7 herbal remedies for urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common. Around one in two women and one in 20 men will get one and for a lot of women, it's a recurring thing.
Most of us are familiar with the symptoms: burning sensation when passing urine, frequent urination, a cloudy, bloody or very smelly urine and general discomfort in the area. High fever, back pain and vomiting occur when the infection becomes more serious and moves to the kidneys. If this occurs, it is very important to see your GP as left untreated an infection can lead to kidney damage.
A urinary tract infection can range from an infection of the bladder to an infection of the kidney. Cystitis, an infection in the bladder, is the most common UTI.
WHY DO INFECTIONS OCCUR IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Bacteria do not normally live in the urinary tract, it is a sterile area but they can enter the urinary tract and multiply, causing an infection. This can occur during intercourse or wiping back to front after urination (for women). The urethra is fairly short and straight, making it easier for germs to travel into the bladder.
Changes to the immune system may make a person generally more vulnerable to infections as well as changes in hormonal levels. Infections are more common just before a period and in pregnancy. As women age, tissues of the urethra and bladder become thinner and drier with age, as well as after menopause or a hysterectomy leading to a greater chance of infection.
Diagnosis is simple. A urine test ordered by a GP can identify the cause of infection and treatment is usually a course of antibiotics. However, recurrent infections are common and studies have shown that women are at a 20 per cent - 30 per cent higher risk of experiencing a recurrence of infection within three to four months of an initial UTI.
According to Kidney Health Australia, women are also more at risk of repeated urinary tract infections if they:
- use spermicide jelly or a diaphragm for contraception
- have had a new sexual partner
- suffer from constipation
- had their first urinary tract infection at or before 15 years of age
- have a family history of repeated urinary tract infections.
We know that overuse of antibiotics can cause a disruption in gut flora health leading to a greater susceptibility to more infections. Gut flora makes up two thirds of our immune system.
This is where herbal remedies can be useful. Herbalists have used the following seven herbs successfully.
also known as uva ursi. In a double blind placebo study of 57 women with recurrent UTIs, bearberry was shown to effectively suppress further infection. Bearberry acts as an antibacterial, urinary antiseptic, astringent and healer to the mucous membranes of the urinary tract. It is also a diuretic.
Different to the root which has a focus on balancing digestive and liver health, this herb is potent diuretic used to flush the bladder and relieve symptoms.
Has soothing mucilaginous or demulcent properties. This soothes the irritated mucous membranes. It also has a diuretic effect. Rich in silica and other minerals, which help strengthen the tissues.
Acts in a similar fashion to corn silk.
Yes, original marshmallow candy was made from this plant. As you could imagine, marshmallow has a softening demulcent effect on irritated mucous membranes of the urinary tract.
Technically not a herb but used by herbalists. Flordis, a natural health company, has performed extensive studies on cranberry extract. Cranberry helps prevent potentially harmful bacteria from sticking to urinary tract walls and effectively flushes out the bacteria from the urinary tract to help promote urinary tract health. By helping to maintain a clean urinary tract this will reduce the frequency of recurrent cystitis.
Is a potent antibacterial and mucous membrane healer indicated for inflammation of the urinary tract wall.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO TAKE THESE HERBS?
All of these herbs, with the exception of Goldenseal and Cranberry, may be taken in a herbal tea form. Add 1 teaspoon of each in a litre of boiling water, steep for 7 minutes and consume daily. I recommend organic herbs. You may also take these herbs in a herbal tincture form which contains concentrated constituents of herbs and offer maximum therapeutic benefits. They are only available with a prescription from your naturopath or herbalist. A qualified health practitioner will ensure your medication; supplements or disease state does not interact with your herbs. When a herbalist prescribes herbal remedies they consider one's constitution, age, allergies, sensitiveness, robustness, weight, temperature, current status of health and personality. From this understanding they can choose the most successful remedies for you. Ellura by Flordis is a brilliant cranberry supplement that I use quite successfully in my clinical practice.
Always remember to tell your health practitioner if you're pregnant or breast-feeding as many herbs like medicine may be contra indicated.
These herbs do not replace antibiotics when they are needed. They may be used in conjunction, to strengthen the urinary tract mucous membranes or to prevent an infection.