By Sarena-Rae Santos, Contributing Writer
The last vaccine I received was in 2013. I had gotten the annual flu shot, and I not only got the flu but pneumonia too. I remember going to the doctor and being prescribed Tamiflu, antibiotics, and steroids. They also told me to take a fever reducer every 4 hours until the fever broke. I did as I was told, no questions asked (silly me), and it took nearly a month until I got better.
So when I got sick with covid the first time, my biggest concern was getting pneumonia again. I was sick for roughly a month, and a nurse friend told me about proning. Proning, or laying in a prone position, is simply laying flat on your stomach for a prolonged period. A 2014 study found proning for 12-18 hours per session benefits oxygenation and potentially improves mortality through the mitigation of abnormal lung tissue strain with moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (1). A more recent study found adopting awake-prone positioning in non-intubated patients with COVID-19 may delay or reduce the need for intensive care (2).
Along the lines of proning, it’s recommended not to lay on your back for an extended period when you have pneumonia. Laying on your back for prolonged periods can allow fluid or mucus to gather in your lungs, giving bacteria a place to grow.
You may be wondering what can be done if you do get pneumonia and if there are natural remedies you can try before taking the mainstream approach to care. First, let’s discuss what pneumonia is.
What is Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs as a result of bacteria, viruses, or fungi organisms. The air sacs may fill with purulent material during pneumonia, sometimes called fluid or pus. Pneumonia can be mild or life-threatening. It is most serious for children under five, people older than 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems (3).
Symptoms of pneumonia may include (4):
- A cough – which may be dry or produce a thick yellow, green, brown, or blood-stained mucus (phlegm)
- Difficulty breathing – your breathing may be rapid and shallow, and you may feel breathless even when resting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Feeling generally unwell
- Sweating and shivering
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pain – which gets worse when breathing or coughing
- Coughing up blood (haemoptysis)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Joint and muscle pain
- Feeling confused and disorientated, particularly in the elderly
As I mentioned before, pneumonia can be mild or life-threatening. For instance, viral pneumonia is typically mild and gets better without treatment within 1 to 3 weeks (5). In other cases, such as severe difficulty breathing or coughing up blood, it can be life-threatening, and seeking a trusted medical professional is advised. Keep in mind there is also the chance of walking pneumonia. Of course, if you don’t feel equipped to treat pneumonia naturally, feel you need more than what natural remedies can provide, or would like a formal diagnosis, seeking a naturopath is a great option.
Natural Remedies for Pneumonia
When it comes to pneumonia, a fever is usually present. Suppose you read How to Handle Fevers Naturally. In that case, you already know the importance of letting a fever work its course and how fevers reducing on their own is vital to recovery from any illness. So just some quick reminders to naturally support the body during a fever:
- Keep comfortable
- Stay hydrated
- Take detox baths
- Support the lymphatic system
Earthley’s Ultimate Guide to Fevers is an excellent resource if you’re looking for more in-depth solutions surrounding fevers.
Aside from fever management, you can only address the root cause (infection) and manage symptoms when dealing with pneumonia, so let’s do it.
Addressing the Infection
Addressing the infection is tricky because many believe you need antibiotics for all infections. Believe it or not, doctors prescribe about 47 million antibiotic courses annually for infections that don’t need antibiotics (6). If you read 6 Reasons Why You Should Ditch Antibiotics, you already know antibiotics can cause many health complications and often don’t even work. So what can you use instead? Oil of oregano or fermented garlic honey.
Oil of Oregano has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, amongst many other beneficial properties (7,8,9). Oil of Oregano is made by infusing extra virgin olive oil with dried oregano leaves, creating a robust and ingestible “natural antibiotic” widely used in the natural community.
Fermented Garlic Honey has immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties and relieves upper respiratory tract infection symptoms (10,11,12,13). Fermented Garlic Honey is made by fermenting garlic cloves in honey and also creates a “natural antibiotic” commonly used in the natural community.
Addressing the Cough & Shortness of Breath
Mainstream cough medicines like Dextromethorphan (DXM) have a long list of side effects. We commonly hear about drowsiness, but it can also cause seizures. Not to mention regular abuse of DXM at high doses can lead to chemical psychosis (14).
