Causes of Pneumonia Medicinal Plants of the Southwest Medicinal Plant Lists
Types of Pneumonia Chemical Constituents
Herbal Remedies  References 

By Claudia Galvan, Delia Argabright, and Mantissa Johnston

Medicinal Plants of the Southwest
Summer 2003

Pneumonia  is not a single disease.  It can have over 30 different causes.  There are five main causes of pneumonia:  




Other infectious agents, such as fungi –including pneumoscystis

Various Chemicals University of Maryland Medical Center

Causes of Pneumonia

           Pneumonia is caused by an infection or injury to the lower respiratory tract resulting in inflammation. Infectious agents or injury caused by aspiration of dust or chemical agents causes fluid to enter the alveolar spaces. The symptoms of pneumonia include chills, fever, cough, chest pain, labored breathing, fatigue, anorexia, headache, leucocytosis, and bloody sputum. Pneumonia can also result from the aspiration of gastric contents, water, or other irritants.

         Infectious pneumonia is common in the US with about 2-3 million cases being diagnosed each year resulting in 40,000 to 70,000 deaths. Mortality is estimated at 14% for patients requiring hospitalization. Risk factors include upper respiratory infection, alcoholism, cigarette smoking, institutionalization, malnutrition, immunocompromise, and illnesses such as cancer, liver or kidney disease, congestive heart disease and cerebro vascular disorder.  Pulmonary defense mechanisms such as the cough reflex, mucocilliary action, and immune responses, normally prevent infections but pneumonia results when the pathogen gets past these mechanisms. Virulence and severity of the pneumonia depends on the health of the individual, the particular microorganism, and the size of the inoculation.

If you Have Symptoms of Pneumonia

  Call your doctor immediately.  Even with the many   effective remedies, early diagnosis and treatment are important. 

  *Follow your doctors may advice.  In a serious cases, your doctor may advise a hospital stay.  Or recovery  at home may be possible.

  *Continue to take the medicine your doctor prescribes until told you may stop.  This will help prevent recurrence of pneumonia and relapse.

  *Remember even though pneumonia can be treated with herbal and homeopathic remedies, it is an extremely serious illness.

Types of Pneumonia

Bacterial Pneumonia

Eukaryotic Pneumonia

Viral Pneumonia

Mycoplasma Pneumonia

Other kinds of Pneumonia

Bacterial Pneumonia

Most infectious pneumonia is caused by bacteria and 60-80% of all bacterial pneumonia is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. These organisms are routinely found in the upper respiratory tract of healthy persons. It is when they are drawn into the lower respiratory tract of susceptible individuals that they cause infection. Pneumococci are spread by droplets or direct contact with an infected person. Bacterial pneumonia has an incubation period of 1-3 days.  Antibiotic therapy with penicillin or erythromycin makes the patient non-infective and generally results in a rapid recovery.

A vaccination that confers 90% protection is available and recommended for those (except infants less than 2 years old) at highest risk of fatal infection. Vaccination of people older than age 65 is recommended with a booster every 6 years thereafter. The influenza vaccine is recommended at yearly intervals and can be administered at the same time as the pneumococcal vaccine.


Bacterial pneumonia can vary from gradual to sudden.  In more severe cases,  the patient may experience shaking chills, chattering teeth, severe chest pain, and a cough that produces rust colored of greenish mucous.  The patient may also have a temperature of about 105° F.  The patient may also experience profuse sweating leading to increased pulse and rapid breathing.

Eukaryotic Pneumonia

Pneumocystis carinii is an organism of mixed fungal and protozoal character that causes and acute, often fatal, respiratory infection in infants or immunocompromised patients. Symptoms are labored or difficult breathing, cyanosis and heavy infiltrates in the alveolar spaces. Diagnosis is by finding the organism in mucous smears or by biopsy of lung tissue. Treatment is by the use of trimethoprim-sulfanethoxazole or pentamidine isothionate. When treated, 60-90% of patients survive. If untreated it is uniformly fatal.

Viral Pneumonia

Viral agents causing pneumonia include adenoviruses, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus, measles, chicken pox, and influenza. Viral infections in adults are usually mild and limited. Such infections in children are associated with greater severity and may be fatal. Symptoms of acute upper respiratory disease include fever, chills, headache, malaise, anorexia, and general aches. Symptoms usually subside in 2-5 days but may progress to pneumonia in susceptible individuals if the infection spreads to the lower respiratory system. Of greater concern is damage to the respiratory membranes that allows secondary bacterial infections. Sometimes antiviral drugs are used to treat viral pneumonia information on causes 2001 

Mycoplasma pneumonia

 Mycoplasma pneumoniae causes a pneumonia, particularly in older children and young adults, of gradual onset that lasts for a few days to weeks. The symptoms of this type of pneumonia are headache, malaise, sore throat, cough, and leucocytosis. Diagnosis is by finding antibodies in the blood. Infection occurs 14-21 days after droplet inhalation or direct contact with an infected individual. Antibiotic treatment with tetracycline or erythromycin is effective. Penicillin is completely ineffective because mycoplasmas do not have cell walls which this antibiotic targets.

