4 Tried & True Natural Remedies For Pinkeye

The first time one of my kids got pinkeye, I did what we’ve all been taught to do. I took him to the doctor for a treatment. But instead of helping my baby boy, the medicine the doctor gave him caused a very serious reaction. (You can read about the ordeal in my 2009 article, Don’t Be Afraid To Question.) Desperate for a safer alternative, I began my search for natural remedies for pinkeye.

Over the years I’ve successfully treated pinkeye with home remedies more times than I can recall. As a matter of fact, for the past week and a half I’ve been treating my family for conjunctivitis as it has passed from kid to kid and then on to me. So this topic is fresh on my mind!

I’ll share with you the four tried and true remedies I always rely on, but please remember that I am not a doctor and am not giving medical advice. The following is for educational purposes only. What works for me might not work for you, so use your own judgment and if in doubt consult a medical professional.

How to Prevent Pink Eye

The easiest way to prevent pink eye is to keep your hands and face as clean as possible. If you have allergies, be sure you are using allergic medications or home remedies to help reduce your reaction. Stay away from your triggers whenever possible, too!

You can also wear glasses, if you normally wear contact lenses, to let your eye heal and prevent the infection from spreading (or from acquiring an infection from somebody else). Splash your face frequently with cold water to help soothe the area and wash bacteria and allergens away from your eye.

Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, as this will help bolster your immune system. A strong immune system can help to fight off both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, and will also help reduce your likelihood of contracting other diseases.

The Basics of Pink Eye

Pink eye is basically an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva that lines your eyelid. This causes the small blood vessels in your eyes to become swollen and inflamed, which is why they appear red or “pink.”

Pink eye is annoying and painful, but is not life threatening. It usually does not affect your vision, but it is highly contagious. If you have pink eye, you will have symptoms like redness, itchiness, a gritty feeling, tearing, and even discharge.

Pink eye can be either viral or bacterial (the latter of which tends to be more goopy), and can last anywhere from 5-7 days to 3 weeks. You can also have allergic conjunctivitis, which is caused by a foreign agent like pollen or dander, and is generally less prolonged. Babies sometimes get pink eye from an incompletely opened tear duct.

Viral conjunctivitis is the most common cause of pink eye. It may come accompanied by a respiratory infection or cold, so you might have other symptoms as well, like a sore throat or congestion.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is also very common, and can be accompanied by cold-like symptoms as well. However, this type of conjunctivitis is caused by – you guessed it – bacteria. Rubbing your eyes when your hands are dirty or wearing dirty contact lenses can cause this type of conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis can be in one or both eyes. It can often be treated with antihistamines and inflammation-fighting drugs, but these are hard to come by if you’re living on a remote homestead. Allergic conjunctivitis is a response to an allergy-causing substance and triggers the cells in the mucosal lining of your eyes to release histamines. This causes red eyes as well as itching, sneezing, and inflammation.

Finally, you can also get pink eye from irritation. This is the easiest cause of pink eye to pinpoint, because you will likely remember if you splash a foreign chemical or get a foreign object into your eye. This usually clears up without treatment in a day or so.

It’s extremely important to keep your hands washed, pillow cases clean, and use good sanitary habits to prevent further spread of pinkeye as it’s highly contagious. Although even still it can be extremely hard to contain, especially in children! Pinkeye can easily infect both eyes if you rub the infected one and then touch the other without washing your hands first.

Because pink eye usually does not cause other long-term issues, most treatment of pink eye revolves around symptom relief and making yourself comfortable. Artificial tears are a good remedy to keep the eye moist to help flush out the yuckiness, and antibiotic drops are a good way to reduce the bacteria and lessen your pain.

But if you are a long way from a drug store, that might not be an option. Here’s where home remedies come into play. Plus, antibiotic drops are really only needed if you have a bacterial infection – they won’t touch a viral or allergic infection.

Keep the area as clean as possible by wiping them with a wet cloth or applying a cold compress a few times a day. This will also help to keep you comfortable. Some homesteaders have recommended applying slices of cold raw potatoes or cucumbers to the eye as well – I haven’t tried this, but I imagine the cool firmness would be rather soothing!

If you wear contact lenses, throw them out and don’t wear them again until the infection is totally healed. Don’t touch your eyes, and wash your hands frequently. Don’t share towels or washcloths with others, and make sure you keep your pillowcase clean. If you wear makeup, throw it away.

Thankfully, pink eye usually does not require a doctor’s visit. While a doctor can diagnose and treat a pink eye infection a bit more quickly, you can easily treat a pink eye infection on your own with a few quick and easy home remedies.

