Bladder Infections, UTIs, Cystitis… However You Spell it, They Hurt!
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on May 20, 2011 by Paulina Nelega, RH
If you’re like many women, you’ll have experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in your life… telltale burning upon peeing, especially near the end of urination, along with frequency and urgency, are classic symptoms. Sometimes a small amount of blood and mucous may also be visible in the urine.
It’s very important to get bladder infections tended to quickly, so they don’t ascend and infect the kidneys. This can lead to infection in the bloodstream, a potentially life-threatening condition.
The most common cause of bladder infections (cystitis) in women is from sexual intercourse. This is primarily due to the position of the urethra relative to the vagina, where contamination from the anal region can easily occur during sexual activity. As well, the urethra is a much shorter tube in women than in men, so bacteria don’t have too far to travel to reach the bladder and start multiplying.
A natural remedy for simple bladder infections include, as many may already know from firsthand experience, is cranberry extract (either as capsules, or pure juice – unsweetened and not from concentrate). A component in cranberries inhibits the adhesion of E. coli, the most common bacteria associated with UTIs, to the bladder wall. This enables the body to flush it out with the urine. If you’re susceptible to recurrent UTIs, you may want to consider taking a cranberry extract on a regular basis, along with practicing careful hygiene. (Cranberry is not recommended if you have Interstitial Cystitis.)
Uva ursi leaf (Bearberry), long used by Native Americans, is an excellent urinary tract antiseptic. One of its most unique features is that its antibacterial effect is delivered specifically within the urinary system, making it a very effective natural antibiotic for UTIs.
Other herbs useful for UTIs include Manzanita leaf, Juniper berries, Couch Grass, Horsetail, and soothing demulcents such as Marshmallow or Corn Silk.
Alongside a tincture of the herbs mentioned (tinctures offer a faster and more potent way of getting herbs into your system), drinking several cups of herbal tea throughout the day will help dilute the bacteria in your bladder and get them flushed out more quickly.
Note: If your symptoms don’t improve within 24 hours, or worsen within this time and/or are accompanied by a fever, see your healthcare provider. If you have other underlying conditions or are taking any medications, also see your healthcare provider immediately.
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan