The chances are, you've never heard of iridology - the study of the coloured part, or iris, of the eye to gain information about an individual's health status. This is a shame, since iridology deserves a place among the pantheon of better-known methods of health assessment, such as tongue and pulse diagnosis, used by herbalists and naturopaths the world over.
The eyes have it!
It's important to note at the outset that iridology is not a diagnostic technique. If you came to me for a consultation in Forest Row, I would take photos of your irises - more correctly, irides - using the rather Heath Robinson-esque equipment lurking in the corner of my consulting room. I would then use these images to tell you more about yourself and to guide and shape my advice to you, but I would not look at your iris pictures and say, "Your eyes tell me you've got rheumatoid arthritis/an underactive thyroid/type 2 diabetes/insert medical condition here." Some iris features and groups of features are more common in people with certain conditions, providing clues to the iridologist as to why the condition may have developed and the appropriate treatment approaches. This is very different to diagnosing the complaint using iridology in the first place.
There are two areas where iridology is most useful. On the one hand, it provides plenty of extremely useful information on an individual's inbuilt strengths and weaknesses. This allows the iridologist to share with their patients strategies to help them live within their own constitutions - the keys to a hopefully problem-free health future. Secondly, iridology offers numerous clues as to why specific conditions may have developed - the 'dynamics of disharmony' in my iridology tutor's memorable phrase - information that naturally points to the appropriate treatment.
Colour and constitution
The most obvious characteristic of an individual's iris is their eye colour. This is caused by the presence or absence of pigment. Blue eyes, for example, are not actually blue: the fibres that make up the blue iris are colourless. It is the layer below the iris fibres that contains blue pigment, and this colour is reflected in the blue eye because the iris fibres do not contain any pigment themselves. Green/hazel and brown eyes contain increasing amounts of brown pigment covering some or all of the iris fibres.
The first level of the iridology assessment is the individual's overarching constitution, which corresponds to the blue, brown and green/hazel eye colours. We'll take a brief look at the three broad iridological constitutions below.
The lymphatic (blue-eyed) constitution
Blue eyes are known as the 'lymphatic' constitution in iridology, named after the lymphatic circulation. The lymphatic system lies just below the skin, draining and recycling metabolic wastes produced by cells and tissues. Rich in circulating white blood cells, lymph fluid is also an active part of the immune system.
Lymphatic iris types show a high degree of reactivity in their systems and are prone to infections and inflammation. These are the body's way of trying to rid itself of unwanted irritants, with the lymphatic system playing a central role. Blue-eyed kids usually suffer from the classic inflammatory childhood diseases, such as measles, mumps and chickenpox. Lymphatic types are prone to arthritis and rheumatism, allergies and especially hay fever, swollen glands and irritations of the mucous membranes such as sore throats and tonsillitis.
The haematogenic (brown-eyed) constitution
Iridologists call the brown-eyed constitution the 'haematogenic' constitution. Brown-eyed people are at the opposite end of the reactivity spectrum from blue-eyed, lymphatic types. Rather than setting up a powerful inflammatory reaction to rid itself of unwanted material, the haematogenic system tends toward accumulation and excess. There are fewer early-warning signs, such as fever, in brown-eyed people, and as such any health conditions are likely to be more serious as and when symptoms do appear. Common conditions among haematogenics are metabolic disorders, including raised blood sugar leading eventually to type 2 diabetes, anxiety and stress, and lumps, bumps and cysts of all kinds.
The mixed (hazel/green-eyed) constitution
The final iridological constitutional type is the mixed iris, which contains both pigmented (blue) and unpigmented (brown) areas upon examination. Mixed eyes look green or hazel to the observer.
The watchword for mixed iris types is digestion, as there is often a reduced supply of digestive secretions from the pancreas, liver and gallbladder. As such, mixed iris types often suffer from bloating and gas after meals and may tend toward constipation. They are also more prone to dysbiosis, where the natural balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut becomes disturbed.
An iridology assessment is as individual as you are
After the constitution, the next level of the iridological assessment is the disposition, or broad structure of the iris fibres. The disposition tells the iridologist about factors such as energy usage, resistance to stress, immunity and susceptibility to injury. This is followed by the diathesis, which is mostly concerned with the patterns of pigment that usually exist above the level of the iris fibres. The diathesis provides information on acquired as well as innate factors - that is, things that have built up over the course of an individual's life. As well as these, the iridologist would take many other features into account when assessing an individual's health status - so as you can see, this brief discussion of constitution barely scratches the surface of iridology. And that's without even mentioning behavioural or emotional iridology!
As witnessed by the increasing use of iris-scanning technology in our paranoid modern world, the iris is as individual as the fingerprint. It's no exaggeration to say that iridology provides a truly individual method of health assessment, one that can shed light on problems both past and current and which offers the promise of living a healthful life within the limits of the bodies in which we are born.
Why not give it a try sometime?
An irregular blog
I'm Adam Smith, a Herbalist and Naturopath practising in the Surrey/West Sussex/Kent border area. Although I hope it will change, I don't currently post here regularly.