(NOTE: This article is from the old Herbal Legacy Newsletter)

September 2006

by Lindsay Wolsey, MH

A few weeks ago, we thought that my dad might have West Nile Disease.  He had a lot of the symptoms, and being a diabetic, his blood attracts mosquitoes like flies to honey.  So we went on-line, trying to decide if it was West Nile or the flu.  August is a little early for flu season.  Not being quite able to diagnose it, he called the doctor, who couldn’t get him in for an appointment for another month, and told him to go to the hospital.  Which would be over $500, and not worth it.  So he did nothing.  Until a week later, when he was still sick, and finally pushed his way into the doctor, and found out he had pneumonia.
The good thing about pneumonia is that is it generally treatable at home, unless you have a severe case.  Poor Meredith in our office had pneumonia, and ended up in the ICU for a few days.  We thought she had food poisoning, so the diagnosis was a surprise to all of us.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make you feel very miserable.  You might cough, run a fever, and find it difficult to breathe.  The good news is that it usually clears up in 2 to 3 weeks with allopathic treatment.  Why is that good news?  Because generally if you use an herbal treatment, you’re going to get better, faster.
The bad news is that you can catch pneumonia just from going about your daily life, work, school, church, Wal-Mart.  That’s known as community-based pneumonia.  There is also hospital-based pneumonia, which is something you usually catch from a hospital, or nursing home.  As if you don’t have enough problems already if you’re in the hospital or nursing home.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons why home is a statistically safer place to give birth?
What is the Cause?
As with most diseases, bacteria or viruses are to blame.  What usually happens is you breathe some nasty pneumonia germs into your lungs.  Depending on the state of your immune system, you might not be able to fight off the germs.  Many people get pneumonia after a bought with a cold or flu.  Your lungs are already taxed, so it makes it harder for your immune system to fight off the infection.  You are also higher at risk for pneumonia if you have long-term diseases, like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or cancer.  Boy do I know this one all too well.  My father-in-law has cancer, and his immune system is gone from the Chemo (but that’s a different newsletter!), and my dad not only has diabetes, the X-ray for the pneumonia diagnosis showed an enlarged heart.  He’s a walking pneumonia target!
What are the Symptoms?
You might experience coughing—particularly coughing up mucus from your lungs, fever, fast breathing or feeling short of breath, shaking and the chills, chest pain, fast heartbeat, and weakness.  You might even experience delirium or confusion in your thinking.  Symptoms usually come on pretty fast.
If the symptoms you experience are mild, then you have what is commonly called “walking pneumonia.”  This is the easiest type of pneumonia to treat, and easy to avoid the hospital!
What would the Doctor say?
The first thing that will happen is the doctor will take an X-ray, and maybe a blood test.  Sometimes they can diagnose pneumonia without the X-ray, but that seems to be rare.  Occasionally they will need a swab of mucus from your lungs.  If you have pneumonia, all they can do is give you an anti-biotic, and hope that your pneumonia was caused by bacteria, not a virus.
If you opt to take the anti-biotics, you have to take the whole series.  Many people are adding to the anti-biotic resistant bacteria problem because they play around with anti-biotics (my dad included!)  We have them for a reason, and if we ever need them, it would be better if they worked.
The doctor will tell you to take it easy, rest, and drink lots of liquids.  Do not smoke!
That’s the best-case scenario.  The worst-case scenario is that you will be sent to the hospital.  See you in a few weeks!
What would an Herbalist say?
Two words—onion poultice.  If you happen to be a student of The School of Natural Healing, then you can watch your Simple Home Remedies video from the Family Herbalist program and refresh your memory on how to make an onion poultice.  The first time I made one it was a disaster!  That’s because I was trying to do what David told me, but I chopped the onions instead of slicing them (which makes it harder to keep them on the chest) and I had no idea about how to wrap the poultice onto the person.  You will need a towel or cloth diaper, saran wrap, and an ace bandage.
Basically, slice the onion, put it in a dish and heat it in the oven until the juices start to flow.  You don’t want to burn the patient, but the onions need to be warm.  Rub olive oil on the chest of the patient (add some Sen-Sei if you want), then put the onions on.  Then cover the onions with your cloth.  The next part is tricky, but you need to wrap the saran wrap around the patient and the poultice.  This may take two people to keep the onions from falling out!  Then wrap the ace bandage around the saran wrap to secure the poultice.  This is the number one thing to do for pneumonia!

The other things you can do are rest, have a humidifier going, drink a lot of fluids, particularly red raspberry tea and fresh juice, and avoid dairy at all costs.  Make sure the bowels are moving by boosting the Lower Bowel formula, or giving a catnip enema.
Boost your immune system!  I like the Lung & Bronchial Formula, and Cold Season Immune.  And there’s nothing wrong with taking lots of garlic!
How Can I Prevent Pneumonia?
To start with, wash your hands frequently.  Stay hydrated.  Take your Echinacea.  If you do get a cold or flu, deal with it.  Don’t expect it to run it’s course—boost your immune system.  Stay away from hospitals.
Hopefully none of you will have to deal with pneumonia this year.  I really didn’t have to either.  I was out of town when my dad got diagnosed, and he was halfway through a course of anti-biotics when I got home.  Which is to bad, because I think I finally have figured out how to correctly do an onion poultice.