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10 Herbal Remedies for Swelling and Fluid Retention

Do you suffer from swelling and tissue edema? These 10 herbs are natural inflammation and swelling fighters. Take them to eliminate excess swelling and fluid retention in your body.
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Swelling in the body, particularly the feet and ankles, is a common condition. Elderly people often have swelling simply due to aging and reduced circulation. This swelling is known as edema, which is caused by the abnormal retention of fluids in the body.

Although most cases of edema are not life-threatening, edema can potentially lead to other health issues, including reduced circulation, increased risk of ulcers, and increased risk of infection in the area. In most cases, the causes of edema are benign, but certain medical conditions and medications can also lead to swelling.

Common edema causes include obesity, pregnancy, injuries, medications, and diabetes. If you have edema, your first approach should include the RICE approach, which consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This should help heal many forms of edema- particularly if the swelling is injury-related.

Different causes of edema can require different treatment approaches.

5 Factors For Swelling

Edema has 5 factors that contribute to the swelling and the degree of swelling. These 5 factors include:

Deterioration of blood vessels: The walls of the blood vessels are designed to hold fluid inside the vessels. However, when the permeability of blood vessels increases (due to aging or another factor), fluid is more likely to leak out, leading to swelling and edema. 

Changes in tissue fluid retention: In some cases, the tissues in the body will change how likely they are to accept excess fluid. If water-loving compounds (such as hyaluronan) become part of the issue, then they are more likely to accept water and swell beyond normal levels. 
Impairment of lymphatic system: The lymphatic system normally moves excess fluids from tissues and cells. However, edema occurs when the lymphatic system is not working properly. For whatever reason, the body does not move excess fluid, which leads to further swelling.
Hydrostatic pressure: Hydrostatic pressure occurs when fluid is present in blood vessels. Fluid leaks out of blood vessels into nearby tissues, which causes swelling in the area. 
Oncotic pressure: Oncotic pressure is similar to hydrostatic pressure, but it is generated by plasma proteins rather than the blood vessels themselves. Just like hydrostatic pressure, however, this causes the fluid to leak into nearby tissues.

Using Herbs to Heal and Prevent Edema

The 5 factors listed above will contribute to an increase in non-injury related edema. During injuries, the swelling in the area increases to allow the area to heal faster and to prevent further injuries. However, unless an injury is present, swelling is normally not beneficial to any part of the body. The herbs listed below can help prevent the 5 factors that lead to non injury-related edema.

These herbs are effective for fighting a variety of edema causes, including strengthening blood vessels, reducing water retention, and helping the lymph system eliminate excess fluids.

Butcher's Broom

What it is: Butcher’s broom is a plant native to Africa and the Mediterranean area with a rigid shape and spiny leaves. The part of the plant used for medicinal purposes is typically the root, as the medicinal compounds are stronger in the root than in the other parts of the plant. Butcher’s broom has been used as a traditional healing plant for thousands of years.

How it fights edema: Researchers believe that the compounds steroidal saponins ruscogenin, neoruscogenin, prazosin, and diltiazem reduce blood vessel permeability and reduce swelling over time. Numerous studies have shown how edema symptoms are lessened over time with the use of butcher’s boom taken internally and applied directly to the swollen area. A 1996 placebo-controlled study published in Lymphology showed that supplementing with butcher’s broom was able to significantly reduce swelling and edema signs in patients who had previously had breast cancer and suffered from swollen lymph nodes. Other studies have also backed the same edema-fighting benefits of butcher’s broom.

Dosing: The standard dose for butcher’s broom for fighting edema is between 7 and 11 mg up to 3 times a day.

Side effects: There are few side effects reported when supplementing with butcher’s broom. The worst possible side effects are contact dermatitis and in a few cases, nausea. Patients taking alpha-adrenergic antagonist antihypertensive/spasmolytic drugs should avoid using butcher’s broom, as it can interfere with these medications. A 1989 study from Germany showed that pregnant mothers could supplement with butcher’s broom without any harm to the baby, although you should always talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any supplements while pregnant.

Goldenrod

What it is: Goldenrod is an herbal plant used to treat a variety of conditions, including edema. Goldenrod is an anti-inflammatory, which can help control swelling in the body.

