3 Herbs for Macular Degeneration

3 Herbs for Macular Degeneration

Nature holds a veritable medicine chest of remedies that conventional medicine often steals, synthesizes, and churns out as a pharmaceutical counterpart. This is mainly to package a remedy that fits all, often reaping outstanding profits that can come with some caveats, namely, possible side effects, constant reliance, and a rabbit hole of other pharmaceuticals to counteract side effects. Although there are many conventional prescriptions that are highly valuable for “fixing” human health, it is looking back at that natural medicine chest which may be a better place to start after all. 

These 3 herbs for macular degeneration could be helpful in slowing or preventing one of the most damaging, incurable, and blinding optical diseases currently affecting upwards of eleven million Americans.

Gingko Biloba

Dated as far back as 200 million years ago, the gingko tree is considered one of the oldest living trees in the world. Native to parts of Asia, Europe and even found growing on the streets of New York City, the fan shaped leaves of this tree hold significant healing properties. Dubbed “the focus herb” by many, gingko biloba is extracted from these leaves and taken as a circulation remedy. It has shown to encourage vasodilation which is the expansion of blood vessels for optimal blood flow and also holds some potent antioxidant properties. 

Researchers have been studying this herb for many years finding a variety of applicable treatments for all kinds of health compromises including:

  • Weak memory
  • Anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • PMS
  • Sexual dysfunction

Research also shows the benefits of using gingko biloba to increase blood flow to the retina. This has been linked to possibly preventing macular degeneration as well as improving symptoms of those already afflicted. 

A double-blind trial involving 99 patients with impaired vision, due to senile [elderly] dry macular degeneration, of six months of gingko biloba extract (Egb 761) by German researchers as posted by the National Library of Medicine, stated that, 

“Marked improvement of the study participants’ vision was observed in both treatment groups [240 mg v 60 mg of daily gingko biloba] already after four weeks,..In conclusion, the results demonstrate the therapeutic efficacy of Egb 761 in patients with senile, dry macular degeneration, with obvious benefits in every-day life.”

Side effects of taking gingko biloba are minimal but may possibly involve increased risk of bleeding (do not take if on blood thinner medication), stomach upset, headache, or skin rash. Talk to your doctor before taking this or any herbal extract.


Related to the blueberry and huckleberry, bilberry is derived from the Danish word ‘bollebar,’ which means “dark berry”, has been used medicinally for centuries. It contains high amounts of vitamin C as well as powerful antioxidants. 

Bilberry has been linked to relieving cataracts, arteriosclerosis (blood vessel plaque buildup) as well as varicose veins. When it comes to vision, bilberry has long been associated with improving night vision. So much so that British pilots in World War II would eat bilberry jam for night flying. When studied for macular degeneration, preliminary laboratory rodent research shows promising potential. 

An archival study published in the journal, Advances in Gerontology, found that,

“The results suggest that the OXYS rat strain is the useful model for macular degeneration and senile cataract and long-term supplementation with BE [bilberry extract] is effective in prevention of macular degeneration and cataract.”

More studies of bilberry need to be conducted but to date, researchers believe that this dark berry (along with other dark berries such as blackberries and blueberries) utilizes a unique antioxidant anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-carcinogenic activity from a compound called anthocyanosides. 

A study by researchers from the Russian Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education, Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, stated,

“Because of bilberry anthocyanosides (Vaccinium myrtillus L.), Mirtilene forte promotes rhodopsin synthesis and regeneration, increases retinal sensitivity to changes in light intensity, improves visual acuity and dark adaptation as well as blood supply of the retina.”

Side effects of bilberry are similar to gingko biloba.

Milk Thistle

A compound found in milk thistle called silibinin, the main component of silymarin, could be beneficial in protecting against macular degeneration as well as supporting the reduction of current AMD (age-related macular degeneration) symptoms and progression. Native to Europe but introduced to North America as well as South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia, milk thistle has been a centuries old remedy for problems of the gall bladder and the liver. It is particularly used to detox the liver from alcohol and drug abuse. 

When laboratory studies of milk thistle for macular degeneration were conducted, like bilberry, results of the compound silibinin proved considerably effective. Research out of the Taipei Medical University in Taiwan which was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology stated,

“We concluded that silibinin could protect against hypoxia- and VEGF [vascular endothelial growth factor ]-induced ocular neovascularization and retinal edema in vivo [in a living organism]. Collectively, our in vitro [in a test tube] and in vivo data support the potential of silibinin for prevention of neovascular [natural formation of new blood vessels] AMD.”

As mentioned, milk thistle is often recommended to patients with liver compromise. Researchers found that those with liver conditions could also be at risk for developing AMD. This deduction is becoming more apparent as people with various unrelated diseases may develop macular degeneration as a peripheral effect. 

A study of the use of the compound in milk thistle (silymarin) showed a direct connection for possible treatment. The journal, Research Square posted the study which was a combined effort of researchers from Taipei Medical University and Ohio State University, respectively, stating,

“In conclusion, CHDs [chronic hepatic (liver) diseases] were associated with a higher incidence of AMD, and the use of silymarin was associated with a reduced risk of AMD in patients with CHDs.”

These 3 herbs for macular degeneration are not a cure all but they are a good tool in the natural treatment toolbox. If macular degeneration runs in your family gene pool you may want to consult with your physician or naturopathic doctor to determine a possible herbal protocol. If you are already struggling with AMD, you can also communicate with your ophthalmologist for professional advice on using one or more of these herbs to slow progression.