Natural remedies are not all faux. As people of science, we must pay tribute to traditional and aboriginal medication, upon which modern medicine was built. According to the World Health Organization , a conservative estimate of 40% of pharmaceutical products  are drawn from natural and traditional knowledge.
With the rise of social media, the inevitable rise of misinformation tails closely behind. There has been an increase in “home remedies” on social media sites such as TikTok, many claiming to remedy or even improve vision-related issues. Medical professionals often do not have the opportunity to refute these trendy “home remedies”, which are often unsubstantiated and may even cause further harm.
In this article, we sat with Dr Chelvin to understand the extent to which these claims hold weight.
Castor oil , derived from the seeds of the castor bean plant, has a long history in traditional and folk medicine . Recently, the resurgence of castor oil as a potential solution for eye-related issues has gained traction, thanks to influencers showcasing their experiences on TikTok.
Many TikTok influencers have uploaded videos showing the application of castor oil around their eyes. Some suggest that the benefits of castor oil include improved vision and reduced eye dryness. Some even claim that castor oil is effective in treating certain eye conditions such as cataract and glaucoma.
Various community reports have claimed that castor oil has antimicrobial activity and is effective in stimulating uterine contraction and promoting lipid metabolism. However, to date, castor oil has only obtained FDA approval as a stimulative laxative .
Regarding eye health, below are some relevant studies.
|A study  indicated that a nanoemulsion of brimonidine tartrate, prepared using castor oil along with Lipoid S75, Lipoid E80, and PF-68, showed potential for glaucoma treatment.
|Brimonidine  is an established glaucoma medication and is the active ingredient that lowers eye pressure rather than castor oil. The conclusion that castor oil is effective in treating glaucoma is erroneous.
|A study  found that using castor oil on the base of one eyelid twice a day for four weeks improved blepharitis-related symptoms.
|Although the results of this solitary study seem promising, further research is necessary to validate the claims. Studies with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up durations are required to substantiate this claim.
Castor oil, which is widely available in grocery stores, may contain additives, such as preservatives or fragrances. These additives can be potentially harmful, mainly when applied to sensitive areas like the eyes or skin. Using castor oil with additives on the skin may result in irritation, redness, or allergic reactions, especially for individuals with sensitive skin. The delicate skin around the eyes is particularly susceptible to irritation, and exposure to additives in castor oil could lead to discomfort or inflammation.
Moreover, if the oil comes into contact with the eyes, it may increase the risk of eye infections. In some cases, putting castor oil directly on the eyes can damage the transparent, dome-shaped cornea . Additionally, commercially available castor oil has not been adequately sterilised; hence, using it as an eye drop increases your risk of eye infections.
Another common side effect of using castor oil as an eye drop is blurry vision, as it creates an oily layer over the tear film and ocular surface.
Eye yoga, also known as yogic eye exercises, includes a set of yoga flows (known as asanas) designed to enhance vision and alleviate eye strain. Below are some articles supporting the benefits of eye yoga:
|The Journal of Yoga  hypothesised that eye yoga works to bring down intraocular pressure  (IOP).
|These hypotheses were not substantiated by any clinical trials. Therefore, they remain as baseless claims.
|A study  with 60 subjects indicated that practising eye yoga reduced fatigue and eye tiredness.
|The practice of eye yoga may have aided subjects to remain more focused and subsequently minimised stress levels.
Consequently, these effects may help to reduce eye strain and fatigue as they are directly attributed  to stress.
Other alleged benefits have included eye yoga benefitting patients after cataract surgery, remedying age-related near vision changes, known as presbyopia , or forestalling the need for reading glasses. Scientific evidence supporting these claims is still lacking. We recommend consulting your ophthalmologist to ensure safety before implementing any eye yoga practice.
Another common and dangerous practice is using homemade or unregulated eye drops. Many use homemade eye drops to soothe eye dryness, redness, or irritation. However, concocting homemade eye drops under non-sterile conditions and applying them to your eyes without adequate medical knowledge can cause serious ocular injury. Such adverse consequences include eye infection, allergy, or other complications.
|It has been claimed that tea tree oil  can eliminate Demodex mites  from the eyelashes. An overgrowth of these microscopic mites can lead to blepharitis, a condition characterised by itchy and swollen eyelids.
|However, it remains controversial whether concentrations of tea tree oil between 5% and 50% are effective in treating Demodex blepharitis. Regardless, lower concentrations of tea tree oil are less likely to cause ocular irritation.
Applying essential oils directly to or around the eyes is associated with potential risks. Even in dilute concentrations, they can cause eye irritation, allergy, and damage to the ocular surface; whilst essential oils can be beneficial to human health , attempting to use them specifically to remedy eye-related issues can be disastrous.
It is recommended to use HSA-approved and sterile eye drops  explicitly designed to treat ocular issues such as eye redness, dryness, or irritation. HSA-approved products undergo rigorous testing, therefore assuring their safety and efficacy.
This is not exactly a social media trend per se, but rather a misconception that has persisted for years. Initially seen on television, characters would reach out for steak or meat in their fridge to heal bruised or black eyes after intense combat. Soon, people began replicating these “behaviours”.
It is important to note that this belief is not grounded in scientific evidence, as using a piece of steak is not only an ineffective remedy but can also be harmful. The rationale behind the practice is often misunderstood, as it's not the meat that contributes to healing but rather the application of coldness to the affected area.
The cold temperature provides therapeutic benefits by reducing swelling and promoting vasoconstriction , which can alleviate pain and bruising. However, the choice of a steak is questionable, as raw meat potentially contains harmful bacteria that can cause infections when applied to the delicate skin around the eye.
For a safe and effective alternative, use an ice pack instead, which helps you achieve the desired cooling effect without the risks associated with using raw meat. This would be a more hygienic and practical solution for managing a black eye and reducing swelling.
In the age of social media, where trends and unverified remedies circulate rapidly, it is crucial to approach eye care cautiously and discerningly. Numerous practices propagated across social media platforms, such as castor oil application, essential oil usage, Beezin' , using a hairdryer for eyelash curling, resorting to raw meat or steak for treating a black eye, and using homemade eyedrops have gained attention for their unsubstantiated claims.
However, a closer look reveals that many of these practices lack scientific support and, in some cases, can be potentially harmful to ocular health. Protecting the health of your eyes requires informed decision-making and recognising that not all trends, no matter how popular, are grounded in scientific reality.
An ophthalmologist possesses the expertise to provide accurate diagnoses and recommend safe and effective treatments for various eye conditions. If you have any eye-related concerns, please schedule an appointment with Chelvin Sng Eye Centre for individualised treatment options.