Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, the membrane forming the outer covering of the heart. Pericarditis is often caused by a viral infection. The disease may also be caused by bacteria (including mycobacterium tuberculosis), fungi, or parasites. There is also a noninfectious pericarditis that can be caused by disease of the underlying heart muscle, injury, cancer, and other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, medications (minoxidil, penicillin), lupus erythematosus, and kidney failure.
Even young, otherwise healthy individuals can develop pericarditis following what initially appears to be a routine viral illness. Viruses such as those that cause flu, mumps and mononucleosis, as well as HIV, hepatitis, and varicella, have all been associated with pericarditis. Typically, one to three weeks after a viral illness, patients begin to experience fever, chest discomfort, cough, shortness of breath, and general malaise.
Alternative therapies may have benefit as supportive treatments for some of the causes of pericarditis. The Ayurvedic treatment of pericarditis is aimed at treating the inflammation of the pericardium and reducing the excessive accumulation of fluid. Medicines like Ras-Sindur, Malla-Sindur, Sameer-Pannag-Ras, Yograj-Guggulu, Punarnavadi-Guggulu, Punarnavadi-Qadha, Arjunarishta, Dashmoolarishta, Triphala-Guggulu, and Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu are used to reduce the inflammation in the pericardium.
Herbal medicines like Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Pushkarmool (Inula racemosa), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Behada (Terminalia bellerica), Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), and Gokshur (Tribulus terrestris) can also be used for this purpose. Medicines which act on the ‘Rakta’ and ‘Mansa’ dhatus (tissues) can also be used to treat this condition. These medicines include Musta (Cyperus rotundus), Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), Patol (Tricosanthe dioica), Patha (Cissampelos pareira), Nimba (Azadirachta indica), Triphala (Three fruits) and Draksha (Vitis vinifera). Medicines like Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Shrung-Bhasma, Maha-Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Suvarna-Sameer-Pannag-Ras and Makar-Dhwaj- Ras are used to strengthen the heart, improve the therapeutic response, and also improve the immune status of the body.
Therefore, Ayurvedic or not, herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerin extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, 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. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
- Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) can help prevent high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. Dose is 60 drops tincture three times per day 1 tsp. berries steeped for 10 minutes in hot water, or 100 to 250 mg three times per day as a supplement.
- Linden (Tilia cordata) is used for high blood pressure with nervous tension, and may be useful adjunctive treatment where there is anxiety. Dose is 1 tsp. dried blossoms per cup hot water three times a day or 60 drops tincture three times a day.
- Blue monkshood (Aconitum napellus) has been described as an herbal remedy for pericarditis without significant effusion. CAUTION: As this herb can be highly toxic, even fatal, it is not recommended unless prescribed by an experienced health care provider.
Some of the most common remedies used for pericarditis are:
- Aconite for sudden, sharp pains accompanied by anxiety (especially fear of dying) and restlessness
- Spongia tosta for the sensation that the chest will explode, anxiety, light-headedness, sweating; patient may be flushed
- Cactus grandiflorus for the feeling that there is a band around the chest or a great weight on the chest; palpitations; feels better in the open air and worse at night
- Vitamin C (1,000 mg three times per day) may help decrease inflammation. It also aids in fighting infection, and is an antioxidant.
- Coenzyme Q10 (50 mg bid) is an important antioxidant that may help prevent heart muscle damage and speed recovery.
- Your provider may recommend sodium restriction if you have constrictive pericarditis.
- If your pericarditis is of viral origin, your provider may recommend supplementation with vitamin A (300,000 IU/day for 3 days).
- Flaxseed oil (3 g twice per day) helps decrease inflammation.
- Avoid saturated fats, alcohol, and sugars, which can lead to increased inflammation and lowered immune function.
- Consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. These foods are anti-inflammatory and protect the heart.
Thus, don’t forget that early detection and treatment are important to prevent potentially serious complications.