Endocarditis is an inflammation of the endocardium, a membrane that covers
connective tissue in heart valves and lines heart chambers. Most cases are
caused by a bacterial infection. Endocarditis is a serious ailment that can lead
to severe medical complications, and can even be fatal if not
Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptom of endocarditis is fever. The fever may be high or
low, and it may seem to come and go. Other common symptoms include the
Discomfort or uneasiness
Muscle, joint, back pain
Cold, painful hands and feet
Small purplish spots on skin
Painful tips of fingers or toes
Shortness of breath
What Causes It?
Most of the causes of endocarditis are related to a bacterial infection.
Heart conditions that increase your risk include having mechanical heart valves,
a previous case of endocarditis, heart defects and dysfunctions, and
degenerative heart disease. Dental and surgical procedures that increase your
risk of infective endocarditis include dental procedures that irritate the gums,
tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, intestinal and respiratory surgery, gallbladder
surgery, cystoscopy, bronchoscopy, and vaginal delivery with an infection
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Your health care provider will listen to your heart and lungs, take your
pulse, and check your eyes and skin. Your provider likely will order a number of
tests, which could include blood tests, urine analysis, an echocardiogram, a
computed tomography scan, and a cinefluoroscopy (a motion-picture type heart
scan). In most cases, your provider will admit you to the hospital, possibly in
intensive care, until your condition is better understood and your symptoms are
Endocarditis is treated with antibiotics, almost always intravenously. In
some cases, surgery is also required.
Infective endocarditis is usually treated with a combination of two or even
three antibiotics, such as penicillin, gentamicin, vancomycin, cefazolin,
ceftriaxone, nafcillin, oxacillin, rifampin, and ampicillin. Treatment generally
takes two to six weeks.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Endocarditis has serious ramifications and requires aggressive medical
treatment. Alternative therapies may be used concurrently to help reduce
severity, duration, and progression of disease.
To support immune function, include vitamins C (1,000 mg up to three
times a day), E (400 to 800 IU a day), A (10,000 IU/day) or beta-carotene
(100,000 IU a day), selenium (200 mcg a day), and zinc (30 mg a day).
Coenzyme Q10 (100 mg twice a day) protects the heart.
Magnesium (200 to 500 mg two to three times a day) for normal cardiac
function. Do not take if you have kidney damage.
Bromelain (250 to 500 mg three times a day between meals) is a
proteolytic enzyme that may increase the effectiveness of antibiotic
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, 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
For long-term cardiac support combine the following herbs in a tea (3
cups per day) or tincture (30 to 60 drops three times a day): 2 parts hawthorn
(Crataegus monogyna) with 1 part each motherwort (Leonurus
cardiaca) and linden flowers (Tilia cordata). Use additional herbs
from the following categories as needed.
Cardiac arrhythmias: Add 1 part each lily of the valley
(Convalleria majalis) and night-blooming cereus (Selenicereus
grandiflorus) to the cardiac formula above. These herbs must be used with
caution and under a health care provider's supervision.
Hawthorn berry (Crataegus laevigata) can be helpful in
decreasing arrhythmias. Use 1/2 tsp. of the solid extract, or 1,000
mg three times per day.
Infection: Combine equal parts of four to six of the following herbs:
coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), goldenseal root (Hydrastis
canadensis), wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), myrrh (Commiphora
molmol), garlic (Allium sativum), rosemary (Rosmarinus
officinalis). For acute infection take 60 drops of tincture every two hours.
For chronic infections or for prophylaxis, take 30 to 60 drops three times per
Renal involvement: Combine equal parts of bearberry
(Arctostaphylos uva ursi), cleavers (Galium aparine), dandelion
leaf (Taraxacum officinale), black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa),
yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and corn silk (Zea mays). Drink
3 cups per day.
Some of the most common remedies for this condition are listed
Aconite if you fear death, have rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
with full, hard bounding pulse of sudden onset
Cactus grandiflorus for endocarditis with mitral
insufficiency. You may have a feeble, irregular pulse and feel a chest
Digitalis if you have an irregular pulse with a sensation as if
your heart would stop if you moved
Spongia if you have a sensation of the heart
Acupuncture may help improve immunity and strengthen cardiac
In addition to monitoring your condition while you are in the hospital, your
health care provider will order follow-up procedures, such as blood tests, to
determine how well the prescribed treatment is working.
Barker LR, Burton JR, Zieve PD, eds. Principles of Ambulatory
Medicine. 4th ed. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1995:379-381.
Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace
Stoller JK, Ahmad M, Longworth DL, eds. The Cleveland Clinic Intensive
Review of Internal Medicine. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins;
Walker LP, Brown EH. The Alternative Pharmacy. Paramus, NJ: Prentice
Hall Press; 1998:239-240.
Werback MR. Nutritional Influences on Illness. New Canaan, Conn: Keats
Publishing, Inc; 1987:252-262.
Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Shiva Barton, ND, Wellspace,
Cambridge, MA; Leonard Wisneski, MD, FACP, George Washington University,
Rockville, MD; Terry Yochum, DC, Rocky Mountain Chiropractic Center, Arvada,
The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of
the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse
of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or
otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents
of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds
currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a
guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare
practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts)
regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed