General characteristics

General characteristics

Pleurisy is inflammation of the pleura. The pleura is the membrane that lines the thoracic cavity (the ribcage) and envelop the lungs. It is actually made up of two membranes containing a fluid that act as a protective cushion surrounding the lungs and prevent friction between the lungs and ribcage during breathing. Pleurisy is described as being either 'wet' or 'dry'.

When the pleura become inflamed, they can rub against each other and cause pain with movement and with breathing (dry pleurisy). The pleura may also become filled with excessive quantities of fluid (wet pleurisy) which leak from the inflamed tissues and exert pressure on the lungs, heart or other structures. The main symptoms include sharp stabbing pains on breathing and coughing, shallow breathing (due to pain), dry cough, laughing and sneezing, pain on movement, general malaise, fever and sweating and swelling of the eyelids or lower legs in wet pleurisy. The pain may be felt in the back and shoulders, behind the breasts, under the armpits and around the ribcage.

Inflammation of the pleura is commonly caused by infection such as colds and influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, from injury, tumours, as a complication of certain gastrointestinal disorders (pancreatitis etc), pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs) or inflammation of the diaphragm.

Healing objectives are to raise the vitality and immunity of the body to deal with any infection, keep warm and well rested, help drain any fluids using appropriate herbs and to keep a good blood flow to and from the lungs. Make sure you are not constipated as this can burden the lungs.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Keep the diet fresh and wholesome, avoiding all processed and stodgy or sugary foods as they will slow down the healing process.

Eat plenty of homemade soups containing lots of vegetables and green leaves, fresh herbs and spices.

Eat lots of berry fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, goji and bilberries and for their antioxidant and anthrocyanins content

Include plenty of raw and cooked garlic and onions in the diet for their antibiotic, fluid thinning and warming nature.

Other useful spices to include are ginger, chilli, black pepper, horseradish, mustard and turmeric.

Avoid alcohol and cigarette smoke.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

See also lungs for other herbs to strengthen the lungs and cough for specific cough remedies.

Pleurisy root is a herb specific to pleurisy (hence its common name) and can be used as a tea to heal the condition. Make a tea containing equals parts of dried pleurisy root, mullein leaves, boneset and yarrow and drink 3 cups daily.

Angelica root can be added to any of the formulas below to improve blood flow and relieve congestion in the lung area.

Nettle tea is a good all round drink for any lung condition.

Dandelion root and buchu leaves can be added to tea formulas to help to drain fluids from the lungs.

The diaphoretic (sweat inducing and capillary dilating) herbs such as peppermint, yarrow, boneset and elderflower will also greatly help to encourage fluid removal and improve blood and fluid circulation when taken as a hot tea.

Immune boosting and lung strengthening herbs such as thyme, elderflowers and berries, raspberry leaf, boneset, elecampagne root, marshmallow root and echinacea root can help the body deal with infection. Simmer a teaspoonful each of the roots in a pint and a half of water for 10 minutes before adding a teaspoonful each of the leaves and berries and stand for a further 10 minutes or so. Drink this liquid (warm/hot) over the day.

Add a pinch of fresh grated ginger to teas to provide warmth to the body and blood moving properties which enhance the action of other herbs.

A pinch of cayenne (chilli) powder will do the same.

Comfrey leaf tea can be taken to help increase the vitality and functioning of the lungs.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Applying hot towels to the chest (front and back) will help to relieve pain and bring some relief. You could also soak the towels in the hot herbal teas mentioned in the useful herbs section.

Keep warm and get plenty of rest until healing is complete.

Add a teaspoon of good quality honey or a few drops of propolis tincture to your herbal teas for their positive action on the immune system.

Certain breathing exercises, pranayama, will help to exercise and strengthen the lungs and can help to prevent future episodes of pleurisy in those susceptible.

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