Other kinds of pneumonia

 Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) caused by a fungus is often the first sign of illness in patients with AIDS.  Although successfully treated, PCP often is followed by relapse after relapse.

Less common pneumonias are often more serious and occur more often.  Pneumonias can also be caused by the inhalation of food, liquid, gases, dust or fungi.

 Treating Pneumonia

Unfortunately, there is no known herbal cure for Pneumonia however, there is treatment for the specific symptoms.  On this website you will find specific plants that aid with the symptoms of pneumonia, none of which are known to cure pneumonia. These medicinal plants combined with an herbal anti-biotic may have great results however, we encourage that you contact your physician upon contracting any symptoms.

Several of the remedies for pneumonia are made into tinctures, syrups or teas. 

Herbal Remedies

The following are herbal remedies used with in the southwestern area to treat pneumonia.

Botanical: Verbascum thapsus

Common: Mullein

Location: North American Southwest

Medicinal Properties:

            Alleviates irritation, also used as an expectorant due to large saponin  content

            Used internally for Catarrh of the respiratory tract

            Used for irritating coughs with bronchial congestion

            Also used to treat Pneumonia and Asthma

Plant Preparation:

            Tea-1.5 to 2 gm finely cut and strain after 10 to 15 min drink 3-4 time a day

             Tincture-20mg cut to 80 gm of 70% ethanol and leave to draw for 10 days take 20-30 drops a day.

Botanical: Polygala senega

 Common: Seneca Snakeroot

 Location: Central and Western United States

 Medicinal Properties:

             Used to treat catarrh of respiratory tract

              Congestion of the Respiratory tract, also as an expectorant in cases of

             Bronchitis with minor sputum out put.

Plant Preparation:

            Infusion-.5gm comminuted Seneca in cold water, heat to simmer strain

            After 10 min. 1 cup 2 to 3 times daily.

Botanical: Eucalyptus globules 

Common: Eucalyptus 

Location: Native to Australia, but cultivated world wide (4), (3) Chihuahua, Texas and New Mexico

Medicinal Properties:

            Steamed eucalyptus oil, is used to sooth cough and    bronchial infections

            Is an inhibitor of bacteria in the respiratory membranes

            Used for catarrh of the respiratory tract

Plant Preparation:

           Tincture- using 3-4 grams of leaves 1:5 70% ethanol

            Syrup -1500ml on 100 grams cut Eucalyptus leave to draw 6 hours, strain 180e grams  of sugar.

Medicinal Plants-

 In the southwest there are several medicinal plants, these are the most commonly used to treat the symptoms of Pneumonia.



Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa)

Canadian Fleabane (Conzya canadense)

Condalia (Condalia lycorides)

Dandelion (Taraxcun officinale)

Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)

Elephant Tree (Bursera microphllya)

Encelia (Encelia farinose)

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules)

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Grindalia (Grindelia robusta)

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)

Jojoba (Simmondia chinensis)

Licorice (Glycorrrhiza glabra)

Mariola (Parthenium incanium)

Muellin (Verbascum thapsus)

Ocotillo (Fouquiena splenders)

Onion (Allium cepa)

Oregano (Monarda pertinata or menthafolia)

Osha (Lomatium dissectum)

Piñon (Pinus spp.)

Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaecantha)

Prickly of Thistle Poppy (Argemone spp.)

Seneca Snakeroot (Polygala senega)

Spikenard (Aralia racemosa)

Turkey Muellin (Eremocarpus setigerus)

Common Chemical Constituents:

Below are the most common chemical constituents found in the plants used to treat and prevent pneumonia.

Ascorbic acid

Beta carotene

Asparginic acid




Ascorbic acid

Caffeic acid

Seneca Snakeroot

Polygalic acid



Ascorbic acid

Asparaginic acid

Beta carotene

Caffeic acid


Caffeic acid

Ascorbic acid

Alpha Pinene

Reference : Dr. Dukes Ethnobotanical and Phytochemical database University of Maryland Medical Center

PDR for Herbal Medicines 283-285

The Natural Pharmacy 421-422

Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Grainger, Norman  Medpharm Publishers 1989

Los Remedios.  Moore, Michael 1990, pg 70


      Thank you, Dr. Mary O'Connell, and those who helped with this web page in the Medicinal Plants of the Southwest Project.

Last updated July 17, 2003
For more information contact Dr. Mary O'Connell at

Return to Diseases with Plant Pharmacopeia Index