How to Reduce Edema Naturally

Four Methods:Identifying Peripheral EdemaChanging Diet and LifestyleTrying Alternative Natural ApproachesHandling Central (Internal) Edema

Edema is a form of swelling caused by excess fluids trapped in the tissues of your body. It is most commonly found at the ankles, feet, legs, arms and hands. Edema can be a result of a temporary condition such as during pregnancy or after an injury. Edema can also result from heart, kidney or liver disease, or it can be a side effect of a medication. Edema can also be peripheral, which means it is found in the ankles, feet, legs, arms, and hands, or it can be central, which means it is found around internal organs such as the lungs.[1]

Method 1
Identifying Peripheral Edema

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    Check for common symptoms. Peripheral edema is characterized by puffiness of the ankles, feet, arms, and hands. The puffiness may cause your skin to appear stretched or shiny.
    • If you press a finger into the swelling and the indentation (or pit) remains for a while, you may have pitting edema. Pitting edema often occurs after a long period of sitting.
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    Evaluate your risk factors for peripheral edema. Mild or moderate peripheral edema may result from a wide variety of causes, including:[2]
    • Remaining sedentary for long periods of time without movement or exercise,
    • Eating excessive high-salt foods,
    • Experiencing hormone changes (including pre-menstrual bloating and changes to estrogen levels),
    • Being pregnant,
    • Experiencing a post-surgical injury to the lymphatic system and lymph nodes (common after surgery to remove breast cancer),
    • Taking certain medications, including steroids, high blood pressure medication, anti-diabetes medication, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
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    Be aware of underlying medical causes. In addition to the risk factors listed above, edema can result from a variety of systemic diseases. Seek evaluation by a medical professional to check for the following:[3]
    • Congestive Heart Failure,
    • Liver disease,
    • Kidney diseases or nephrotic syndrome (a kidney-related disease that involves low blood albumin, an important protein in blood);
    • Chronic venous insufficiency, such as varicose veins, whereby veins are unable to circulate blood effectively;
    • Lymphatic insufficiency or damage (which can be caused by chemotherapy, surgery, or another injury).

