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Glaucoma Cases May Surpass 100 Million by 2040, 9 Effective Complementary and Alternative Therapies to Alleviate Symptoms

Glaucoma, a devastating eye condition that harms the optic nerve, is often associated with high intraocular pressure. However, it is possible to develop glaucoma even when eye pressure is normal.

Glaucoma has become the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, and its prevalence is steadily increasing, with younger patients being affected as well. Currently, over 80 million people worldwide suffer from this condition. Alarming estimates predict that by 2040, the count of glaucoma patients may surpass a daunting 100 million.

Sadly, most glaucoma patients do not experience any noticeable symptoms in the early stages of the disease. By the time they detect vision problems, the optic nerve has already suffered significant damage, which cannot be reversed. Despite medical advancements, no cure exists for this condition. Modern medicine offers prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser therapy, surgery, or treatments to manage the disease.

Are there any other recourses available to ameliorate the condition? Numerous studies have demonstrated that certain Chinese medicines, plant extracts, and acupuncture therapies can substantially impact glaucoma.

1. Ginkgo biloba extract

The extract derived from Ginkgo biloba comprises two significant bioactive compounds: flavonoids and terpene lactone. These potent elements exhibit many benefits, such as neuroprotection, anti-cancer properties, cardioprotection, stress relief, and memory enhancement.

According to a 2013 research study published in the Journal of Glaucoma, 42 patients diagnosed with normal tension glaucoma (NTG) were administered 80 mg of ginkgo biloba extract twice daily. The results showed that ginkgo biloba extract slowed down the progression of visual field damage in NTG patients.

According to a study published in Acta Ophthalmologica in 2010, the intraperitoneal injection of Ginkgo biloba extracts enhanced the survival rate of retinal ganglion cells in rats following an optic nerve injury.

However, the American Botanical Council cautions that Ginkgo biloba extract should be prohibited for people who are allergic to Ginkgo biloba or who are using platelet aggregation inhibitors. In rare cases, stomach or intestinal discomfort, headache, or skin irritation may occur when ginkgo biloba extract is taken.

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Ginkgo biloba. (Shutterstock)

2. Scutellaria baicalensis extract

For thousands of years, Scutellaria baicalensis, also known as Chinese skullcap, has been a popular choice in China for herbal medicine. The roots of this plant are known to contain numerous bioactive compounds, including baicalin and flavonoid glycosides, which possess various medicinal properties such as anti-cancer, hepatoprotective (ability to prevent damage to the liver), anti-bacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-convulsant, and neuroprotective effects.

According to a study published in the Journal of Chinese Medicine in 2021, baicalin has shown promising results in improving glaucoma symptoms and reducing the death of retinal ganglion cells in animal subjects.

According to a study published in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2013, baicalein, a flavonoid found in various plants, can potentially prevent retinal ischemia through various mechanisms, including its antioxidant and anti-cell death properties, as demonstrated in an animal study.

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Baicalein is effective in alleviating glaucoma symptoms and preventing the loss of retinal ganglion cells. (Courtesy of Chang Gung University)

3. Bilberry extract

Bilberries are rich in flavonoids (mainly anthocyanins), tannins, phenolic and organic acids, and other bioactive compounds.

According to a study published in Clinical Ophthalmology in 2017, bilberry extract could potentially offer a neuroprotective effect in treating retinal damage caused by glaucoma and other related conditions. The animal study revealed that oral consumption of the extract effectively curbed the death of retinal ganglion cells, thus offering promising prospects for treating such ocular afflictions.

4. Lycium barbarum extract

Lycium barbarum, also known as goji berry, is a widely used Chinese herb that boasts an array of pharmacological benefits, such as immunomodulation, anti-apoptotic activity, and reduction of DNA damage. These advantageous effects of Lycium are largely attributed to the herb’s high concentration of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP).

According to a study published in Glaucoma in 2019, the use of LBP in treating acute ocular hypertension (AOH) demonstrated impressive results. The treatment had a remarkable effect on neuronal rescue, preventing secondary degeneration and significantly enhancing retinal function.

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Lycium barbarum, also known as goji berry, is a ubiquitous Chinese herb that boasts many pharmacological functions. (Shutterstock)

5. Turmeric extract

Curcumin, a potent polyphenol, sourced from the spice turmeric, has been widely endorsed as a remedy for diverse ailments, spanning from neurodegenerative disorders to inflammatory conditions.

According to a study published in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2014, curcumin may offer a novel or supplementary approach to treating glaucoma. This is due to its potential to provide neuroprotection by restraining oxidative damage.

On its own, curcumin is rapidly metabolized and difficult for the body to effectively utilize. However, piperine (black pepper) has been found to enhance the absorption efficiency of curcumin. Studies have shown that the combination of curcumin and piperine can increase the absorption and utilization of curcumin by 2,000 percent.

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Turmeric. (Shutterstock)

6. Green tea extract

Green tea extract is a rich source of polyphenols possessing potent antioxidant properties. According to a 2019 animal study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, oral green tea extract can impart neuroprotection to retinal ganglion cells during ischemic conditions (when blood flow and oxygen are restricted or reduced in a part of the body). This exciting discovery indicates that green tea extract holds promise as a viable therapeutic approach for mitigating the symptoms of glaucoma and optic neuropathy.

According to a clinical report recently published in the International Ophthalmology Journal in 2022, consuming moderate amounts of green tea or its concentrated extract can benefit individuals with heightened intraocular pressure or at risk of developing glaucoma.

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Green tea extract is composed of several polyphenols that possess antioxidant properties. (Shutterstock)

7. Resveratrol

Resveratrol, a dietary phenolic compound, can be found naturally in various edible fruits like grapes, berries, pomegranates, and peanuts. This miraculous compound boasts many biological activities, such as anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects.

According to a study conducted on animals and published in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2020, treatment with resveratrol could potentially treat glaucoma by delaying the progression of visual dysfunction associated with the disease.

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Grapes contain resveratrol. (Shutterstock)

8. Vitamins A, C, B3

In 2020, Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology published a clinical trial that revealed a significant improvement in the internal retinal function of patients with glaucoma upon taking oral vitamin B3.

According to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Nutrients in 2018, including sufficient quantities of vitamins A and C in one’s diet can assist in the prevention or reduction of open-angle glaucoma.

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Patients with glaucoma may experience improved internal retinal function through oral vitamin B3. (Shutterstock)

9. Acupuncture therapy

According to a clinical study published in 2020 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture and electro-acupuncture effectively reduce intraocular pressure in individuals with glaucoma. The study also revealed that both these methods were deemed safe during treatment.

According to a study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science in 2013, acupuncture and eye drops were found to be more effective in treating primary open-angle glaucoma than solely using eye drops.

Epoch Times Photo
According to a recent clinical study, patients with glaucoma may find relief in acupuncture and electroacupuncture therapies, as they have been found to effectively lower intraocular pressure. (Shutterstock)

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