Does It Work To Treat Pink Eye with Essential Oils – Tips

If the whites of your eye look pink or red, then you may have pink eye. This is also known as conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the mucous membrane. Pink eye is an infection that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, allergies, or blocked tear ducts. Some people believe that being nearsighted can cause pink eye, but that’s not true.

There are several different types of pink eye that you should know about when deciding the best course of treatment!

Different Flavors of Pink Eye

Bacterial Pink Eye

Poor hygiene and contaminated makeup products can cause the transfer of bacterial pink eye from one eye to another. Bacterial pink eye symptoms include burning, itching, and discomfort of the eye along with swollen or reddened eyelids.

Conjunctivitis also causes increased tearing or mucous discharge. The mucous discharge differentiates bacterial pink eye from viral pink eye. It can improve within 2-5 days but may take up to 2 weeks to resolve fully. Antibiotic medications can be prescribed to help treat severe cases. 

Viral Pink Eye

Viral pink eye is most commonly caused by adenovirus, herpes simplex virus, herpes zoster, and coronavirus. Ocular symptoms are similar to bacterial causes (burning, itching, discomfort, etc.).

An easy distinction between viral and bacterial-based pink eye is observing the discharge. Viral pink eye has a watery discharge. Other systemic symptoms associated with the contraction of these viruses include cold symptoms, sore throat, and respiratory infection.

This type of pink eye can take up to 2-3 weeks to improve. In severe cases, your eye doctor can prescribe you antiviral medication to speed up the healing process. 

Allergic Pink Eye

Allergic conjunctivitis is a sensitivity to allergy-causing substances such as dust mites, pollen, mold, or chemicals. These symptoms may be seasonal and include itching, burning, tearing, and stringy discharge. Allergy testing can be done by your primary care provider so that you can avoid these triggers. 

Neonatal Pink Eye

Newborns can be born with blocked tear ducts. This prevents the natural flow and drainage of tears resulting in a watery and inflamed eye. A blocked duct in newborns will resolve without treatment. Adults can get a blocked tear duct as they age from sinus infections, eye injuries, or a tumor. A tear drainage test can be conducted to determine if your inflamed eye is due to a blockage. 

If you think you may have pink eye, stop your contact lens wear until symptoms have subsided. Contact lens wear during this time can result in the transfer of condition to the other eye or may worsen your symptoms. You must discard any worn disposable lenses or thoroughly disinfect biweekly and monthly lenses.

close up of eye with pink eye or conjunctivitis

Can Essential Oils Treat Pink Eye?

Essential oils are a concentrated form of chemicals found in plants. They are isolated either by using pressure or steam. The use of essential oils in natural healing has increased in recent years. While they may provide symptom relief, there is not enough evidence that proves their ability to treat pink eye. However, one study showed that Origanum essential oils significantly inhibited certain bacteria. 

It is important that you never put concentrated essential oils directly in or around your eye as they can cause burning, itching, irritation, and pain. However, some patients claim they have benefited from diffusing the oil in water vapor. Keep reading to see how to actually use essential oils for your pink eye.

What Essential Oils are Good for Pink Eye?

There are numerous essential oils such as tea tree oil, lavender oil, roman chamomile, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, clove oil, and even myrrh oil. While keeping in mind that these oils should never be pleased on or around the eye, some oils used correctly can have natural healing effects. I have listed the top three essential oils used for pink eye. 

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil can help fight bacteria (staph), fungus, and mites. Tea tree oil is used in wound dressings, to help fight acne, and soothes skin inflammation. While being careful not to get tea tree oil in the eye, diluted, it can be useful in hygiene techniques for your eyelids. Optometrists suggest a concentration of 1-2% in combination with vitamin E and a moisturizer. Some common products include Cliradex lid scrubs and Eye Eco Tea Tree Eyelid & Facial Cleanser. 

Neem Oil 

This oil contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. While this will NOT treat pink eye, it can help alleviate symptoms of irritated skin. It is important to dilute this oil and first try it on a patch of skin away from the face. 

