Maqui (Aristotelia chilensis) is a darkly pigmented Chilean berry that is showing promise in helping to relieve dry eyes.
Maqui and other berries have been harvested by the native populations of southern Chile and Argentina for more than 14,000 years and is currently known as a “super-fruit.”1,2 The berries contain an abundance of beneficial plant compounds known as anthocyanins and flavonols, as well as the phenol antioxidant ellagic acid.3
A recent review of the berry’s potential benefits lists:
- Protection against light-induced damage of photoreceptor cells
- Inhibition of the enzymes alpha-glucosidase and pancreatic lipase (which digest starch and fat)
- Anti-diabetic effects
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Analgesic effects
- Protection against atherosclerosis
- Promotion of hair growth
- Protection against skin photoaging
- Inhibition of lipid peroxidation4
Here’s another property to add to the growing list: increased tear fluid production and relief from dry eye symptoms.5
Tear Production and Dry Eyes
Maqui’s effect on the eyes was evaluated by researchers at Japan’s Gifu Pharmaceutical University, who examined the ability of maqui extract and two of its major anthocyanins (delphinidins) to inhibit photoreceptor cell death induced by visible light.6 They found improved cell viability and reduced intracellular radical activation in association with maqui berry extract as well as with the separate delphinidin compounds. Members of the Japanese team subsequently investigated the effect of maqui on tear fluid generation.Utilizing a rat model of dry eye, they found that oral pre-treatment with maqui extract helped preserve tear secretion and suppressed free radical formation in lacrimal glands, with higher doses associated with a greater benefit.7
In a pilot trial, 13 participants with moderately dry eyes received 30 milligrams (mg) or 60 mg per day of maqui extract for 60 days.5 Tear fluid volume, evaluated at the beginning and end of the study, significantly increased in both groups by the conclusion of the treatment period. Dry Eye-Related Quality of Life Scores, which assess the impact of eye dryness on daily routines, improved over time in both groups.
A randomized, double-blind trial compared the effects of four weeks of daily maqui extract (60 mg) to a placebo among 74 visual display terminal users between the ages of 30 and 60 years with symptoms of dry eye and eye fatigue.8 (Regular and prolonged use of visual display terminals is associated with eye strain and dry eye.) Eye dryness, eye fatigue, tear break-up time and other factors were assessed at the beginning and end of the trial. Those who received maqui berry had a greater amount of lacrimal fluid production in both eyes prior to a video display terminal load test in comparison with the placebo group. Eye fatigue and other symptoms were also reduced in association with maqui supplementation. The authors of the report noted that dry eye onset has been attributed to inflammation, caused by an increase in reactive oxygen species in the epithelial cells of the cornea that destabilizes the tear film layer, which suggests that maqui’s antioxidant components may be responsible for the positive effects revealed by the trial.
An investigation of maqui’s properties in mouse immune cells revealed its ability to downregulate the expression of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), which participates in the formation of inflammatory products.9 And in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 42 participants, consumption of maqui berry extract three times daily for four weeks was associated with a decrease in urinary F2-isoprostanes (a marker of oxidative stress) and oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.10
Research concerning the bioavailability of maqui berry extract revealed a significant increase in plasma levels of two selected anthocyanins with respective maximum concentrations occurring after one and two hours. “The results confirm a fast uptake and metabolism of the two selected key substances,” Christiane Schön and colleagues wrote. “The study clearly confirms the bioavailability of maqui berry extract and its specific anthocyanin compounds and related breakdown products in healthy subjects.”11
Preservatives in Eye Drops
The use of maqui could be a boon to those with dry eye who have had to rely upon eye drops that need to be administered throughout the day. While sometimes providing symptomatic relief, these drops can be initially irritating due to their preservatives. One potential concern is that some contain an ingredient known as tetrahydrozoline, which was associated with changes in corneal integrity in older analyses.12
The Bottom Line
Contact lens wearers, LASIK patients, individuals who spend hours in front of a computer monitor, those in arid or polluted environments, postmenopausal women or others who experience dry eyes may wish to try supplementing with maqui to relieve unpleasant dry eye symptoms. Life has enough irritating factors without irritated eyes.
About the author: Dayna Dye has been a member of the staff of Life Extension® since shortly after its inception. She has served as the department head of Life Extension® Wellness Specialists, is the author of thousands of articles published during the past two decades in Life Extension® Update, Life Extension Magazine® and on www.LifeExtension.com, and has been interviewed on radio and TV and in newsprint. She is currently a member of Life Extension’s Education Department.
- Schmeda-Hirschmann G et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2019 Sep 15;241:111979.
- Chang SK et al. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(10):1580-1604.
- Genskowsky E et al. J Sci Food Agric. 2016 Sep;96(12):4235-42.
- Romanucci V. et al. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2016;17(6):513-23.
- Hitoe S et al. Panminerva Med. 2014 Sep;56(3 Suppl 1):1-6.
- Tanaka J et al. Food Chem. 2013 Aug 15;139(1-4):129-37.
- Nakamura S et al. J Funct Foods. 2014 Sep;10:346-54.
- Yamashita SI et al. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018 Nov 22;9(3):172-178.
- Cespedes CL et al. Food Chem Toxicol. 2017 Oct;108(Pt B):438-450.
- Davinelli S et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34 Suppl 1:28-33.
- Schön C et al. Nutrients. 2018 Nov 9;10(11).
- Peyton SM et al. J Am Optom Assoc. 1989 Mar;60(3):207-10.