Urinary tract infections (UTIs), also known as bladder infections or cystitis, are very common, especially among women. They are usually caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that travels up the urethra and into the bladder. Symptoms often start with a slight discomfort when urinating. As the infection worsens, there is a frequent urge to urinate, burning or severe pain, and sometimes blood in the urine.
If treated early, herbal remedies are very effective to eliminate bladder infections. However, if the symptoms do not improve within 36 hours after beginning herbal treatment, or if they become worse, see a health care professional. If you are experiencing symptoms of chills, fever, pains in the back or stomach or nausea, the infection may have spread to the kidneys and immediate medical attention is necessary.
Cranberry juice- this is the most well-known natural remedy for UTIs. While cranberries do not have antibiotic properties, they help to prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract and bladder so that they can be flushed out by drinking large quantities of water. Cranberry juice also acidifies the urinary tract, which discourages bacterial growth. Taking vitamin C supplements also helps to acidify the urine, as well as boosting the immune system.
Uva Ursi- also known as bearberry, uva ursi is a potent herbal remedy for UTIs. It specifically targets the urinary tract with its antimicrobial and astringent properties, and also soothes and acts as a tonic. Cranberry juice, vitamin C or other acidifying agents should not be taken with uva ursi, because they will inhibit its activity.
Juniper berry- the dried berries of the juniper (Juniperus communis) have antiseptic properties and are helpful for UTIs. They can be made into a tea by slightly crushing 1 teaspoon of the dried berries and steeping in 1 cup of boiling water for 20 minutes. Juniper berries should not be taken for extended periods of time, and should be avoided if you are pregnant or have kidney disease.
Corn silk- the antimicrobial and diuretic actions of corn silk make it useful for bladder infections, and it also helps to soothe inflammation and tone the tissues of the urinary tract. Corn silk is very safe and suitable for children.
Echinacea- the potent antibacterial activity of Echinacea combined with its anti-inflammatory and immune-enhancing properties make it a helpful addition to herbal formulas for UTIs.
Buchu- the leaves of buchu (Barosma betulina), have traditionally been used for all types of urinary tract disorders. It acts as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, urinary antiseptic and tonic. In addition to treating acute cystitis, it can be used for chronic conditions such as irritable bladder.
Tilgner, Sharon. Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth. Wise Acres Press, 1999.
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, 2003.