Other options include herbs like fenugreek and dandelion.
Fenugreek helps maintain mucus conditions in the body (mainly in the lungs) by helping to clear congestion and acts as a throat cleanser and mucus solvent easing the urge to cough (17). These benefits are why fenugreek is commonly used to aid asthma symptoms (18). Fenugreek also helps relieve pain and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (19,20), which can significantly impact recovery from pneumonia.
Dandelions aren’t just a weed in your backyard. In traditional herbal medicine, dandelions are widely acknowledged for their vast array of medicinal properties like antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (21,22). In animal studies, dandelion extract relaxes airway muscles, inhibits bronchial muscle contractions, and relieves the respiratory resistance of healthy and asthmatic mice (23).
Why not opt for something less dangerous than DXM, like Earthley’s Cough-B-Gone, which has all three of these herbs? Cough-B-Gone is an herbal tincture created to help relieve colds, coughs, and congestion. This tincture combines herbs like mullein leaf, fenugreek seed, and dandelion root to nourish your body and support the respiratory system.
Addressing Nausea & Vomiting
Addressing nausea and vomiting without mainstream solutions can be pretty straightforward, as many herbs are great for these symptoms. When struggling with these symptoms, a doctor may prescribe Zofran, which blocks the body’s natural substances that cause vomiting. Zofran is typically used to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment or after surgery. Zofran has side effects such as stomach pain, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat. Additionally, Zofran may cause serotonin syndrome/toxicity (24).
Astragalus and fennel are excellent natural options to soothe an upset stomach and ease nausea and vomiting.
Astragalus may alleviate symptoms of chemotherapy, like nausea and vomiting, which is why Zofran is often prescribed. One study discovered people undergoing chemotherapy who were given IV astragalus experienced reduced nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (25). Another study found astragalus eased nausea and vomiting in colon cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy (26).
Fennel is a carminative herb rich in volatile oils that help the gut soothe and remove gas from the digestive tract (27). Between being a carminative herb and its anti-inflammatory properties, fennel is great for improving overall digestion and upset stomach. Fennel soothes upset tummies, gas, bloating, and other digestive distress (28). One study found that supplementing dietary fennel seed powder improves appetite, digestion, nutrient absorption, and immunity (29).
Why not opt for something less dangerous than Zofran, like Earthley’s Feel Better Fast, which has both of these herbs? Feel Better Fast is an herbal tincture created to knock out coughs, sniffles, and upset tummies in no time. This tincture combines herbs like echinacea root, fennel seed, astragalus root, elderflower, and cinnamon to nourish your body with vitamins and minerals to help your body heal itself quicker.
Addressing Joint, Muscle Pain & Fatigue
Joint and muscle pain is a common symptom of illness, and it’s pretty uncomfortable. This pain typically comes from congestion in the lymphatic system. The immune system is very active, killing germs, and there is lots of extracellular waste. Plus, you’re probably not moving around much, and the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump, so cellular debris gets trapped. That’s where lymphatic support comes in.
Detox baths, dry brushing, and Earthley’s Lymphatic Cream can help ensure that your system works properly to flush out the waste and head to a quicker recovery.
A detox bath is a warm or hot bath with some addition like herbs, salt, clay, etc. — that helps draw toxins out through the skin. Detox baths help the perspiration pathway work more effectively. Try making one of our 5 Detox Bath Recipes or try Earthley’s Detox Bath, which combines calendula, hyssop, yarrow, ginger, and sage to help relieve pain, soothe rashes, promote lymphatic health, and improve sleep.
Dry brushing helps detoxify and encourage lymphatic drainage by increasing blood circulation (30). There is no scientific proof that dry brushing is energizing. Still, many people feel invigorated and energized after a dry brushing session (31), which may help with the fatigue often associated with illness. An excellent dry brushing resource is How & Why to Dry Brush.
Earthley’s Lymphatic Cream is a lotion created to help relieve achy body parts caused by swollen lymph nodes. This cream tackles lymphatic congestion at the source and gently encourages drainage to help detox, reduce soreness, and improve overall wellness.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.