Pulmonary edema occurs when too much fluid accumulates in the lungs, often
due to heart attacks, heart disease, or acute severe asthma. It requires
immediate medical attention.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms often begin suddenly and get worse quickly. They
Extreme shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Tightness and pain in the chest
Bluish nails and lips
Pink, frothy mucus coming from nose and
What Causes It?
Some risk factors for pulmonary edema include the following.
High blood pressure
Coronary or valvular heart disease
Exposure to high altitude
Central nervous system injury
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Immediate treatment is required because an attack is life-threatening. Once
the initial attack is under control, your provider will order blood tests and a
urine test to look for what may have caused the attack. You will also undergo a
chest X ray and electrocardiogram.
Medications include diuretics to remove excess fluid from the lungs and
morphine to relieve congestion. In rare cases, surgery may be needed.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies can strengthen the cardiopulmonary system.
Increase dietary potassium and magnesium when using diuretics (for
example, bananas, apricots, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables).
Coenzyme Q10 (100 mg twice a day) supports cardiac
L-carnitine (500 mg three times per day) improves
Magnesium aspartate (200 mg two to three times per day) increases
efficiency of cardiac muscle. Magnesium and calcium (1,000 mg per day) improve
fluid exchange in the body.
Potassium aspartate (20 mg per day) improves ability of heart muscle
to contract and should be supplemented with diuretic use.
Vitamin E (400 IU per day) is an antioxidant and protects your
Vitamin C (1,000 to 1,500 mg three times per day) is an
Taurine (500 mg twice a day) enhances cardiac function.
Raw heart concentrate (100 to 200 mg per day) provides essential
nutrients to the heart.
Selenium (200 mcg per day) protects heart and lung
Choline (250 to 500 mg per day) and inositol (150 to 200 mg per day)
positively affect heart and lung
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.
The following are best administered in a tea (4 to 6 cups per day), although
a tincture may be used (30 to 60 drops four times per day). Combine three of the
these herbs with equal parts of two to three additional herbs from the following
categories, according to the underlying cause. Cleavers (Galium aparine),
yarrow (Achillea millefolium), oatstraw (Avena sativa), elder
(Sambucus nigra), red clover (Trifolium pratense), fresh parsley
(Petroselinum crispus), and dandelion leaf (Taraxacum
For pulmonary edema that does not originate with the heart:
Garlic (Allium sativum) helps you cough up mucus, lowers blood
pressure, and stimulates your immune system. (Garlic can also be taken as
capsules, 1,000 to 4,000 mg per day.)
Linden flowers (Tilia cordata) reduce spasms, lower blood
pressure, prevent hardening of the arteries, relax your respiratory
Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) stimulates respiratory
function, reduces spasms, and lowers blood pressure.
Thyme leaf (Thymus vulgaris) helps you cough up mucus, tones
the respiratory system, and increases circulation.
For pulmonary edema originating with the heart:
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) helps your heart work
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) has antispasmodic properties,
relieves heart palpitations, and enhances cardiac function.
Rosemary strengthens blood vessels and is a heart
Homeopathy may be useful as a supportive therapy.
Alternating hot and cold applications with hand or foot baths may help
circulation. Alternate three minutes hot with one minute cold. Repeat three
times to complete one set. Do two to three sets per day.
Castor oil pack. Apply oil directly to the chest, cover with a clean soft
cloth and plastic wrap. Place a heat source over the pack and let sit for 30 to
Acupuncture may improve cardiopulmonary function.
Massage can assist with increasing circulation and lymphatic
Continued medication and surveillance may be required.
Pregnant women who are obese and have high blood pressure are at increased
risk for pulmonary edema.
Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace
Publishers; 1995:73, 80, 155, 156.
Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic
Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine
Communications; 1998:423, 425.
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Robert A. Anderson, MD,
President, American Board of Holistic Medicine, East Wenatchee, WA; Gary
Guebert, DC, DACBR, Login Chiropractic College, Maryland Heights, MO; Tom Wolfe,
P.AHG, Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD.
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