I was so surprised when I got pink eye (Conjunctivitis) a few weeks ago. I thought it was only something young children contracted, and knew from working in elementary schools that it can be contagious.

Determined to find my own solution, I began researching and trying home remedies that alleviate the ugly condition. Risky? Possibly. But I was NOT hopping in my car at 2 a.m. to rush to Urgent Care so they could give me an expensive prescription eye drop made from who-knows-what.

My symptoms were just beginning, so I wanted to try a home remedy and sleep on it.


What is Pink Eye?

My research revealed that pink eye is a common eye infection with several types to contract.  Pink eye can be viral (caused by a virus), bacterial (from bacteria getting into the eye), or allergic (from an allergic reaction).

You can contract pink eye at any age, but it’s most common in children.

Pink eye is not a dangerous infection, but can be highly uncomfortable for the individual. The trademark “pink” eye is accompanied by other symptoms, depending on what type of infection it is.

Allergic pink eye will often cause itching, redness, swelling, and excessive watering of the eyes. You may also notice sneezing and a stuffy or itchy nose.

Bacterial pink eye is often characterized by a heavy, sometimes crusty and yellow or greenish discharge of the eyes after sleeping. Sometimes eyes will be “stuck” shut upon waking. Bacterial symptoms can also include swelling, itching, and painful eyes.

Viral pink eye usually affects only one eye (though it can spread to both) and is accompanied by clear, watery discharge. Sufferers of viral pink eye might also have cold-like symptoms.

Bacterial and viral pink eye is very contagious. Pink eye caused by allergens is not contagious. However, it can be difficult to determine which type you have so precautions should always be taken to avoid spreading the infection to others.

My milk and honey pink eye cure

Home remedies for pink eye

It sounds like a soothing bedtime drink, and you might be thinking I’m totally nutso for using milk and honey in my eyeballs. I know I may take the guinea pig thing too far sometimes, but I was almost certain I was suffering from allergic pink eye, and being confident I could rid myself of the problem, I took the calculated risk.

I found a website that suggested using a warm milk and honey mixture to treat pink eye, and since I had both ingredients I quickly mixed up a batch of the solution so I could get to bed and catch some Z’s.

I warmed about 1 tablespoon of raw milk over the stovetop until it was just barely warm. (I didn’t want to scald my eyeball.) Then I mixed in about 1 tablespoon of raw, unpasteurized honey and stirred. I put 2-3 drops of the solution into each affected eye with a sterilized dropper. This part was no fun, I hate putting things in my eyes and it stung like the dickens! (And for a split second I thought both eyeballs might shrivel up by morning.)

I then refrigerated the remainder of the solution, and went to bed.


The next morning I ran straight to the bathroom mirror. I was amazed to see the whites of my eyes as white and no longer pink! (And halleluia…no shriveling!)

Throughout the day, the slightest pink tint returned to my eyes, so I added 2-3 drops of the mixture to each eye two more times that day. I had no problems with the pink eye after those subsequent applications.

(For legal purposes, I’m not suggesting everyone can or should try to cure pink eye with a home remedy. For some, it may be best to consult a trusted health care provider. I’m not a doctor and this article should not be mistaken as medical advice. It’s generally not wise to test things out in your eyes, but being confident of the ingredients, I’m happy to report the home remedy worked for me.)

Treating pink eye at home

Home remedies for pink eye

I was prepared to try other things if the milk and honey formula didn’t produce results for me. I was hoping for overnight results and – though it made me nervous to put something into my eyes that I would normally put into my mouth – I remembered the healing properties of many natural foods and decided the reward was worth the risk. (Find raw, unfiltered honey here.)

I have read that simple saline washes (salt + water) do the trick for pink eye. Have you heard about  breast milk being a good cure for it? I also read a lot about brewed black tea bags as a good compress and eye drop. I know there are many more natural home remedies out there, but am thankful I didn’t have to try any others.

Do you have your own go-to natural pink eye cure? Have you ever tried milk and honey for treating Conjunctivitis?

(Keep in mind, if commenting, I’m NOT recommending everyone use home remedies for treating pink eye; I’m only sharing my experience. Feel free to add to the conversation if you have experience using a natural remedy to treat this condition. If you’re a naysayer, remember to be kind.) :)

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References and Resources


photo credit to stardust

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Comments

  1. Judy Barrington says

    We have been using can evaporated milk for over 20 yrs to treat pinkeye in our dairy cows. It works!

  2. Tirzah Pinto says

    Heck… when I was a kid, my mom usually broke out the limes when we had pink eye. She’d have us lie back with cold saline compresses to ease the itching and drop diluted lime juice in our eyes. It usually did the trick, after a couple of days, but I think it might sting worse than milk and honey.

  3. cassie wadley says

    Hi Betsy, thanks for another great article. I just wanted to let you know that this particuliar remedy had never occurred to me,, but I wasn’t surprised to hear it worked. Many years of mommyhood and ages ago being a midwife, when a baby would get conjuctivitis (pink eye) it was a well known recommendation to our clients to squirt a few drops of their breastmilk into the baby’s eye(s) to clear it up quite well. I had even had moms who also became infected with pink eye, and recommened the very same, collect a few drops just before nursing and use the drops in their own eyes…viola, no more pink eye. I will remember this tip the next time a pink eye shows up, but what I usually do is saline water compresses, and antihistimine for the itching only if necessary.

  4. aj says

    I have used Coconut oil in my eyes, not for pink eye, but for allergies or goopiness :) You can put just a bit on your eyelid with your eyes closed, and let your body heat cause it to melt then blink your eyes a few time to swipe it across your eyes. It did not hurt at all, just caused blurry vision for a second as it smeared across my eye. I did this before bed. It helped a lot. With all of EVCO’s properties (antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiparasitic) I would think that it would be effective against conjunctivitis also. I just love natural remedies!

  5. Jenny says

    I have used breastmilk a few times, quite successfully. I was nursing a baby when my older child got pink eye, then I got it and was afraid of the baby getting it so I used a dropper to apply expressed breastmilk into both my eyes, my older child’s eyes, and my husband’s (preventative for hubby and baby who didn’t have pink eye). The baby’s eyes got squirted directly from the source(!) – much easier than trying to use an eye dropper. It came back again a couple of times over the course of 6 months (daycare!) but we were able to nip it in the bud with breastmilk. But now that I don’t have a ready supply of that liquid gold, I’m glad to hear of your good outcome with milk and honey. Thanks!

  6. says

    I had pink eye in 1 eye about four months ago. Then it would switch back and forth between both eyes. I tried washing it out with warm water under the tap, I tried washing with cotton balls (one at a time to reduce spreading of infection). Then I read somewhere about saline solution and made some up. You would think that salt water stings but it didn’t. It actually felt very soothing to my itching, burning eyes. So I would drop a few drops in each eye several times a day (I was desperate for healing, lol!). Within a couple days it was gone.
    I sure wish I knew about this raw milk and honey idea… wow! I will definitely keep it in mind IF I ever get pink eye again… :-/
    Thanks so much!!

  7. serenity says

    I have cured pink eye in myself and my children with breast milk on more than one occasion.

  8. Leah says

    I took an Herbal Medicine class…My instructor gave us this recipe:
    1/2C. water
    1/4tsp. sea salt
    1tsp. calendula
    1tsp. comfrey
    Make like tea. Apply with a cotton ball…my daughter got pink eye this year. So I made this up applied it a couple of times, and it was gone. I believe she had bacterial pink eye, as it was coupled with green eye boogies!!
    This in a cooled down form is also an excellent treatment for burns! <3

  9. Audrey Stanley says

    I wish I had known about this in college! We had a pink eye epidemic sweep through the athletics department and I was one of the victims. I had to use icky prescribed suspension drops to get it to clear up.
    I’m a high school athletic trainer now and I am definitely adding the tips from this post and comments to my bag of tricks.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yuck to pink eye epidemics! Glad you’ll have some more tricks for your bag now…definitely some excellent ideas here in the comments!

  10. says

    I know it sounds crazy, and would sting, but it doesn’t. I use diluted garlic. I boil some garlic, let it cool and put a few drops in the eye. I usually only have to do it once. Although, if I didn’t catch it right away a few times over the course of the following day was needed. I have used this remedy on myself and both my children for 24 yrs. My friend, who works in a daycare also uses it.

  11. Samantha says

    I will definitely keep this in mind! Another common virus is strep throat. I got it about a year ago and was determined not to go to the doctor to get medicine. I healed myself up in a few days with just some natural tea and, of course, gurgling with warm salt water :)

  12. Sherral says

    Honey is a fantastic antibacterial. Having worked in the healthcare field for many years I have seen doctors prescribe honey many times to treat open wounds. From what I understand (don’t quote me on this) the sugar molecules are so large that it plugs the pores on the bacteria and causes them to explode. Have never tried using milk but I have a son with a chronic stye problem. I am going to have him try this. Perhaps he can give up the antibiotic drops. Thanks a million for the tip.

  13. Cindi says

    My accupuncturist recommended twig tea, when I had pink eye. You let the tea cool, so it’s just warm to the touch and then use it as an eye wash. It is drying, but, it doesn’t hurt at all. I also used the warm tea bags, per her recommendation, to put over my closed eye to sooth the pain and itching. That felt wonderful!

