Edema, also known as oedema, dropsy and hydropsy, is an accumulation of fluid in the body’s tissues, which leads to swelling. Although edema can occur in any part of your body, it usually affects the hands, ankles, legs and feet. About 4.4 million people in the U.S. suffer from edema.
Common signs and symptoms of edema include swelling, puffiness, stretched or shiny skin, and dimpling of the skin after being pressed for a few seconds.
Mild cases of edema may result from sitting or staying in one position for many hours, a surgical procedure, high salt intake, malnutrition, insect bites, premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy.
Sometimes it can be a side effect of medications, including high blood pressure medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid drugs, estrogens and diabetes medications.
In some cases, edema may be a sign of a serious health problem, such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, cirrhosis, cancer, arthritis, thyroid disease, deep vein thrombosis, venous insufficiency and an allergic reaction.
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing edema. These include hypertension, kidney disease, excessive drinking, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and past surgeries involving removal of lymph nodes.
Edema itself is not harmful, but because it can be a sign of an underlying condition, you need to have it looked by a doctor. Whatever the cause, you can get some relief from the symptoms of edema with simple lifestyle changes and easy-to-follow home remedies.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for edema.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a well-known remedy to reduce edema symptoms. Being high in potassium, it helps replenish potassium levels in the body and reverse fluid retention. Moreover, its anti-inflammatory property helps reduce swelling and pain.
- Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of water. Drink it twice daily.
- Another option is to soak a towel in a mixture of equal amounts of warm water and apple cider vinegar. Wrap the towel on the affected area for several minutes. Do this a few times daily.
2. Epsom Salt Bath
An Epsom salt bath can help you get rid of swelling, inflammation and pain due to edema. It draws out excess fluids and toxins from your body.
- Mix 2 cups of Epsom salt in warm bathwater.
- Soak in it for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat up to 3 times a week.
3. Tea Tree Oil
You can use tea tree oil to treat edema or inflammation caused by insect bites or stings. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties can reduce swelling and pain from edema.
According to a 2002 study published in the official journal of European Histamine Research Society, the components terpinen-4-ol and alpha-terpineol in tea tree oil can regulate edema.
- To treat edema due to insect bites or stings, put a few drops of tea tree oil on a cotton swab and apply it on the affected area. Wait for a few minutes, then rinse it off with warm water. Repeat as needed.
- For mild edema cases, add a few drops of tea tree oil to any carrier oil and use it to massage the affected area using outward strokes. Follow this remedy 2 times daily for a few days until the swelling and pain are gone.
Regular massage is another effective way to reduce swelling and pain caused by edema. Massaging with gentle strokes creates pressure on the affected skin and muscle areas. This activates the lymphatic system and the fluid drains away naturally.
- Warm some mustard, olive or coconut oil.
- Massage the affected area gently with the warm oil.
- Do this several times a day.
Note: If your edema is due to pregnancy, have your massage done by a therapist specializing in prenatal massage.
Parsley is also helpful in reducing swelling and pain by helping your body remove excess fluids. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that parsley has diuretic effects. It even blocks the re-absorption of sodium and potassium.
- Add 1 teaspoon of dried parsley to 2 cups of water. Boil it for 10 minutes, then strain it. Drink it once daily, in the morning before eating breakfast.
- Another option is to crush parsley leaves to make a paste, and apply it on the affected areas. Leave it on for 30 minutes, then rinse it off with warm water. Repeat 2 times a day.
- Also, eat more parsley by adding it to salads, soups, sandwiches and other dishes.
The herb dandelion acts as natural diuretic and thus encourages the draining of fluid. It also has potassium, which helps balance out sodium in the body. This in turn helps reduce swelling and inflammation due to edema.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried dandelion leaves in a cup of hot water.
- Cover, steep for 5 to 7 minutes and strain it.
- Drink 2 to 3 cups of dandelion tea every day.
Note: Avoid dandelion if you have gallbladder problems.
7. Coriander Seeds
Coriander seeds are also useful in edema treatment. The anti-inflammatory property of coriander seeds can reduce swelling and pain. Plus, these seeds encourage good blood circulation.
- Mix 3 tablespoons of coriander seeds in 1 cup of water.
- Heat it to a boil, then simmer until the water reduces by half.
- Strain and allow it to cool.
- Drink this 2 times a day until the symptoms are gone.
According to Ayurveda, flaxseeds are an effective remedy for edema. The anti-inflammatory property of flaxseeds can help reduce swelling. Moreover, flaxseeds aid in detoxification, which means they help get rid of harmful toxins.
- Add ½ teaspoon of ground flaxseeds to a glass of warm water. Drink it 2 times daily.
- Another option is to massage the affected area with flaxseed oil a few times daily.
9. Exercise and Physical Activities
Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to edema. Exercise and other physical activities can help prevent it as well as reduce the intensity of symptoms when edema occurs.
- Move the muscles in the affected body part as much as possible. This will help dissipate the fluid out of the tissues.
- Enjoy jogging or brisk walking for 30 minutes a day.
- Do some yoga daily to help improve your circulation and prevent edema.
- Go swimming several times a week to reduce edema symptoms.
You can also consult your doctor about exercises you can do that may reduce swelling.
10. Reduce Salt Intake
High salt intake puts you at a higher risk for edema. High amounts of sodium contribute to water retention in the tissues.
Health experts recommend eating less than 2,300 mg of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) daily. However, talk to your doctor about the specific amount of sodium you should be taking every day.
- Limit your intake of salty foods, such as prepackaged snacks and fast food.
- Instead of eating out, cook your food at home. This will help you monitor the amount of salt you are consuming.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned versions, which often contain added salt to preserve color and freshness.
- Enhance the taste of food with herbs instead of salt.
- For swelling in the lower limbs, soak your feet in warm water for about 5 minutes, then soak in cold water for about 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times daily for the best results.
- You can use a cold compress to alleviate swelling on the feet due to pregnancy.
- For edema in the hands or arms, rest your arms above the level of your heart for about 30 minutes, 3 times a day.
- For leg edema, use pillows to raise your legs above the level of your heart for 30 minutes, a few times daily.
- Stop smoking and excessive drinking to prevent edema.
- Use compression stockings, sleeves and gloves to keep pressure on the limbs and prevent fluid from collecting in the tissues.
- Take vitamin B6 supplements (50 mg) twice daily. Consult your doctor first.
- Magnesium deficiency can contribute to edema, so taking a supplement can help reduce symptoms. Consult your doctor for proper dosage.
- Eat foods that are high in potassium like bananas, raisins, tomato paste and juice, white beans, soybeans and kidney beans. Potassium helps eliminate excess fluid from the body.
- Drink plenty of water daily to combat edema quickly. Along with water, eat fruits and vegetables high in water content.
- Drink warm beverages like herbal teas a few times a day.
- Keep the affected areas clean, moisturized and free from injury.
- Avoid drinking caffeinated and carbonated beverages.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature as it can worsen the condition.
- Avoid prolonged sitting and standing as it promotes the pooling of fluids in your feet.