Herbal and Natural Treatments for UTIs

UTIs blow. And if you’re like me and have had more than you can count, you can understand the unmistakable feeling of dread and doom that settles over you like a stinky cloud of doo doo when you feel a urinary tract infection coming on (or wake up with one). Because I firmly believe in natural medicine, I’ve done significant research into natural remedies. But, per the usual, I have to tell you to talk to your doctor or naturopath before trying any of these. If you have a fever or your symptoms don’t clear up in a week (or get worse), get to a doctor. If you have back pain, see a doctor. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m not a doctor.

…but I have seen enough of them. And I know that sitting in front of a male doctor who has most likely never experienced the cruel pleasures of a UTI is a second punch to the bajango when you’re already feeling like poo. It’s not their fault they have longer urethras and therefore rarely encounter the sweet agony of bladder infections. But it does seem like some cosmic joke, doesn’t it? And please don’t send me e-mails that I’m sexist. I have deep sympathy for ANYONE who’s had to go through this torture. I’m just making a simple observation…

Anyway, on to the cures!

Remember this name. By God, remember this name! This beautiful, magnificent, sent-from-Summerland herb is *drum roll please!* a bladder cleanser! 

I prefer to buy this as a tincture (which you can get here), but you can also buy the straight herb and make a tea. But I will warn you, this herb will make you THIRSTY. Like, spent-a-fortnight-in-the-desert, forgot-my-canteen thirsty. But that is precisely how it works. It clings to bacteria and flushes it out when you tinkle. Crazy, right?!  Isn’t nature miraculous?

If I feel an infection coming on, I take a 1/4  dropper (about 15 drops) of the tincture 2-3 times a day until the symptoms resolve. If I have a full-blown infection, I take about 30 drops 2-3 times a day. For tea, use a Tablespoon of loose herb to one cup water, let steep for 15-20 minutes and drink 2-3 times daily to treat an infection.

Uva-ursi should not be taken for longer than a week. Uva-ursi can inhibit the breakdown of insulin and therefore should not be used in individuals who are hypoglycemic or diabetic. Also, do not take when pregnant.

Uva-ursi will treat a UTI, but it won’t soothe your irritated bladder, which is why I recommend…

Cornsilk is literally that stuff you shuck off corn and get annoyed with because it sticks to your hands and clothes and everything else it touches. That’s because it loves you. Embrace it. Once you experience the calming transcendence that is cornsilk on an angry bladder, you will want to hug it back. I buy mine by the pound HERE (though you can easily purchase smaller amounts) and never get caught without it. It won’t cure a UTI per se, but it will treat all the lovely irritation that accompanies one. 

Cornsilk is an extremely gentle herb, so I throw a hefty pinch into a couple cups of water, steep until I remember I left it on the stove, and drink, drink, drink my bladder into a calm, tranquil state. But if you’re looking for the real directions: 1 Tablespoon to every cup of water, steep for 15-20, and drink. To me this has a sweet, indescribable-but-not-unpleasant taste, but if you don’t like it feel free to let it cool and chug it down. That’s how I consume most medicinal herbal teas. Two-three cups a day will do a body good.

Note: People who have corn sensitivities may be nervous to try this. Obviously if you’re genuinely allergic use something else, like Marshmallow Root. I, personally, avoid corn because I don’t feel that spectacular after eating it, but I’ve never had any difficulties with the tea. As always, use common sense and decide what is best for you.

Plantain Leaf**
I’ve never used plantain leaf solely to treat an infection, but throw a hefty pinch into your cornsilk or uva-ursi tea to give it an added boost. Plantain leaf is great for general infections, but is also used specifically for cystits and UTIs. I really like to use it topically as a drawing agent, but that’s a whole other post.

Blueberry Juice
You know how everyone says to drink cranberry juice for UTIs? Well, this is cranberry juice’s best gal pal. I’m not a fan of cranberry juice. First off, it actually irritates my bladder more when I’m under the weather. Secondly, to get the natural benefits you need sugarless (NOT sugar-free! By God, do yourself a favor and avoid chemical alternatives to sugar. I’ll forgo the lecture, but I feel obligated to let you know sugar substitutes are a bladder irritant.) I’m talking STRAIGHT cranberry juice. That S#@! is bitter. Blueberry juice, on the other hand, is extremely palatable and is quite soothing on the bladder. I usually drink about a cup a day (half in the morning, half in the evening) to soothe irritation, but this can vary per individual.

Generally it is best to avoid sugar when treating a UTI, but one of the naturally-occurring sugars in blueberry juice is D-mannose, which brings me to my next point….

D-mannose is a powdered supplement derived from berries that can be found in most health food stores. It’s easy to take and can be used to treat a UTI. I’ve tried several brands, but I prefer this one.While it takes a little longer than uva-ursi (I find generally a week for fully developed UTIs), I have absolutely eradicated infections with this stuff. Directions vary per company, but generally the dose is a scoop (included in the container) in a glass of water every 2-3 hours, during waking hours. I keep some on hand in my herbal cupboard.

If you’re prone to UTIs after sex, this is a good supplement to take post coitus to prevent one. (Also, not to get too personal, bathing  for both partners is always advised before sex if you’re struggling with recurrent UTIs. And make sure you tinkle when you’re done knocking boots!).

Some sensitive individuals may find D-mannose has them hitting the bathroom for a whole different reason. If that happens, try decreasing the dose to ½ scoop. Or you can always use uva-ursi.

NOTE: Since a main factor in treating and preventing UTIs involved lots of drinking, you can accidentally lower your potassium levels since potassium is excreted in urine. Try adding high potassium-containing foods to your diet when treating a UTI, such as bananas, dark leafy greens, and mushrooms.  

General tips for treating and preventing UTIs:

-If you’re not wearing cotton panties, do yourself the favor and make the switch. And I don’t mean cotton thongs.

-While you’re at it, rethink those skinny jeans. Some women have no issues with tight clothing and vaginal/bladder complications. Others do. If you’re having a reoccurring problem, try giving the tight clothing a break and see if that helps.

-Frozen rice packs are great for sitting on or keeping between your legs on those days that you feel like you want to die just a little.

-Avoiding sugar is important to someone who is prone to UTIs, even natural sugar. I’m not saying you can’t have a scoop on a hot summer day. I’m just saying be mindful of your intake and see if there is a connection between a sugary day and an infection.

-Vaginal support supplements like this and this have been very helpful to friends of mine who struggle with UTIs, though I’ve never personally used these.

-REST!!! For some reason, because UTIs are so common, women feel the need to go about their daily life business-as-usual style when they have a crippling infection. Listen ladies, just because it’s common does not mean it isn’t stressful to your body (or your mind, for that matter). Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break. Sleep if you’re tired. Call out of work if you’re miserable. Ask the hubby to help with the dishes. You feel like $@*! to begin with. Don’t make matters worse by berating yourself for not being Perfect Patty. Give your body time to heal. You’re worth it. ;)

**Some information is cited from the wonderful Brigitte Mars, AHG. Check out her fantastic herbal reference guide, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, for more information!

Have you tried any of these natural treatments for UTIs? What’s your experience? Have you found a miraculous cure I didn’t mention? Let me know!

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NOTE: As with any recommendation found on this blog, consult your doctor or naturopath before use.