Urinary tract infections can ruin your whole day (or week…) The pain and burning, the frequent need to urinate – it’s enough to drive anyone crazy. The common route is to head to the doctor for antibiotics, and there’s no denying that they work. Yet antibiotics introduce almost as many problems as they solve. Thankfully, the natural world abounds in beneficial herbs for urinary tract infections. Choosing the right natural treatment can help you avoid antibiotics in many cases.
Why avoid antibiotics?
Without going into too much detail here, let’s briefly look at the reasons why it’s best to avoid antibiotics unless truly needed.
Antibiotics are known to destroy the healthy, beneficial bacteria in the body, which can lead to:
- gas and intestinal discomfort
- vaginal yeast infections
- thrush (yeast infection of the mouth or on the nipples of a breastfeeding mother)
Antibiotics are also known to cause stress to certain organs, such as the kidneys and liver. They also contribute to the development of the so-called “super bugs” that are resistant to the more common antibiotics. Learning about the rise of these super bugs is a pretty scary business, in my opinion!
For my own family, we try to avoid antibiotics whenever possible and are thankful that natural treatments offer so many options for supporting health and fighting infections. With that said, antibiotics do save lives and do have their rightful place in treating some bacterial infections.
- nausea (with or without vomiting)
- pain behind the lower ribs and/or in the low to mid back
If you experience these symptoms, see your health care provider. A kidney infection can lead to series kidney damage if not treated quickly.
Helpful Herbs for Urinary Tract Infections
Bearberry / Uva Ursi
The herb bearberry, also called uva ursi, has a long tradition of use in treating problems with the urinary tract. Modern research has proven its ability as an antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic – among other helpful traits.
Bearberry has what herbalists call an affinity for the kidneys and bladder – meaning that of all parts of the body, this herb targets the urinary tract with its healing capabilities.
Along with being antimicrobial, bearberry acts as an astringent, which means it tones and strengthens tissues. As a diuretic, it helps continually flush the kidneys and bladder to move any microbes, pus, or blood out of the urinary tract.
Capsules: Douglas Laboratories Max-V Bearberry (Uva Ursi) provides both a standardized extract of bearberry and the whole herb, which many studies have shown to have a greater effect on health than taking either one alone.
Tincture: Nature’s Answer Uva Ursi Leaf
Note: People with chronic kidney conditions should not use bearberry. Dr. Mark Stengler also says that it’s not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing or for children under age 12.
It’s often helpful to combine bearberry with another herb. These combinations are suggested by herbalist Jeremy Ross:
- Echinacea & Bearberry
- Meadowsweet & Bearberry
- Juniper & Bearberry
- Goldenrod & Bearberry
- Rhubarb & Bearberry
- Horsetail & Bearberry (especially suited for UTI with blood in the urine)
- Dandelion & Bearberry (especially suited for UTI with painful urination)
- Couch Grass & Bearberry (especially suited for UTI with discharge from the urethra)
Let’s take a quick look at some of these herbs to see which are best suited in different circumstances.
Echinacea and bearberry together are often used for either active or recurring UTIs. Echinacea adds its own antimicrobial actions to the combination and also supports the immune system in fighting off the infection.
Both echinacea and bearberry are cooling herbs and may not be the best choice to use by themselves for a very cold-natured person.
Tincture: Herb Pharm Organic Echinacea (alcohol free)
Note: As with any herbs or other medications, if you experience signs of an allergic reaction, stop using echinacea right away.
Like bearbery, the herb meadowsweet has an affinity for the bladder. It contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and immune strengthening properties.
Both meadowsweet and bearberry are cooling herbs and may not be the best choice to use by themselves for a very cold-natured person.
Capsules: Nature & Plantes Meadowsweet
Juniper berries are another herb with an affinity for the entire urinary tract. They’ve been used since as least the 1600s to treat painful urination are are considered very soothing to the kidneys.
Scientific research has found juniper berries to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic.
This herb is slightly warming, which can help counteract the cooling effect of bearberry for people who tend to feel too cold.
Capsules: Botanic Choice Cornsilk Kidney Complex (includes corn silk, juniper berries, and java tea)
Whole berries: Starwest Botanicals Organic Juniper Berries (These can be made into a tea or ground in a blender.)
Note: Do not confuse dried juniper berries with juniper essential oil, which should not be taken internally. Juniper berries should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Goldenrod provides another example of an herb with an affinity for the urinary tract. It is often used for urinary tract infections accompanied by these symptoms:
- difficulty urinating
- painful urination
- burning during urination
- urgency & frequent urination
Its helpful qualities include being antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, astringent (tones tissue), and strengthening to the immune system.
Both goldenrod and bearberry are cooling herbs and may not be the best choice to use by themselves for a very cold-natured person. Of course, if a UTI is causing burning, cooling herbs are the right choice even for someone who is normally chilly.
Tincture: Herb Pharm Goldenrod Extract
Note: Anyone who is allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family (including ragweed) should avoid goldenrod.
Other Herbal Options
Herbal combinations that don’t include bearberry can be equally helpful in treating UTIs naturally.
Cedarwood & Echinacea
The combination of cedarwood and echinacea is especially suited for those with recurring UTIs. See above for information on echinacea.
With an affinity for the bladder and a warm to cool action, cedarwood has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to treat blood in the urine. American & European herbalists use cedarwood as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent – all of which make it helpful for treating and preventing urinary tract infections.
Note: Do not confuse cedarwood herb, made from the dried twigs, with cedarwood essential oil. The essential oil should never be used internally. Cedarwood herb should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. If you have epilepsy or acute hepatic porphyries, do not use cedarwood except under the direction of a medical health professional.
Corn Silk & Horsetail
If a UTI is accompanied by incontinence, a combination of corn silk and horsetail can be useful. Both herbs have an affinity for the bladder and are cooling.
Modern research has found both corn silk and horsetail to be anti-inflammatory and diuretic with horsetail also having antibacterial action.
Burdock root can be helpful for preventing UTIs in those prone to recurrent infections. Studies show that it contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties among many other helpful qualities.
To prevent recurring UTIs, a dosage of 300-500 mg two to three times daily can be helpful.
Capsules: Oregon’s Wild Harvest Organic Burdock
Tincture: Nature’s Answer Burdock Root
These herbal formulas contain many of the herbs discussed above along with others for supporting urinary tract health.
- Lally Naturals Kidney Support Formula
- Sunergetic Kidney Cleanse
- NutriONN Kidney Cleanse
- Nature’s Sunshine JP-X Kidney Detox Formula
- HerbPharm Urinary Support System (tincture)
This is only a sampling of the herbs that can be used successfully to treat urinary tract infections. As you can see, the world of natural health is filled with potential treatment options. When you suspect that you have a UTI, the quicker you begin a natural treatment, the better. In most cases, if you begin treatment within 48 hours, these herbal remedies will clear the infection without a problem.
Because UTIs can spread to the kidneys, it’s important to consult your health care provider if symptoms persist or worsen (especially if you experience any of the symptoms from the box above).
Have you successfully used herbs for urinary tract infections before? I would love to hear about it! Just leave me a comment below.
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Hobbs, Christopher, L.AC. and Kathi Keville. Women’s Herbs, Women’s Health. Botanica Press, 2007.
Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don’t Know. Prentice Hall Press, 2010.
Ross, Jeremy. A Clinical Materia Medica: 120 Herbs in Western Use. Greenfields Press, 2010.
This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.
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