Method 2
Changing Diet and Lifestyle

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    Reduce your salt intake. Excess salt in the body attracts water to the tissues, so reducing salt consumption can reduce edema.[4] You may want to consult a nutritionist or dietitian for help with maintaining a low-salt diet, but there are some general tips you can follow to reduce your salt consumption.[5]
    • Do not add table salt to food. It may take some time to adjust to the less salty flavor, but you may find that you enjoy the flavors of the foods themselves more. You can also try adding other herbs or spices like dill, curry powder, pepper, cumin or thyme to add a bit of flavor variety.
    • Limit your processed food intake. This includes boxed, frozen, and canned items (including soup) that you buy at the store.
    • Eat whole foods that you cook yourself. If you prepare food yourself, you can be sure there is no added salt. A good approach is to shop around the perimeter of a grocery store, not in the center aisles. The perimeter of a store usually contains all of the produce, meats and seafood, dairy, and bulk products (which often includes beans, legumes, whole grains, and nuts).
    • Check the organic section of the grocery store. There are sometimes whole-food versions of convenience foods in the organic section. Read the label of any prepared food to check for sodium content.
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    Improve nutritional balance in your diet. The best way to ensure that you are getting a good nutritional balance in your diet is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. These foods are naturally low in salt and pack all kinds of healthy nutrients.
    • Get a variety of fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, parsley, beets, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, pumpkin, pineapple, onion, leeks, and garlic.
    • Vegetables that have deep, rich colors often have the most nutritional value.[6]
    • It can be beneficial to your edema to include antioxidant foods like blueberries, raspberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers.
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    Limit meat consumption. You should limit the amount of meat you consume. Some meat (such as cured meats, cold cuts, and red meat) is high in sodium.[7] Additionally, excessive fat consumption can interfere with the healthy function of the liver, gallbladder, and digestion, which can worsen edema.
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    Drink plenty of water. It may seem counterintuitive to drink more water if you are retaining water. But this is the best way to help flush out your system. Be sure to drink 6-8 8-ounce glasses of water daily.[8]
    • If your doctor has prescribed diuretics (water pills), be sure that you talk to him or her about appropriate water consumption.
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    Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. These products can increase peripheral edema and affect your overall health. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you,[9] so if you do consume these beverages, be sure to drink additional water to counteract their effects.
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    Get an appropriate amount and type of exercise. It is fairly common knowledge that edema can result from not getting enough movement or exercise. Many people don’t know that edema can also result from over exercising. It’s important to talk to your physician about the right amount (and the right kind) of exercise for your particular situation.
    • If you are not accustomed to a rigorous exercise routine, be sure to implement exercise gradually. If you are recovering from a surgery or medical condition, be sure to be cautious and work with a doctor or physical therapist as you slowly increase your exercise.[10]
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    Avoid excessive sitting. Spending too much time sitting and not moving is one of the biggest contributors to edema. Walking around causes your leg muscles to expand and contract, which “massages” or stimulates your veins and allows them to push blood back up towards your heart and lungs. Sitting for long periods of time allows that blood to pool in your extremities.[11]
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    Keep your feet up while sitting or relaxing for extended periods. If you cannot avoid extended periods of sitting, try to keep your legs elevated to avoid pooling. Prop your feet up on your desk or on a stool or ottoman. You can even make a stack of pillows on which to comfortably rest your feet.
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    Walk around every hour or so. If you do have to spend a lot of time sitting, getting up for a 5-minute walk every hour should help your edema.[12] Go for a walk around the room, walk to refill your water bottle, or take a stroll around the block outside. It will likely improve your mood and focus as well as your edema.
    • Many people find that their edema is worse in the evenings. If you are relaxing on the couch after a long day at work, you should still make an effort to get up and walk around once or twice an hour.
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    Raise your hands. If most of the peripheral edema is in your hands and wrists, try raising your arms and hands high above your head every 30-60 minutes. This will allow gravity to help drain the fluid out of your extremities.
    • You may find it helpful to gently shake or pulse your hands while they are raised in the air over your head.
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    Wear compression stockings. Compression (or support) stockings are tight elastic stockings that keep pressure around your lower leg and ankle to prevent fluid buildup.[13] They can be found at medical device stores and some drug stores.
    • Many people find the stockings difficult to put on because they are so tight. The best way to put them on is to roll the end of the stocking down to the ankle. Then put your foot inside the stocking and roll the remaining length over your ankle and calf.
    • Many physicians or physical therapists recommend wearing compression garments while you exercise;[14] be sure to consult your medical professional for her/his recommendations.
    • Some compression garments need to be specially fitted to your body. For example, some women wear customized arm compression garments after breast surgery.
    • Occasionally, a compression garment that includes an air-pump that will contract intermittently will be necessary.[15]