How it fights edema: Goldenrod fights edema in two ways. First, the plant is anti-inflammatory. A 1992 study from Cairo University looked at the ability of goldenrod to fight edema in rats. The study showed that goldenrod in any of three tested formulas was able to significantly reduce swelling in rat paws. Goldenrod is also a mild diuretic, which can be helpful in reducing swelling.

Dosing: The recommended dosage for powdered goldenrod is 6-12 grams daily (taken in two doses). You can swallow goldenrod pills, or steep them in boiling water to make a tea. Taking goldenrod in conjunction with a liquid is a good idea, as too much goldenrod can have a dehydrating effect.

Side effects: Goldenrod has been studied little in humans. This means that all side effects may not be known. However, it is recommended that individuals who are allergic to ragweed and daisies avoid goldenrod (which is a relative of these plants). Consult with a medical professional before supplementing with goldenrod during pregnancy.

Stinging Nettle

What it is: Stinging nettle is a wild plant that grows in many regions of the world. Stinging nettle is used in many traditional remedies and herbal treatments for conditions like edema

How it fights edema: According to research, stinging nettle fights edema by reducing LPS stimulated proinflammatory cytokine release. This causes the body to reduce inflammation, which reduces inflammation and swelling throughout the body. A 2013 study from the University of Kashmir in India looked at the ability of stinging nettle to reduce swelling in rat paws. The researchers found that giving 200 mg of stinging nettle to rats was able to reduce inflammation in 48 percent of rats after 3 hours.

Dosing: The recommended dosage for stinging nettle is 120 mg taken three times daily until swelling has abated.

Side effects: There are few side effects of supplementing with stinging nettle. Studies on rats have shown that doses up to 1.31 grams are safe. Contact with the skin may cause some irritation, although in powdered form the irritation is less likely. Stinging nettle is recommended for use during pregnancy by a 1999 study published in the Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, but the American Pregnancy Association does not recommend stinging nettle while pregnant. Consult with your doctor or midwife to discuss possible risks and side effects during pregnancy.

Dandelion

What it is: Dandelion is the sunny weed that grows in many yards during the spring. Dandelion has been used to make salads, wine, and herbs. As an herbal supplement against edema, dandelion works as a mild diuretic. Dandelion is also extremely beneficial because it is one of the only supplements for edema that does not decrease potassium levels.

How it fights edema: The properties in dandelion can help reduce edema by eliminating water weight and increasing urination. Dandelion is also considered a mild laxative, which is also beneficial for reducing edema.

Dosing: According to the University of Maryland, the standard dosage for dandelion is 500 mg of powdered root 1-3 times daily.

Side effects: Dandelion has few side effects. Unless you have an allergy to dandelion or other weeds, it is unlikely you will have any side effects. Individuals with kidney disease or gallbladder disease should not take dandelion extract. Dandelion should be safe for use during pregnancy, but as always, consult with a medical professional to ensure it is safe in your particular case.

Goosegrass (or Cleavers)

What it is: This small weed-like herbal plant has small white flowers and has extremely sticky seeds (which is why it is often called cleavers). The plant is native to areas around the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Goosegrass has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine as a natural diuretic to fight edema.

How it fights edema: According to the University of Michigan, goose grass is effective as a mild diuretic. It helps reduce swelling by eliminating excess water weight from the body. Goosegrass contains glycosides, tannins, and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties as well as boost the elimination of excess fluids.

Dosing: According to the University of Michigan, the best way to take the supplement is in a liquid tincture. Dosages vary from 3–5 ml taken three times a day until swelling has subsided.

Side effects: There are no known side effects for goosegrass. However, you should not take goosegrass with other medications that have a diuretic effect on the body. Ask your doctor before supplementing with goose grass during pregnancy.

Horse Chestnut

What it is: Horse chestnut is an herb that has been used to treat edema and a variety of other conditions for hundreds of years. Horse chestnut is used in Germany as a remedy for many conditions, including vein problems.

How it fights edema: Researchers believe that horse chestnut strengthens the veins, which reduces their ability to release water into nearby tissues. This results in stronger veins and reduced swelling. Horse chestnut has been used effectively as a treatment for varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and bruises in addition to edema. A 1992 study from the University of Heidelberg in Germany found that supplementing with horse chestnut in addition to the use of compression stockings was beneficial in reducing leg swelling.

