Treating eye disease with natural remedies – could they really work?

Written by: Professor Sunil Shah
Edited by: Bronwen Griffiths

Eye diseases such as blepharitis, dry eye and microbial keratitis are fairly common, and current pharmaceutical treatments are effective to an extent, but it could be that there are complementary and alternative treatments (CAM) that could be equally, and if not more effective in providing relief.

CAMs are not included in conventional medicine, and complementary medicine is used alongside conventional therapies, whereas, alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine. Many forms of CAM are well-known, such as acupuncture, and are rooted in ancient methods of healing. Professor Sunil Shah, a leading ophthalmologist and expert in eye disease reviews some of the natural remedies available and their potential efficacy, based on a series of studies.


  • A health remedy used for centuries, and known for having antimicrobial and wound-healing properties.
  • Studies have shown that a topical application of honey has been as effective as topical antibiotics in treating microbial keratitis.
  • Other studies have indicated that honey can help heal corneal wounds.
  • In Australia Manuka dry eye drops are available for treating dry eyes, which was shown to reduce the bacteria present in those treated in one particular study. 

Aloe vera:

  • A plant from the Liliaceae family which has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries.
  • Its efficacy in treating different problems is well-documented.
  • Aloe vera has been shown to help control collagen production, cell migration and cell proliferation which together help to heal wounds.
  • It also has antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral effects on certain pathogens.
  • As aloe vera is not toxic to corneal cells, its application to certain corneal wounds could help heal them.

Tea tree oil:

  • An essential oil that is taken from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia.
  • It has been shown to have antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
  • One study looked at treating the herpes simplex virus with tea-tree oil, which is the most common cause of microbial keratitis in the world.
  • However, there are some concerns with tea-tree oil being an irritant to the eye, but it is thought that careful application to the right parts of the eye can help with treatment.
  • Tea-tree oil is thought to be particularly promising for the treatment of blepharitis, which currently relies on lid hygiene, warm compresses and topical antibiotics for treatment.

Coconut oil:

  • Already a popular health product used in cooking, virgin coconut oil (obtained from the fresh kernel of a coconut) is an ingredient in a product used for eradicating irritation caused by demodex (tiny mites).
  • Demodex are a known cause of eye irritation in some patients.


  • A fatty acid found in fish, eggs and meat.
  • It is well-known for helping to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart problems.
  • Studies have shown that eye drops containing omega-3 could help to reduce inflammation in dry eyes.

Although a lot of the research shows promising results for CAMs, more research is needed to confirm these findings. If you suffer from dry eyes, blepharitis or microbial keratitis, it is important to consult a medical specialist before trying any non-medical remedies.


To find out more, make an appointment with a specialist.

By Professor Sunil Shah

Professor Sunil Shah is an award-winning ophthalmologist who has contributed massively to his field, including his development of the laser eye surgery technique now called LASEK. In 2014 and 2018, he was voted as being in the top 100 most influential people in Ophthalmology around the world.

After qualifying from St Georges Hospital Medical School, Professor Shah went on to train and specialise in complex cataract, corneal and refractive surgery. He is now based primarily in Birmingham, working at the Birmingham and Midlands Eye Centre, and acts as a Director the Midland Eye clinic. Professor Shah also practices in London, working at the state-of-the-art Optegra Eye Clinic and Highgate Hospital.

Professor Sunil Shah specialises in laser eye surgery, corneal transplants, cataracts and many other areas of corneal and refractive ophthalmology. Further to his clinical expertise, Professor Shah is very well-published with more than 130 articles in peer-reviewed journals, an author of several book chapters, and has been Section Editor for various major journals including the British Journal of Ophthalmology.  

Alongside his academic commitments, Professor Shah is involved in education and presides as an examiner for the British Contact Lens Association and the European Board of Ophthalmology. He also lectures at Aston University and the University of Ulster.

View Profile

Overall assessment of their patients

We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. Click ‘Enter’ to continue browsing. Enter Cookies policy