Alternative Therapies for Edema

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Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Herbs with apparent diuretic effects include:

Taraxacum, better known as Dandelion/tea has been used by some practitioners to relieve swelling and edema. Dandelion is an unusually nutritious food. Its leaves contain substantial levels of vitamins A, C, D, and B complex as well as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, choline, calcium, boron, and silicon.

Goldenrod is used as a supportive treatment for bladder infections, irritation of the urinary tract, and bladder/kidney stones. Goldenrod is said to wash out bacteria and kidney stones by increasing the flow of urine, and also, soothe inflamed tissues and calm muscle spasms in the urinary tract. It isn't used as a cure in itself, but rather as an adjunct to other, more definitive treatments such as (in the case of bladder infections) antibiotics. Several studies have found that goldenrod does in fact increase urine flow, but there is no direct evidence that this in turn leads to any other medical benefits. Warning: Urinary conditions such as kidney stones are potentially serious. For this reason, medical advice is recommended.

Grape Seed Extract has antioxidant properties reducing free radical damage and oxidative stress, suggesting that it may be particularly effective in reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and a number of chronic diseases associated with aging. Other claims include cardioprotection, improves vascular strength, reduces edema, and promotes eye health.

Homeopathic options, Massage and Acupuncture may also be useful and as a supportive therapy.

Daily exercise is often recommended as it will help to keep your blood flowing, so pick something you like to do (walking, swimming, weight training, Ta'i Chi, Yoga) and make time to do it.


* Pulmonary edema (involves fluid accumulation and swelling in the lungs) is a medical emergency and requires immediate care. Although it can sometimes prove fatal, the outlook is often good when you receive prompt treatment along with therapy for the underlying problem.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Pulmonary edema is usually caused by heart failure that results in increased pressure in the pulmonary (lung) veins. However, problems within the lungs themselves can also result in fluid accumulation. Pulmonary edema can be a complication of a heart attack, leaking or narrowed heart valves (mitral or aortic valves), or any disease of the heart that either results in weakening and/or stiffening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). The failing heart transmits its increased pressure to the lung veins. As pressure in the lung veins rises, fluid is pushed into the air spaces (alveoli). This fluid then becomes a barrier to normal oxygen exchange, resulting in shortness of breath.

Pulmonary edema can also be caused by direct lung injury from toxins including heat and poisonous gas, severe infection, or an excess of body fluid as seen in kidney failure.

* Feet and ankles - If pressing with the fingers on your feet and ankles results in the formation of small "pits," consult your doctor. This can be a sign of a serious health problem.
* If you are pregnant and notice swelling, contact your physician for more information about preeclampsia.

Research on Edema

Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press; 1994:74–75.

European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Solidaginis virgaureae herba (goldenrod). Exeter, UK: ESCOP; 1996–1997:1–3. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs, Fascicule 2.

Research Citations on the Efficacy of Massage Therapy
A growing body of research confirms the efficacy of massage for a variety of illnesses and ailments. Massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate; increase cytotoxic capacity (activity level of the body’s natural "killer cells"); enhance weight gain in pre-term infants; increase lymph flow and reduce edema; relieve and reduce certain types of back pain; and, reduce anxiety and relieve stress.

Circulatory & Respiratory Systems
Beeken, J., et. al. Effectiveness of Neuromuscular Release Massage Therapy on Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. Clin. Nurs. Research. 7(3): 309-325; Augt 1998.

Massage increases thoracic gas volume, peak flow and forced vital capacity.

Cady, S.H., Jones, G.E. Massage Therapy as a Workplace Intervention for Reduction of Stress. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 84(1): 157-158; Feb 1997.

Massage reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Curtis, M. The Use of Massage in Restoring Cardiac Rhythm. Nurs. Times (England). 90 (38): 36-37; Sept 21-27, 1994.

Fakouri, C., Jones, P. Relaxation Rx: Slow Stroke Back Rub. J. of Geron. Nurs. 13 (2): 32-35; Feb 1987.
Massage reduces blood pressure and heart rate.

Potential Interactions Between Alternative Therapies and Coumadin
Amy M. Heck, Beth A. Dewitt, and Anita L. Lukes
[Am J Health-Syst Pharm 57(13):1221-1227, 2000. © 2000 ASHP, Inc.]

Papain is a mixture of proteolytic enzymes found in extract of papaya, the fruit of the papaya tree (Carica papaya). It is taken orally in the belief that it reduces edema, inflammation, herpes zoster symptoms, diarrhea, and psoriasis symptoms. The pharmacologic mechanisms by which papain may affect coagulation are not known. However, one case of an interaction between Coumadin and papain was identified in the 1991-95 toxicology review conducted throughout the United Kingdom by the National Poisons Information Service.[44] A patient who had maintained a therapeutic INR while receiving Coumadin began taking papaya extract containing papain as a weight-loss aid. The patient was admitted for cardiac surgery with an INR of 7.4. After withdrawal of both papaya extract and Coumadin, the patient's INR decreased to 2.0. The details of the case have not been published, however.
Patients receiving Coumadin should be advised to avoid papain supplementation until further information about this potential interaction becomes available.
Jellin JM, Batz F, Hitchens K. Pharmacist's letter/prescriber's letter natural medicines comprehensive database. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 1999.

44. Shaw D, Leon C, Kolev S et al. Traditional remedies and food supplements; a 5-year toxicological study (1991-1995). Drug Saf. 1997; 17:342-56.

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