Traditional Chinese Medicine for Dry Eye Therapy


Dry Eye Disease (DED) poses a complex challenge with a rising global prevalence, significantly impacting individuals’ daily lives. This comprehensive journal delves into the multifactorial nature of dry eye condition and explores the potential of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a novel and effective approach. A thorough review of studies conducted from 2001 to 2020 reveals promising insights, categorizing TCM into anti‑oxidants, anti‑inflammatory agents, hormone‑like agents, and cell‑repairing agents. Compound herbs, such as Chi‑Ju‑Di‑Huang‑Wan and Qiming granule, emerge as key players in alleviating dry eye symptoms and targeting the root cause of dry eye. Additionally, the synergistic effects of combining Western medicine with TCM offer a new paradigm for enhancing therapeutic outcomes.


Dry Eye Disease (DED), characterized by a disruption in tear film homeostasis and accompanied by ocular symptoms, is a multifactorial ocular condition with a considerable global prevalence [1]. Tear film instability, hyperosmolarity, ocular surface inflammation, and neurosensory abnormalities contribute to its etiology. This journal recognizes the intricate pathophysiology of dry eye problems, involving tear deficiency, excessive tear evaporation, and ocular surface cell damage. The escalating prevalence of dry eye disease ranging from 5%–50% globally, necessitates a comprehensive exploration of treatment modalities [1, 2].

In addition to age and gender, several risk factors contribute to the development of DED, including contact lens use, arthritis, smoking, drinking, air pollution, and rising temperatures [3]. The effects of DED extend beyond ocular discomfort, with associations found between dry eye and conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome, presbyopia, osteoporosis, menopause, low blood pressure, and even an increased risk of oral cavity cancer in specific populations [4].

The existing treatment landscape for dry eye includes artificial tears, anti‑inflammatory drugs, anti-oxidants, and lifestyle interventions. However, the prevalence of comorbidities in DED patients necessitates a multidisciplinary approach, emphasizing the need for innovative and effective treatments.

Current Western Medicine Treatment:

The repertoire of current DED treatments includes artificial tears, aqueous secretagogues, food additives, anti‑inflammatory drugs, anti-oxidants, punctual plugs, and lifestyle interventions [5]. Notably, patients with dry eye often present with comorbidities, including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, cardiovascular diseases, cataract, and glaucoma, leading to higher medication use. This highlights the necessity for new approaches and multidisciplinary teams tailored to individual patient profiles.

Moreover, the journal discusses potential alternative strategies such as acupuncture, short interfering RNA SYL1001, and nanomedicine therapy, recognizing the need for diverse treatment modalities to address the diverse manifestations of DED.

Current Research on Traditional Chinese Medicine in Dry Eye:

The review meticulously categorizes TCM into two types: single herbs and compound formulations. Single herbs like Cassiae semen, Ophiopogonisjaponicus, and LyciiFructus showcase anti‑oxidant properties, reducing oxidative stress damage [6]. These herbs, along with others like Achyranthis radix, display anti‑inflammatory effects, providing a multifaceted approach to DED treatment.

Intriguingly, the androgen receptor’s role in ocular tissues is explored, emphasizing the potential of hormone-like agents in addressing hormonal imbalances associated with dry eye, especially in women after menopause. Furthermore, compound herbs like Chi‑Ju‑Di‑Huang‑Wan and Qiming granule exhibit significant efficacy in stabilizing tear film, increasing tear secretion, and repairing corneal damage. These findings underscore the promise of TCM as a holistic and viable avenue for DED treatment.

Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine:

The journal highlights the potential of integrating Chinese and Western medicine for a more comprehensive approach to dry eye treatment. This integrated strategy is particularly pertinent in managing patients with comorbidities, such as diabetes-induced DED. Studies indicate that combined treatments can significantly improve outcomes, reducing inflammatory factors, enhancing tear production, and decreasing corneal injuries.

Additionally, the utilization of acupuncture and herbal medicine in conjunction with artificial tears demonstrates improved outcomes, offering a nuanced approach to dry eye management. The need for more robust evidence on the efficacy of these integrated treatments is acknowledged, urging further research to optimize treatment regimens and identify potent combinations. [7]


In conclusion, Traditional Chinese Medicine emerges as a promising and multifaceted approach to addressing the challenges posed by Dry Eye Disease. With its diverse range of herbal medicines acting as anti‑oxidants, anti‑inflammatory agents, hormone-like compounds, or cell-repairing agents, TCM offers affordable, safe, and effective therapeutic options. The integration of Chinese and Western medicine opens new vistas for more effective dry eye treatment, acknowledging the complexity of the condition and the necessity for personalized and multidisciplinary approaches. As research continues to unravel the intricacies of dry eye conditions, TCM stands poised as a valuable addition to the evolving landscape of ocular health therapies.


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