Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are no joke. They are considered to be the second most common group of infectious diseases and over 150 million people a year are diagnosed around the world with UTI.
One of the most common ways for doctors to treat UTIs is by administering antibiotics. Unfortunately, this has led to many of the bacteria that cause UTIs to become somewhat antibiotic-resistant now. According to studies, about 56% of all bacteria strains that lead to UTIs are antibacterial resistant on some level.
This has led to a push to research other kinds of treatments. However, the best way to treat UTIs, especially when caught early, is through natural means. This is where research is going now for scientists, but it is still severely lacking.
Most people know about cranberries, but did you know there are other herbal remedies one can take to fight off UTIs? While antibiotics may be necessary sometimes, there are some herbs you can use to fight off the infection if you catch it early enough, and some that may be ideal if you are someone who tends to get UTIs constantly.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Bearberry, also known as Kinnikinnick, is a shrub you can find in North America, Asia, and Europe. Its scientific name, uva-ursi, means “grape of the bears” in Latin. This name and the name “bearberry” come from the fact that it is a favorite snack for bears. It has little red or orange berries that bears enjoy eating.
However, it is the leaves that most benefit people. People have been using bearberry for centuries, especially in Native American culture, for health issues surrounding the bladder and urinary tract. It has been used as a diuretic, for UTIs, painful urination, and kidney stones.
Dried leaves from the bearberry shrub can be powdered and condensed into a tablet, placed into a capsule, or steeped to make tea. If you are getting supplements, look for one that has between 400 and 840 mg of arbutin in the extract. Otherwise, drinking a cup or two of bearberry tea a day is a good dose. Never go above ½ an ounce or about 15 grams at a time, because it can be toxic.
Studies have found that there is good science for this natural remedy. Bearberry leaves contain arbutin, which changes to hydroquinone in the body, which can reduce pain and inflammation in the urinary tract.
Bearberry also has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Studies have shown bearberry to be able to inhibit staphylococcus saprophyticus and E. coli, both of which are bacteria that are common causes of UTIs.
There haven’t been a lot of long-term studies on the dangers of using bearberries. Most of the time, it isn’t recommended to use it for more than a week or two at a time.
There have been mixed results in the studies surrounding the benefits of using bearberry leaves for UTIs. Based on the results, mixing bearberry with dandelion root in tea tends to work best for fighting off recurring UTIs, while using bearberry alone is best for fighting a one-off UTI. However, it seems to work best when taken at the first sign of infection. Delaying taking it can lead to it not being as effective or even not working.
Additionally, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have diseases that affect the intestines, liver, or kidney, you may want to avoid bearberry as it can be harmful or worsen those conditions. It should also never be given to children.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic is an amazing herb. Not only is it used in many cuisines to add flavor to a meal, but it also has a large number of health benefits. It can fight fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Studies suggest that this is due to a compound in garlic known as allicin, which is useful for fighting against many different infections.
One such bacteria it fights well against is E. coli. However, while there has been some research into garlic’s ability to fight against UTIs, there hasn’t been a strong result yet. This also means that the ideal dosage and way to ingest garlic haven’t been studied yet.
There are many ways to consume garlic, including raw, cooked, whole, and in capsules and extracts. There doesn’t seem to be a dangerous dose within reasonable amounts. However, if taking capsules or extracts, it is best to respect the dosage presented on the container.
Side effects are minimal, and include bad body odor, bad breath, and heartburn. However, some people can also be allergic to garlic, so if you’ve never used this herb medicinally before, it is a good idea to take it in small doses first, just in case. People who are allergic to onions and leeks are often also allergic to garlic.
Researchers are starting to focus more on the benefits of garlic. Some simple studies have shown that even for strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, garlic has managed to fight against them. In fact, in one study, 82% of all antibiotic-resistant UTI bacteria were found to be susceptible to garlic.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Goldenseal is most commonly found around the Eastern part of North America. Its roots and leaves are used to fight against infections and forms of inflammation, and it’s one of the most popular herbal remedies across the globe.
You can make teas, extracts, and capsules of this herb to help with all sorts of health conditions including colds, allergies, poor digestion, inflamed gums, and skin conditions. Goldenseal contains a variety of compounds, including hydrastine, canadine, and berberine, which all have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Goldenseal is often already added to various feminine hygiene products, even though there aren’t a lot of studies to back up its health benefits yet.
According to research though, berberine in goldenseal may have the ability to stop bacteria from sticking to bladder walls, which can reduce the likelihood of catching an UTI, or may make it easier to treat. It can also help prevent yeast infections.
Due to its numerous other health benefits, it is a great herb to take regularly. It can help to improve the immune system and stop recurring UTIs in those who find themselves constantly getting an infection.
There are plenty of natural remedies for UTIs. Most of them depend on prevention methods or catching the problem early, though, so they may not always work if you don’t start treating the infection once it is established. However, using one or a combination of these herbal remedies above can help those who can’t get rid of persistent and continuous UTIs.