12 Natural Remedies for Pinkeye

frozen breastmilk

Remedy #1- Breast milk

If you are fortunate enough to have breast milk on hand, I’d suggest that you try this remedy first. It works great, and doesn’t have any grit or sting. Put a couple of drops of warm milk into the infected eye several times a day. If you’re taking the milk out of the fridge or freezer, knock the chill off by warming it just a tad bit on the stovetop. Do NOT microwave the milk, as this will kill the healing properties that you want to help fight the infection. Test the milk on the underside of your wrist to be sure it isn’t the slightest bit too hot before dropping any into your child’s eye. It’s helpful to keep a bag of frozen breast milk for just such an occasion, if you have access to it.

chamomile teaRemedy #2- Chamomile Tea Bags

Chamomile Tea bags work good for children who can sit still for 10 min. or so with the bags on their eyes. When my daughter got pinkeye I had her lay her head on my lap, put the warm tea bags over her eyes, and rubbed her hair while I made up a fantastical story about her. This helped her to be still and relax, and she actually looked forward to her treatments. I would squeeze the bags a little to get some of the tea into the corner of her eyes. Prepare the bags as if you are making tea, by soaking them in boiling hot water for a couple of minutes. Then cool to a nice warm before placing them on your child’s eyes.

melaleuca and lavenderRemedy #3- Melaleuca and Lavender Essential Oils

Melaleuca or Lavender essential oil can be diluted in coconut or almond oil and rubbed around the outside of the eye (over the brow bone, and underneath the eye along the sinus cavities). Do this several times a day to help your body fight unwanted pathogens. Never get essential oils directly in your eyes! If you accidentally get it in your eyes, drop milk in your eye to relieve the burning. You can also diffuse these oils at nighttime to benefit from them aromatically as well. I wouldn’t recommend rubbing essential oils on a young child’s face as they may inadvertently rub it into their eyes.

Be sure you are using a high quality essential oil to ensure you are getting the real deal. Cheap oils are not only less effective, they can actually be harmful to your body.

Remedy #4- Eyebright (Euphrasia) Herb

Eyebright tea is another of my favorite remedies for pinkeye. You can usually find it at herbal stores or online. I like to use eyebright tea bags, but you can also make an eye wash with the powdered form of the herb. If using tea bags, brew the tea as you would normally to drink it, then place the warm, wet tea bags on the affected eyes for 10 minutes 3x a day.

Drink the tea for internal support as well. To make an eyewash with powdered eyebright, mix about 1/4 tsp to about 1/4 cup of warm water, and stir to dissolve. For children, I use an eyedropper to administer a couple of drops of the liquid to the corner of his/her eye and open the eye so that some of the drops get in. It’s a little gritty, which is why I prefer the tea bags, especially for kids.

Remedy #5 – Green Tea

Green tea is chock full of bioflavonoids, which are rich compounds with vitamin-like qualities. Green tea is great for your gut health, immune system, and weight loss, but also has powerful benefits for treating just about any kind of infection.

Green tea helps to relieve irritation and inflammation, and while it will make you feel better when simply ingested, it can also be used as an external salve. Simply dip a green tea bag in boiled water and place it on the infected eye or eyes (just make sure you’ve let it cool for a minute so you don’t burn your eyeballs!). You can also dip a clean washcloth in freshly brewed green tea and use it as a warm compress.

Remedy #6 – Holy Basil

This isn’t your regular garden variety basil, but instead holy basil, also known as tulsi. This variety of basil is well known for its healing and medicinal properties, containing strong anti-inflammatory agents that help protect your eyes from further damage and also heal the damage that has already occurred.

Holy basil can fight both viral and bacterial infections in the eyes, as well as fungal infections (which are incredibly rare but difficult to treat). To use holy basil, soak a few leaves in hot water for a few minutes. Then flush your eyes with the cooled solution, or create a warm compress by dipping a clean washcloth in the water.

Remedy # 7 – Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is another good choice, as it contains powerful compounds like aloin. These compounds have strong antibacterial and antiviral properties, and can reduce the inflammation in your eye quite significantly. You might even notice that your eye heals more quickly as a result of applying aloe vera gel. While many home remedies aren’t exactly backed by scientific research, aloe vera is – several studies have proven that aloe vera extracts can be safely used on human corneas, and can help lessen inflammation in outer portions of the eye.

Remedy # 8 – Turmeric

Turmeric is well-known in the health circle for its anti-inflammatory benefits, and it also has antibacterial properties. This is true regardless of whether it is eaten or applied topically. Mix two tablespoons of ground turmeric with a cup of hot water. Soak a washcloth in the brew and then use it as w arm compress. It might sting a little bit at first, but your eye will be feeling better in no time!

Remedy # 9 – Neem oil

Neem oil is found on tons of homesteads because it is a great remedy for getting rid of pests and disease in your garden without having to use chemicals. This natural remedy has been around for thousands of years, and has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. All you need to do is a dab a bit of neem oil around your eye to help relieve the itching and irritation associated with pink eye. Nee oil has soothing properties and won’t make you sicker, plus, you likely already have it kicking around your house somewhere.

Remedy # 10 – Honey

Honey can also sting a bit, but is a fantastic way to reduce the symptoms associated with pink eye. To make a poultice, all you need to do is mix about a teaspoon of honey with a tablespoon of filtered water. Only use raw, local honey, and place it near the tear duct. Your eye will tear up quite a bit, but honey is great at removing toxins and clearing your eye of any infection.

Remedy # 11 – Lavender

Lavender has strong fumes, so if you use this remedy you may want to just paint it around your eyes, and not put it directly on them. It can help lessen your symptoms, particularly the itching, and will also calm any anxiety associated with your infection.

Remedy # 12 – Salt Water Wash

This remedy is the last one on the list, but in all honesty should probably be the first. Generally, if you are suffering from any ocular symptoms – whether they are caused by allergies, a virus, bacteria, or even a foreign body – the best first line of defense is to apply a saline rinse to the eye. This helps to flush out toxins and to reduce any discomfort. Salt water is incredibly soothing and will help your eye begin to heal.

Unfortunately, saline washes sold at the grocery or drug store are often very expensive, and if you live far from town, running out to the local pharmacy is often not an option. Therefore, I found an easy remedy that’s not difficult to replicate at home. It won’t contain the lubricants and medications for eye issues, but it will contain the key ingredient that is necessary to heal your eye: salt.

All you need to do is mix a few teaspoons of salt with sterilized water. If you have an eye dropper handy, this will help you get the mixture into your eye, but if not, just wipe it around your eyes and try to blink as much as possible of it into your eye.

Be consistent and do as many of the remedies as possible several times a day. I might do breast milk in the morning and evening, chamomile or eyebright tea in the middle of the day and again right before bed, and essential oils at bedtime. Remember to use good hygiene practices.

Wash your hands any time you touch the affected eye. I would also bulk up on immune support, such as homemade Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup and Herbal Honey Blend to help your body fight from the inside out.

If the infection seems to be getting worse or does not clear up on its own after a week or so, I would consider going to see the doctor for more aggressive treatment.

This is especially true if you have a compromised immune system or are pregnant. If you have severe pain the eye, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, or a pre-existing eye condition….again, all good reasons to head to the doctor without delay.

Remember that over half of all pink eye cases clear up within ten days without any treatment at all, so the likelihood of needing medical attention is slim. Many medicines, like antihistamines, have unpleasant side effects like blurred vision and grogginess, while antibiotics can cause resistance and lead to further complications.

Whenever possible, avoid conventional medical treatment for pink eye, as home remedies are often safer and can lead to quicker, complication-free healing.

What are your favorite tried and true natural remedies for pinkeye?

updated 08/04/2018 by Rebekah White

Kendra
About Kendra 1123 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

25 Comments

  1. Steep some celery seed in hot water. Strain through a coffee filter, allow to cool. Apply as eyedrops 3x/day. Refrigerate unused portion. I rescued a cat with a severely infected eye caused by a corneal abrasion and treated her successfully with celery seed tea. Her eye healed completely considering the vet said she might have to have her eye removed/sewn shut. So when I recently developed conjunctivitis, I used the tea and it cleared up my infection in 2-3 days.

  2. Breastmilk is SO amazing for pinkeye. Anytime my twins have any sort of irritation it takes it right away. Everyone I know seems to think I’m crazy, so glad to find a likeminded blogger 🙂 The trick is not getting the baby to latch when you’re attempting to squirt the eye lol. Hand expressing and using an eye dropper has worked best for me.

  3. Has anyone had problems with breastmilk stinging? My husband and I both thawed a nag from the freezer and tried it on ourselves first. The sting lasted forever! Knowing how much it hurt I feel bad using it on my 20 month old with pink eye. Does Frozen breastmilk sting but maybe fresh doesn’t ? Anyone else have this problem?

    • Collin,
      I’ve never experienced stinging with breastmilk… fresh or frozen, I’ve used both. My kids haven’t acted like it hurt them, either. Maybe you ate something that day (garlic, onions?) that tainted the milk? That’s the only thing I can think of.

  4. We use colloidal silver in this family for pink eye. A couple drops in the eye a couple times a day will usually clear the eye by the next day.
    C silver & dandelion salve for wounds works well.. I make both. The salve is really great for itchy spots or distressed hands. My skin is kinda old (81 yrs. ) so I have lots of use for these two things between my dogs & my garden.

