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I've got a stye in my eye! Chinese medicine to the rescue

man with a stye

A hordeolum or stye is an acute infection of the sebaceous glands of the eyelid, usually caused by a localized infection of the eyelash follicle and adjacent meibomian glands.

It is sometimes associated with blepharitis. Most hordeola are external (on the outside of the eyelid), and diagnosis is made visually through clinical examination.The condition is seen more frequently in adults than children, and most cases are self-limiting, usually resolving within two weeks.


  • grain-shaped boils appearing on the margin of the eyelid that can quickly form pus and rupture.

  • redness and itching of the eyelid

  • swelling of the eyelid

  • pain, hardness and tenderness

  • In some cases, the abscess may rupture spontaneously

Chinese medicine perspective

Chinese medicine considers that the eyelid reflects the health of the digestive system, namely the spleen and stomach. Styes come from factors including poor eye hygiene, but also improper nutrition, fatigue, or wasting and thirsting patterns. Patterns can include:

  • Wind-heat attacking the eyelid: this pattern will come with red and itching eyelid, fever, floating and rapid pulse.

  • Heat accumulation in the spleen and stomach (Recurrent styes)

  • Wind-heat with deficiency of spleen qi and defensive qi: recurrent styes with tiredness, weakness, decreased appetite, yellowish complexion.

  • Toxic heat: the eyelids will be very swollen and red, painful, with severe edema, the patient will also be suffering from thirst, constipation, darker urine.

So the first step you can take is to limit foods that tax your digestive system and produce heat, namely deep fried foods, or very hot spices, and added refined sugar.

Acupuncture & Herbal formulas

A systematic review of 6 randomized clinical trials found that acupuncture alone can provide resolution to an acute stye within 3 to 7 days (Chang, et al., 2017).

In a study involving 102 patients, participants were randomized into two separate groups. Group 1 received acupuncture and group 2 was given local applications of the antibiotics levofloxacin and erythromycin. Comparisons were made in pain reduction and swelling size reduction. All investigators evaluating the improvements did not know which group each patient participated in as a measure to avoid bias.

On day 3 after treatment, the acupuncture group showed a 64.7% improvement and the medication group showed a 41.2% improvement. On day 5, the acupuncture group demonstrated a 90.2% improvement and the medication group showed a 62.7% improvement. On day 7, the acupuncture group demonstrated a 94.1% improvement and the medication group showed an 80.4% improvement.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture produced superior results to medications for the treatment of a stye. [2]

Your acupuncturist can also prescribe a tailor made formula depending on your particular presentation and body type.

Herbal Compresses

chamomile tea bags for stye

Chamomile or Chrysanthemum tea bags

Boil a cup of water and place the tea bag with the chrysanthemum into a boiled cup of water. Take the tea bag out, let is cool down, and use it as a warm compress against the closed eye.

Let the tea bag sit on top of your closed eye until it fully cools and repeat for about 15-20 minutes and/or until the water is at room temperature. Do this hot compress routine 2 to 3 times per day until the stye is gone.

Never ever ever should a stye be squeezed. The eyelid is the thinnest skin on the body and is easily damaged.

So don't wait and talk to an acupuncturist today, or book with us!



[2] Qi, H. F., J. F. Zhao, Y. Wang, and X. Y. Chen. "[Randomized controlled clinical trials for treatment of external sty with ear-apex blood-letting]." Zhen ci yan jiu= Acupuncture research/[Zhongguo yi xue ke xue yuan Yi xue qing bao yan jiu suo bian ji] 38, no. 2 (2013): 148-151.


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