prescribe for cataracts to slow progression, or even prevent them is Bilberry (__vaccinium myrtillus__) which, owing to the anthocyanidins and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), offers potent antioxidant activity – thus preventing cellular damage. Bilberry also supports optimal eye health, by improving blood supply to the eyes and by strengthening the capillaries that surround they eyes. Bilberry is available from your registered medical herbalist (MNZAMH) such as Natural Ange Ltd.

In one study, combination treatment using bilberry (360 mg per day of a product standardized to contain 25% anthocyanosides) together with vitamin E caused a reduction in the formation of cataracts in 48 (96%) out of human volunteers (50 subjects).

Other antioxidants are noteworthy in the prevention of a cataract such as vitamins A, C, E, selenium and zinc.

The mineral selenium may help to prevent cataracts (due to its role in the production of glutathione peroxidase, an endogenous antioxidant that protects the lens of the eye from cataracts).

Cataracts are caused by free radicals (especially sulfide and superoxide free radicals) damaging the epithelial cells of the lens. Free radical damage can result from excessive exposure of the eyes to sunlight, and tobacco smoking.