Method 3
Trying Alternative Natural Approaches

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    Talk to your healthcare provider. Natural remedies are often very safe, but you should always consult a physician before attempting to treat yourself with natural remedies.
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    Drink diuretic teas. These teas act as diuretics, increasing the amount of urine you produce and thus removing excess fluids from your body. Be wary of plant allergies and consult your doctor or pharmacist about interactions between these teas and any other medication you are taking. Drink 3-4 cups of tea every day, adding honey, stevia or lemon to taste.[16]
    • Dandelion leaf tea: Be sure to get dandelion leaf tea, not dandelion root tea, which is also available but won’t help edema.
    • Cardamom tea: Make your own by adding 1 tsp of seeds or dried herb to 1 cup of hot water.
    • Chamomile tea: This tea can also help you relax and sleep.
    • Chicory tea: This can be a good substitute for coffee.
    • Fennel tea: Make your own by adding 1 tsp of fennel seeds or leaves to a cup of water. Fennel also aids digestion and freshens the breath.
    • Parsley tea: This tea is diuretic and helps with digestion.
    • Stinging nettle tea: This tea is a diuretic and offers vitamins and minerals as well.
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    Take antioxidants. Antioxidants can provide indirect support for edema because they strengthen the veins. In addition to eating antioxidant foods, you can try taking a supplement such as grape seed extract (360 mg twice daily) or bilberry (80 mg three times daily).[17]
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    Receive acupuncture. Acupuncture, a common approach to Traditional Chinese Medicine, involves placing needles at specific points on the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to balance the body and views edema as a sign of imbalance. Acupuncture for edema would seek to re-balance to body so that the fluids all flow appropriately.[18]
    • To find a licensed acupuncturist, search the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine here.
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    Go to massage therapy. Massage therapy can stimulate circulation and physically move fluids out of the tissues and back into the blood and the lymphatic system. Lymphedema massage, also known as Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) or Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT), is a form of massage that helps the body's lymphatic system and supports immune function.[19]
    • Your physician may be able to give you a referral for someone who is specially trained in MLD/LDT.
    • To find a licensed and trained massage therapist in your area, you can also try the American Massage Therapy Association here and search for “lymphatic drainage”.
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    Give yourself a water massage. Naturopaths often recommend a “water massage” as a method of stimulating lymphatic flow, which can lessen edema by contracting and dilating the lymphatic vessels and valves, pushing fluid towards your heart and out of your extremities. You can do this at home with a hand-held shower head.
    • Begin by showering your feet with cold water. Saturate one foot, then the other, then move the spray of water from your feet up your legs towards your heart on each side.
    • Then spray each hand with the cold water. After your hands are saturated, move the cold water from one hand up your arm towards your heart, then move to the other hand and move up the other arm.
    • Switch the water to hot. (It should be as hot as you can manage without scalding you).
    • Repeat the process of saturating both feet, then moving up the legs, then saturating both hands and moving up the arms, with the hot water this time.
    • Switch the water back to cold and repeat the cold water process once more to finish the procedure.
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    Try lymphatic brushing. Lymphatic brushing (also known as “dry skin brushing” is another approach from Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can do this method at home using a soft-bristled brush with a long handle or a fluffy cotton towel.[20]
    • Your skin and the brush (or towel) should be completely dry before starting this method.
    • All of your brush strokes should be long sweeping strokes in the direction of your heart. Do not use a rubbing or scrubbing motion.
    • Brush from your hands up your arms and towards your shoulders.
    • Brush up your back, from the base of your spine towards your shoulders.
    • Brush down your neck, from your hairline towards your shoulders.
    • Brush up your chest, towards your throat.
    • Brush from your belly button to the center of your chest.
    • Brush up and around the breasts into the underarm area.
    • Brush up the legs, beginning with your feet. Then brush from your ankle to your knee, front and back, on both sides. Then brush from the knee to the groin, front and back, on both sides.
    • Brush from your groin to your belly button.
    • The lymphatic brushing process should take about 5 minutes, and you should follow it with a warm bath or shower with a cool rinse at the end. You do the lymphatic brushing one or two times per day.

Method 4
Handling Central (Internal) Edema

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    Watch for symptoms. Central edema may be characterized by abdominal swelling (ascites). Pulmonary edema may cause you to experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or chest pain.[21]
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    Seek medical attention. Central or internal edema is a very serious medical condition. You should not try to reduce the effects of internal edema at home. Go to the doctor and follow the doctor’s instructions for dealing with the edema.[22]
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    Treat internal edema under a physician’s supervision. Treatment for internal edema may involve medication such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, or corticosteroids. Be sure to consult a physician before pursuing a course of treatment.


  • Care for your skin while you are suffering from edema. You may need to use extra lotions or creams to comfort the stretching that accompanies edema swelling.
  • Minor swelling can sometimes be controlled with an ice pack. Cover the ice pack with a towel and drape it over the swollen area for about 10 minutes. Repeat every 2-4 hours.


  • If your edema does not improve after 4-5 days of home treatment, or if it worsens at any time, contact a physician for advice.
  • Do not combine water massage and skin brushing; doing both can be over-stimulating.
  • Always consult a physician before trying natural treatments or remedies at home.

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