The dreaded UTI may be something that graces your doorstep once every summer, or even a couple times throughout the year. If you are prone to UTIs, this blog post is for you. It will be your complete survival guide to gracefully moving through a UTI using herbal therapeutics. We discuss what to do during, and even before you may develop, this pesky infection.
Before a UTI: Herbs for Urinary Tract Health
What is the first natural remedy that everyone thinks of when we discuss urinary tract infections? Cranberry.
However, this powerful kitchen remedy is often misused. We chug our favorite cranberry juice at the first sign of urinary tract symptoms and throughout our infection, while it is most effective at preventing a UTI and less effective at tackling an infection once it has taken hold in the urinary tissue.
How does this work? Well, cranberries contain a small type of tannin called oligomeric proanthocyanidins. These constituents prevent bacteria in the urinary tract from attaching to the mucosal lining, allowing them to be more easily washed out with urine.
If someone already has an infection, bacteria that is adhered in the mucosal layer, these constituents aren’t of much support. It is still high in antioxidants, astringent to the tissues and antimicrobial- so it doesn’t hurt to drink cranberry while you have a UTI. However, it won’t do the job of getting rid of a UTI on its own.
Cranberry shines for folks who are prone to UTIs and other bladder infections as a daily tonic to reduce bacterial counts in the urinary tract. It is particularly helpful for elders who are more prone to UTIs, or those who are bedridden. In recent studies, Cranberry has been seen to reduce urinary tract infections by up to 50%.
Clinical dosage for preventing recurring infections is 8-12 oz of juice daily. It is important that you purchase cranberry juice without sugar, which can be diluted in water or sparkling water and consumed throughout the day. This is a great accessible remedy to lean on, on a daily basis, and is made more effective by combining with some gentle daily diuretics.
The main strategy when using herbs to lessen the frequency of UTI occurrence, is to flush out bacteria by increasing flow through the urinary tract. This helps to flush out unwanted substances like irritants & bacteria. The class of herbs that help with this action are called diuretics.
For daily use, leaning on gentle and soothing diuretics is a good strategy. These can be consumed in a tea, or as a tincture added to a glass of water. Drinking enough liquids is the first step in flushing bacteria through the urinary tract. By adding herbs to this process it helps increase the flow, provides additional minerals/nutrients, and often have other properties that benefit the urinary tract lining- such as antimicrobial or soothing/anti-inflammatory action.
Some of the best general diuretics:
- Burdock, Arctium lappa
- Nettle, Urtica dioica
- Gravel root, Eupatorium purpureum
- Dandelion leaf, Taraxacum officinalis
Some of these diuretic herbs are featured in our Kidney Tonic, along with Corn Silk and Hydrangea which soothe inflammation in the urinary lining. This tincture is a great option for adding a few dropperfuls to your water daily to gently cleanse the urinary tract and support healing in the tissues.
During a UTI: Herbs for Urinary Tract Infection
If you are experiencing an active infection, chances are you are pretty uncomfortable. It is important to address the infection, while also soothing the symptoms associated with it.
This is when more powerful herbal antimicrobials come into play. Cue our shining star, Uva Ursi!
Uva Ursi is a mild diuretic and a strong urinary tract disinfectant. When ingested, a constituent in Uva Ursi called arbutin gets transformed into an antimicrobial substance called hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is excreted in the urine, which allows it to bathe the urinary tract lining in its antiseptic action.
This is one of the most wonderful herbs we have for addressing an active infection. Especially when combined with other more soothing anti-inflammatories, demulcents & powerful diuretics.
Urinary Tract Demulcents
This class of herbs are important for addressing UTIs because they help to soothe the urinary lining and reduce potential damage & irritation from the infection. They will often greatly reduce symptoms, especially those that feel “hot” in nature- like burning and pain when urinating.
Examples of urinary tract demulcents are:
- Corn silk, Zea mays
- Marshmallow root, Althaea officinalis
- Rosehips, Rosa spp
Drinking plenty of water is paramount when you have an active infection. Adding diuretic herbs to your water or making herbal infusions with these plants will help flush the bacteria out even more.
Examples of diuretics during infection:
- Parsley, Petroselinum crispum
- Juniper, Juniperus spp.
- Horsetail, Equisetum arvense
- Burdock, Arctium lappa
- Plantain, Plantago spp
Our formulas for UTIs cover all of these bases and have been critical for the healing journey of thousands of people throughout the years. These are the formulas to lean on when you have an infection or feel one starting to come on.
They are not suitable for daily or long term use (see prevention herbs above for daily use), because the antimicrobials could be too harsh when used long term.
Uva Ursi Marshmallow
Uva Ursi Marshmallow Compound is the tincture that will help address bacterial/infection in the urinary tract, while also containing critical urinary tract demulcents to soothe irritation, inflammation and symptoms.
UTI Tea is a blend of antimicrobials, demulcents & diuretics to address all aspects of the UTI experience. Make a quart of this tea to drink throughout the day. Can be diluted in water with Uva Ursi Marshmallow tincture added in.
When to see a Doctor
This blog post is not medical advice, it is created for educational purposes only. Keeping that in mind, it is important to use your intuition and see a licensed health care practitioner if your symptoms do not resolve on their own within a few days, or if you experience a worsening of symptoms.
UTIs can be very serious and potentially life threatening. If you start to experience any of the following, seek medical care immediately:
- Back pain
- Blood in urine
- Altered mental state
If you want to learn more about herbs and lifestyle factors for reducing occurrence & addressing UTIs, join us for our class online & in person, Diuretics: Herbs for Kidney Function.
We will be discussing all things kidney health, kidney stones, urinary tract health and more.
In person class will be on August 9th from 6:15-7:30 PM at Dancing Willow Herbs. Audio recording will be released the day after the event and can be purchased at any time!
This will be an incredible resource for anyone who deals with recurring UTIs or kidney issues! Let’s get to the root of these ailments together and nip em in the bud once & for all!
Look forward to having you join us! Sign up here!