  14. Norma says

    My son (2mos old) just got over an episode of pink eye. I used breast milk in his eyes at each feeding and saw his eye clear up in about 2 1/2 days. He had it pretty bad when he woke up one morning… green goopy eyes… so I’m thinking we were dealing with the bacterial version. Luckily we didn’t have to go to the pediatrician and the breast milk helped us out :) — Thanks for your post! I love reading about natural remedies!

  15. Laura says

    Good for you, Betsy! Thank you for sharing your experience. You’re definitely not alone in your desire to live as self-sufficient a lifestyle as possible, know where our food comes from, and depend on the inherent healing properties in plants and foods. Your website is a great resource for me.

    Laura in Michigan

  16. Nikki S says

    I have used warm (not hot!) black tea bags as compresses on my eye with success. Something to do with the tannins in tea. The warm, moist compress is very soothing. Also, I have used watered down apple cider vinegar with an eye dropper. I had used filtered water, boiled it and waited for it to cool down. Can’t remember the exact amounts but it was maybe a 10% solution or less, like 1 part ACV to 10 parts water… Cleared it right up when it was too advance for the tea bag trick.

  17. Doris S says

    Hello Folks! That’s wonderful news. Betsy, I love the mad scientist in you! I have allergies year round and one of the signs that I need to do a nasal flush is the progression of eye mucus. Once I flush my sinuses the eye mucus is minimized. I will try the milk and raw honey solution. I will even try coconut milk and honey.I don’t keep cows milk in the house as everyone here can not digest it very well. Will let you know what happens. (Making the mad scientist noises, lol)

  18. Bea says

    I only had it once – the bacterial kind, I guess – when I had one of the worst colds or flus (can’t remember which) in my life. I had somehow wiped snot germs into an eye, and it spread to the other one. My solution is now to never, ever, touch my eyes after touching anything germy, unless my hands have been freshly washed. I was really, really sick, and stopped at a diner to get some soup on the way home from the ER, and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror behind the counter – pale and ghastly, eyes vermillion red, surrounded by the sickly yellow smear of the imaging solution the doc had allowed to drip all over my face. I think it was that vision that convinced me to never get pink eye again!

  19. Deb Sampson nurse practitioner says

    While these types of remedies may work on some people, using honey and raw milk can lead to some devastating outcomes. These items have the potential to foster bacterial overgrowth of a variety of bacteria and fungi that can cause blindness. There can also be toxins in honey that are not harmful via the GI tract in adults but are serious dangers to eyes. Anything that goes in the eye should be as sterile as possible or have viral/fungal/bactericidal properties. A more ‘natural’, safe and effective treatment is mixing Boric Acid powder with cooled boiled water and pouring into the infected/draining eye – repeat 2 or 3 times a day. Bacteria and fungi (and some viruses) do not like acidic environments and can’t grow in them. Boric acid is mild enough in proper dilution not to sting and is not damaging to the eyes or eyesight.

  20. Elenor says

    hey everyone, great read! My son got the pink eye or what we call at home(red eye) and i use blue water to clear it up. Yes the blue that you put in your white clothes to get them looking white. As a child that is what my grandparents used and it worked fine, if you ask me better than the prescription drugs.

  21. says

    I’ve treated pink eye in our house with calendula. I make a strong calendula infusion and, using a sterilized dropper, drop a few drops into the eyes every few hours.

  22. Elizabeth says

    I have always had great success using only raw honey. It has to be raw, unpasteurized honey. In addition to pink eye, honey is also great for minor scrapes and wounds. When I had my son my c-section incision started to open. I was prescribed some type of cream. The cream did nothing but create a horribly itchy rash on all the skin it touched. That’s when I started using honey. Within two days the rash was gone, any oozing from the incision was dried up and the incision was healing (closed) nicely. Yay for natural!

  23. Emily says

    My mom always had us rinse with saline and that worked well but not long; it’s not a very different environment than usual. A friend uses breast milk for her babies and their clogged tear ducts. I used the tea bag method for mine and that worked great.

  24. says

    Avoid your eyes from touching with hands. During the treatment process, symptoms of pinkeye can be reduced with a cold or warm compress on the eyes. Be sure a clean cloth is used on each eye or the infection can spread.

  25. LS says

    I found your article last night when I woke up with pink eye and was desperate for a solution to avoid heading to the doctor this morning. I didn’t have any milk, so I warmed honey with some distilled water instead. This morning, my eye is barely pink and feels so much better! Thanks for your idea!!

  26. Carla says

    We used milk and honey and actually neither were unpasteurized. It kicked the bug in my eyes right away, and my 3 year olds improved very noticeably. Yes, you are right, it stings like crazy for the first 30 seconds. One cautionary statement – for those who have pollen or outdoor allergies, honey in the eye can cause super crazy swelling, like in my poor husband. Still kicked the pink eye though. :)