Dosing: The most effective dosage of horse chestnut is 50 mg of aescin per dose taken twice daily. A formula that is time-released and that does not contain esculin is the safest way to take the herb.

Side effects: A formula that does not contain esculin eliminates nearly all side effects from horse chestnut. Horse chestnut should not be taken with aspirin or anticoagulant drugs as it is a blood thinner. According to the NYU Medical Center, horse chestnut should be safe for use during pregnancy.

Uva Ursi

What it is: Uva Ursi (sometimes called bearberry) is a medicinal plant native to North America. It has been used as a folk remedy for many conditions for hundreds of years. The most traditional use for uva ursi is a treatment for bladder infections.

How it fights edema: Uva ursi contains tannins, which fight inflammation and reduce swelling. Taking uva ursi will help reduce overall swelling by fighting inflammation in the body’s tissues. A 1992 study from Kinki University in Japan found that the leaves of the uva ursi plant contains arbutin, which reduces swelling when combined with indomethacin.

Dosing: The recommended dose for uva ursi is 400 to 500 mg of arbutin per day.

Side effects: There are few known side effects for uva ursi. However, some studies hav shown that uva ursi may interfere with corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Talk with your doctor before adding uva ursi to your supplement routine if you take these medications. Uva ursi has a oxytocic effect on the body and should be avoided during pregnancy unless prescribed by a qualified health professional.

Parsley

What it is: Parsley is normally used as a spice for cooking or a garnish to make a plate more festive. However, parsley contains properties that can also fight swelling and edema.

How it fights edema: Parsley fights edema with ingredients like tannins, flavanoids, and other beneficial ingredients. Parsley has both a diuretic effect on the body in addition to anti-inflammatory effects. A 1962 study, as well as various others, looked at the anti-inflammatory effects of parsley on paw edema in rats. It was found that supplementing with parsley showed significant reduction in paw swelling.

Dosing: You can safely take up to 3 grams of parsley daily in three separate doses.

Side effects: Parsley can have a blood-thickening effect. Do not supplement with parsley if you are taking blood thinners. Parsley should also not be taken in conjunction with aspirin. Parsley is not safe to take during pregnancy and could lead to miscarriage.

Ginkgo Biloba

What it is: Ginkgo biloba is an ancient remedy for a variety of health conditions. Ginkgo is native to Asia, and if allowed to grow, turns into a large woody tree that looks similar to a cyprus tree. The part of the plant used for medicinal purposes are the seeds and leaves.

How it fights edema: Ginkgo biloba is a highly effective remedy for edema. It improves blood flow and enhances the circulation of blood. This helps prevent the blood vessels from leaking fluid into nearby tissues. A 1982 study found that extracts of ginkgo biloba improved blood vessel health in rabbits.

Dosing: Doses of 80-240 milligrams daily can help reduce edema symptoms. It can take up to three weeks before symptoms improve.

Side effects: Side effects for ginkgo biloba are generally mild. However, if you are taking blood sugar medications, ginkgo could interfere with these medications. At high doses, ginkgo could cause blood thinning. Ginkgo may increase bleeding after childbirth, so it should not be taken during pregnancy.

Buchu

What it is: Buchu is a small shrub native to South Africa. The leaves are used in many herbal remedies, including as a remedy for swelling and fluid retention. 

How it fights edema: Buchu contains Diosmin, Quercetin, Rutin, Hesperidin, and a few other ingredients that are beneficial in fighting against edema. For edema, buchu is a mild diuretic, which promotes the elimination of excess fluid.

Dosing: Buchu can be taken as an infusion. Soak 1 gram of buchu leaves or powder in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes before drinking the liquid. You can repeat this dosage up to three times a day.

Side effects: If you have acute kidney or bladder problems, you should not take buchu. Additionally, buchu may not be safe during pregnancy. Consult with a health professional before adding buchu to your supplement routine while pregnant.

Curing Edema With Herbs

There are many herbs that have beneficial effects both on the health of blood vessels and the ability to remove excess water from the body. Combining herbs that help in both areas will not only help stop existing edema, but it can also stop future edema from occurring. Formulas that address both the cause of edema and the symptoms are more effective at treating and preventing edema than formulas that simply eliminate excess water from the body.

Sources


Newall CA, et al. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1621440

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6124480

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