  5. Believe it or not, liquid coconut oil is loaded with monolaurin which is basically derived from coconut oil works wonders when used with an eye dropper or even mixed into food. My bunny almost lost his eye though i tried Polysporin for pinkeye and Vetericyn Ophthalmic gel and L-Lysine 500mg mixed into my bunnies food along with a 1% solution of hydrogen Peroxide mixed with a tablespoon of Borax to wipe the eye twice a day over a two week period with no results. Caprytic acid also works but is hard to find aside from the usual yeast kits. Research this info yourself before trying on humans.

  6. I’ve had pink eye a lot this year. My doctor said to do frequent eyewashes with baby shampoo. Not to cure the pink eye, but to keep the eye clean. Possibly to prevent it?

    • I have always kept baby shampoo around. (Johnson’s is the only one that seems to really help)
      It seems to have less Extra Gunk in it and does seem to help reduce the spreading. It is not for a cure but it is simply to HELP keep it from spreading.
      …. and in a pinch, it can be used as a shaving cream.

      • I use Johnson and Johnson quite regularly to keep it clean from the gunk. Also, clean from allergy and other gunk I air on regular basis.

  7. About a year ago my then three year old got pink eye. I wish I had known about the breast milk thing because I was nursing a baby at the time. Instead I went ahead and got the drops and they cleared it up. But at the time, a friend of mine had just given me some essential oil information and samples that said to try rubbing Melaleuca (tea tree) oil around the eye focusing on the brow bone and bone under the eye. I was too nervous to use it on him though, but my eyes began itching and I started to freak out. I did one application of the oil. It made my eyes water a bit, and felt kind of minty if that makes any sense. But once that had all gone away the itching had stopped and never came back. I found out about breast milk like two weeks later and keep a bag in the freezer just in case.

  8. This is awesome, because pink eye is running rampant at our house. My aunt is a first grade teacher who deals with pink eye a lot.she said that neosporin or polysporin work really well when just rubbed around the eye. Yes, it’s medicine, but no prescription needed. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but she swears by it.

  9. Thank you so much. Aside from the annual check ups I rarely go to the doctor’s office. I was born and raised in a Caribbean island where plenty Grandmother’s wisdom and knowledge were readily available. You should definitely try to find another doctor. I have been there before and the pediatrician we have now has an amazing staff of nurses who are very knowledgeable in natural and home remedies and always suggest these before rushing in with a kid to a doctors office. I often call them just for advice.

  10. Breast Milk, hands down! My 2 year old had it and I didn’t remember to do this until my 5 month old started getting it. The littlest one only needed a squirt 4 or 5 times and he was goop free! I used a dropper for my big kid and his cleared up very quickly. Thank you Lord for such an easy remedy!

  11. The eyebright, along with chamomile tea bags worked very well on my 3 year old–it cleared up within 2 days, MUCH faster than the last time a family member had a prescription for pinkeye. HOWEVER, my 14 month old then got the pinkeye and she saw those drops coming a mile away! It took 2 strong adults just to hold her down, but that didn’t leave anyone to administer the drops to her scrunched eyelids! A friend here gave me colloidal silver in a spray bottle. We sprayed it in her eyes before bed and it was so gentle she thought the mist felt “funny” on her face. The next morning, the swelling was completely gone! By the end of the following day, all of the other symptoms were gone, too. Colloidal silver has had bad press because of people drinking poorly made batches of it on a daily basis. But for an eye problem, it was amazing! No side effects, and it only took about 3 administrations. There was no fight, no fuss, and no more pinkeye.

  12. We just had a major bad cold sweep through all of us on our property – 9 kids and 5 adults. Most of the kids ended up with pink eye – including LaRue. Since I breastfed her, I just squirted her each time she ate. Cleared it up in a couuple of days. She thought I was NUTS.

  13. We have successfully used silver for earaches and pinkeye time and time again. We use a 10 ppm “safe” silver. It clears up usually within a day. You can get silver at most health food stores.

  14. I simply wash the eyes out with water dropped from an eye dropper. The first drop stings but by the third or fourth drop in each eye, the water is soothing. I give the littles a tissue to wipe which keeps their hands busy. I do this 6-8 times a day. It at least gives you time if you choose to take them to the Dr.,but it usually clears it up with time.

    Also, sugar and simple starches make any illness worse….this is what happened to us…We took my youngest to the ER with pussy eyes from a virus which appeared after she had a “snack” during a play day. They wanted to admit her to give her an IV drip of antibiotics but we talked them into a prescription. It was so strong that it messed up her digestive system and she still has problems years later.

  15. I just had pink eye last week! And being 6 months pregnant, my doctor said there wasn’t much he could give me…so he prescribed this cream stuff that didn’t work worth a darn! I’ll keep your remedies in mind for next time, thank you!!

  16. I think the best treatment is breast milk. I would probably try goat milk from our goats if I didn’t have the breast milk. The breast milk has healing properties and comes out sterile, so it won’t hurt the eye.

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