I’m not going to lie: pneumonia freaks me out. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, certain chemicals, and other microorganisms. It usually follows upper respiratory infections (like colds or the flu) and makes it harder for a person to breathe because the lungs have to work harder to get oxygen to the bloodstream. This is why if pneumonia is not treated with urgency or with care, it can become a serious or life-threatening infection.
How Pneumonia Affects Your Body
Our bodies have a natural filtration system that filters germs out of the air we breathe. This system is what keeps the lungs from being infected. But, sometimes germs find their way into our lungs and can cause different respiratory problems. When the germs reach your lungs, the lung’s air sacs become inflamed and fill up with fluid and pus. These problems are more likely to occur if you are elderly, you have a weakened immune system, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, malnourished, a smoker, or if you have sickle cell disease or HIV.
It is imperative that you consult your health care provider if you think you suffer from any of these symptoms:
- Cough producing mucus or phlegm
- Shaking or chills
- Fast and shallow breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain made worse by coughing
- Fast heartbeat
- Feeling of tiredness or weakness
- Nausea or vomiting
When searching for herbal remedies to aid in the healing process of pneumonia and other respiratory infections, look for herbs with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. You also want to make sure that they are good expectorants. Some commonly used herbs that treat respiratory infections are pleurisy root, coltsfoot, mullein, echinecea, ginger, goldenseal, boneset, and more. Research the side effects and interactions of each herb you use. If you are taking antibiotics, heart medication, or prescription drugs, please consult your health care provider before ingesting any herbal remedy.
One of the most effective treatments for pneumonia and respiratory problems is pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa). Pleurisy root has antispasmodic, carminative (heating), diuretic, and expectorant properties that helps reduce inflammation of the lungs. It also helps loosen up mucus so it can be coughed up. It improves secretion of healthy lung fluids and is a lymphatic system stimulant. Pleurisy root is also a popular treatment for the flu, pleurisy, bronchitis, and coughs.
Side Effects and Interactions
If you are using pleurisy root, please use precautions when incorporating it into your herbal remedies. It can be potentially unsafe because it contains a chemical similar to the prescription drug digoxin (Lanoxin) used to treat irregular heartbeats and heart failure. Please don’t use it if you have heart problems. It can also cause nausea, skin rash, and vomiting.
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, it is possibly unsafe to use pleurisy root because it can stimulate the uterus and act as the hormone estrogen.
Pneumonia can be serious and life-threatening if not handled properly. This article is not meant to diagnosis or treat pneumonia but is provided for educational purposes. Please consult your health care provider to discuss all aspects of your care including treatment options. If you’re interested in a more holistic approach, consult a health care professional trained in botanical medicine or a registered herbalist. Some herbs may cause undesirable side effects and should be avoided or used only under the care and supervision of a health care professional.