Coconut Oil

Although it is not a true essential oil, it is a carrier oil that is said to carry essential oils onto the skin safely. It has been proven scientifically that the oil has an antibacterial effect on Strep. 

These essential oils may not be beneficial in the treatment of pink eye but are a great step you can take in prevention. 

How Long Have Essential Oils Been Used For Pink Eye?

Essential oils were created thousands of years ago and used by botanists and physicians in Egypt, China, and India. In the last 20 years, they have become increasingly popular in everyday and at-home medicinal uses. 

How To Apply Essential Oils For Pink Eye

Be very cautious to not get any essential oils in the eye as this can cause irritation, burning, and inflammation. 

Eyelid Cleanser

After diluting the oil, you can use 1-2 drops along with moisturizer on a clean towelette. Carefully rub or massage the eyelid to help skin inflammation and irritation. Be cautious not to use too high concentrations as it can cause skin irritation. 

Warm/Cold Compress

Add 1-2 drops of diluted oil to a wet gauze. Either heat or cool the gauze before placing on eyelids. This will soothe inflammation/irritation. 

Tea Bag Infusion

Steep tea in warm water and add a drop of essential oil. After a few minutes, squeeze excess liquid from tea bags. Place warm tea bags on eyelids for a few minutes. 

If you get concentrated essential oil in your eyes, be sure to use coconut oil to help remove it. Since oil and water don’t mix, water most likely won’t be helpful. 

How Do Eye Doctors Recommend You Treat Pink Eye?

Doctors recommend using artificial tears and warm/cold compresses to treat pink eye. If your symptoms do not resolve, then they will prescribe you antibiotics and antivirals. You should note that artificial tears are different from contact lens solution.

How to Cure Pink Eye Naturally?

You can prevent pink eye by following good hygiene habits. Refrain from touching/rubbing your eyes before handwashing. Avoid sharing cosmetics and towels. If you already have pink eye, it should go away on its own in 1 to 2 weeks. 

Are There Any Eye Drops for Pink Eye?

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Drops

Artificial Tears drops with Naphazoline or Pheniramine are great OTC options if your pink eye is not subsiding. These will provide lubrication and relief against your symptoms. 

Prescription Drops

If OTC drops have not alleviated your symptoms, then it may be time to visit your local eye doctor. After examination, they may prescribe some antibiotics or antiviral drops such as Vigamox (moxifloxacin), Ciloxan (ciprofloxacin), or Neomycin, Polymyxin B, and Dexamethasone. 

What Are Other Alternative Treatments?

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a carrier oil that is said to carry essential oils onto the skin safely. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties and has been proven to be effective against Strep bacteria. For best results, apply warm coconut oil to eyelids and eyelashes. 

Green Tea

Green tea contains a high amount of antioxidants and antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea bags can be steeped and placed on eyelids once. Be sure to cool tea bags before placing them on the eye. 

Turmeric (curcumin)

Turmeric has a lot of anti-inflammatory properties. It can be administered orally or topically for best effects. Turmeric is used in Asian cooking and used as an anti-biotic when applied directly to a wound. Do not apply turmeric directly to the eye. 

Can You Use Essential Oils for Pink Eye in Infants and Children?

No! Children are much more sensitive to chemicals such as essential oils. They may cause skin irritation, stomach upset, and damage to mucous membranes. Tea tree oil or lavender oil can produce stimulation of the estrogen receptor. This can result in the early growth of breast tissue, even in males.  

What Are Pink Eye Symptoms?

  • Pink/red eyes
  • Irritation and itchy eyes
  • Burning of the eyes
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Drainage (watery or mucous)
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Light sensitivity or photophobia
  • Inflamed/irritated eyelids
  • Eyelids stuck together in the morning
  • Increased tear production

When Should You See A Doctor for Pink Eye?

If you begin to experience any pain, sensitivity to light, decreased vision, or a weakened immune system, please visit your local eye doctor. They will be able to do a comprehensive eye health evaluation to determine the next best steps!