Liquid discharge from the eye other than tears, with or without burning and itching, is found in many eye conditions and can also be due to environmental pollutants. Mostly, eye discharge is a common symptom in the inflammatory and allergic conditions of the eye. In viral conjunctivitis, the eye becomes red or bloodshot and irritation causes discharge but this condition does not last more than 10 days or so, if uncomplicated and proper hygienic care is taken. Bacterial conjunctivitis is not common, but when it develops as thick eye discharge of white, yellow or greenish colour; it is advisable to seek medical advice.
Cigarette smoke, chlorine in swimming pool water and chemicals in make-up materials are some of the uncommon causes of eye discharge. In such cases, eye discharge and other associated symptoms appear on contact with the irritant and do not last long. Specific medication is not required but the cause of eye irritation should be avoided.
Thin watery discharge coupled with itching and burning in the eyes is due to allergy and it is sometimes very uncomfortable. This condition necessitates determination of the cause of allergy.
For eye discharge, the simple principle of treatment recommended in Ayurvedic literature is to avoid the causative factor and palliate the symptom with medicines having antagonistic properties. Triphala decoction is one such medicine which is widely popular and considered to be quite effective in alleviating various eye symptoms including discharge, inflammation and irritation.
Triphala decoction is mainly used for washing inflamed eyes with purulent discharge or as eye drops in controlling conjunctivitis. Apart from providing relief in inflammation-induced eye symptoms with its decongestant, anti-inflammatory and soothing effects, instillation of Triphala decoction in eyes is proven to have prophylactic value for preventing viral conjunctivitis during epidemics.
Triphala formula contains fruit of Amalaki, Haritaki and Bibhitaki.
Method of preparation
Triphala decoction for cleansing eyes is prepared the following way:
(1) Clean the dried fruits and remove the seeds.
(2) Take the required amount of each ingredient that is sufficient for the course of treatment. For 15 days’ treatment, 500 grams of each ingredient is needed.
(3) Make coarse powder separately of the three dried fruits.
(4) Mix together the three powders in equal amounts to form a uniform mixture.
(5) Take 10 to 50 grams of the mixture for one application and soak it for about an hour in 16 times water. Then boil till half of the water remains. Filter the decoction through fine cotton cloth and keep in a clean bowl or jug. Slightly warm decoction should be used for washing eyes at the earliest after its preparation.
(6) For use in children and sensitive individuals, soak 50 grams of powdered Triphala in 200 milliliters of hot water for half an hour, filter and use it lukewarm.
Dose and mode of administration
Sufficient quantity of Triphala decoction, say about 100 to 200 milliliters, is required to wash eyes in one of the following ways:
(1) Dip a small piece of sterilized cotton in slightly warm Triphala decoction and clean with it each eye 3-5 times from nasal side outwards; each time with separate cotton. Wipe the eyes with clean and sterilized cotton or soft cloth. Do this procedure two to three times a day.
(2) Ask the patient to lie down on the back. Irrigate the open eyes, one by one, with Triphala decoction poured through a clean and sterilized dropper. The procedure may be done twice or thrice a day.
(3) Akshi Tarpana: With patient lying down on back, first clean the eyes with cotton or soft cloth soaked in clean water and then make rings of wheat-flour dough around both eyes. Put Triphala decoction in the rings in such a way as it may not spill out. Keep this position for 5 to 10 minutes and ask the patient to blink eyes and move eye balls in between. This procedure should be done at least twice a day.
Precautions and safety aspects
(1) Due care must be taken to make and keep the decoction in a clean utensil. Do not keep the decoction uncovered and in an unhygienic place. Dipping fingers in the decoction to judge its temperature should be strictly avoided.
(2) Too hot and too cold decoctions should not be used as they may not yield the desired results.
(3) Frequency of eye wash should be determined on the basis of the severity of symptoms. It is advisable to wash the affected eye at least twice a day and for each application fresh decoction should be prepared.
(4) Warm compresses should be applied to soften and remove crusts in the eyelids, before washing the eyes. Softened crusts can be removed with cotton.
(5) Medical advice must be sought, if vision is decreased, the eye pain gets severe, the discharge is thick and frankly purulent or greenish or bloody and light sensitivity is intense.
(6) Do not continue using Triphala decoction in case eye symptoms of itching, discharge, redness etc. worsen or do not improve in one to two weeks.
(7) Haritaki, Bibhitaki and Amalaki fruits are traditionally considered safe in the prescribed doses and no adverse effects are reported in the literature.
Reference – Traditional Herbal Remedies for Primary Health Care