4 herbal remedies designed to eliminate the threat of urinary tract infections
(NaturalHealth365) Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common form of bacterial infection, triggering emergency room visits for roughly a million Americans every year. Women are far more susceptible than men, with fully one third of women experiencing a UTI by age 24.
Western medicine attempts to treat UTIs with broad-spectrum antibiotics – which can cause a variety of toxic side effects, as well as contributing to the growing global epidemic of antibiotic resistance. These dangerous drawbacks have caused many scientists to stress the urgent need for alternate, natural therapies for UTIs.
Below, you will find four time-honored herbal remedies, the benefits of which have been validated by recent scientific research.
Discover the leading natural preventative option for urinary tract infections
Cranberries have a well-earned reputation for helping to ward off UTIs. Extensive scientific studies are now revealing their intriguing method of action. And, while researchers used to credit the benzoic acid in these tart berries with creating an environment in the bladder that is unfriendly to the growth of pathogens, many now believe that benzoic acid must share the infection-fighting credit with the proanthocyanidins.
Proanthocyanidins, a group of natural pigments and antioxidants, are found in intensely-colored fruits and vegetables – and are in particularly good supply in cranberries.
The primary cause of UTIs – a bacterium known as E.coli – makes its way from the anus to the urethra, where it then adheres to mucosal cells in the urinary tract. Researchers have discovered that the proanthocyanidins in cranberries actually attack and disable the structures on the surfaces of the bacteria that make cell adhesion possible.
Without attaching to the urethral lining, the infection fails to take hold.
In one impressive study involving female adult participants with chronic urinary tract infections (an average of six a year), 400 mg of cranberry extract a day completely eliminated UTI incidence – with no side effects. How’s that for effectiveness?!
Cranberry appears to be equally beneficial when taken in the form of juice. In recent research, cranberry juice performed nearly as well in preventing UTIs as trimethoprim, an antibiotic. If you decide to go the “juice route,” opt for unsweetened, organic cranberry juice – in the amount of at least two cups per day.
Cranberry extracts, however, have the advantage of being more cost-effective than fresh juice. But, ultimately, the best way to access the benefits of cranberries depends on your personal taste – and your financial situation.
Marshmallow root is a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and diuretic
Revered in herbal medicine for its ability to ease sore throats and coughs, marshmallow root is also gaining traction among integrative healthcare providers as a treatment for UTIs – and for good reason.
This natural herb is high in mucilage, a natural tissue-soother. It also has potent anti-inflammatory effects to alleviate swelling in the mucous membranes lining the urinary tract – thereby making tissues stronger and less susceptible to toxins, infections and damage.
In addition, marshmallow root increases urine flow, helping to flush toxins, and also combats bacteria – making it a useful ally against E. coli. And, finally, marshmallow root contains high levels of antioxidant glucuronoxylan – which helps to protect against disease-causing oxidative damage.
While marshmallow root is indeed an ingredient in the sugary white confection roasted over bonfires, you need a more concentrated supply to get the herb’s full benefits. An integrative physician may recommend addressing UTIs with one to two teaspoons of powdered marshmallow root per day, taken with at least 8 ounces of liquid.
Alternately, marshmallow root is available as a tea, which can be sipped in the amount of one-half to one cup, four times a day.
Uva ursi contains a host of infection-fighting phytochemicals
Uva ursi, also known as bearberry, has been used by herbal healers for close to two thousand years to treat infections and inflammations of the bladder and kidneys. A natural diuretic and antiseptic, uva ursi alleviates inflammation and strengthens the lining of the urinary tract.
But that isn’t all.
The herb is also rich in tannic acid – which has proven antifungal and antibacterial properties – and contains a compound called arbutin that helps regulate the pH balance of urine.
Finally, uva ursi contains allantoin, which is often used as a healing, skin-soothing ingredient in lotions and ointments. Uva ursi is available in capsules (or powders) and natural health experts advise a formulation standardized to 400 to 800 mg of arbutin.
You can also make uva ursi tea by simmering a tablespoon of dried leaves in 2 cups of water for 40 minutes, then straining and cooling. Drink three to four times a day.
Keep in mind: Uva ursi should not be used long-term, or in high dosages. As with the other three remedies, always consult your integrative doctor before taking it.
Corn silk: An old-fashioned herbal remedy exhibits therapeutic powers in clinical studies
Corn silk, long treasured in folk medicine as a home remedy for UTIs, has some serious scientific credibility backing up its low-tech, homey image. In fact, it turns out that these silky fibers have powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
In a study published in Journal of Complementary Medicine Research, 42 adult participants with UTIs were treated with an aqueous extract of corn silk, and followed up after 5 days, 10 days and 20 days.
The patients experienced significant reductions in the pain and in the frequent, urgent urination that can accompany UTIs – along with a decrease in the number of pus cells (a sign of infection) in the urine.
There were no reports of side effects, leading the team to characterize corn silk as “effective and safe.”
Corn silk can be easily brewed into a tea. Simply add a tablespoon of dried strands to a cup of almost-boiling water, let the mixture steep for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain, cool and drink. Plus, natural healers may advise drinking one or two cups of corn silk tea, two to three times a day, to combat UTIs.
Remember, don’t attempt to treat urinary tract infections – or any other medical condition – with these natural remedies without first consulting an experienced healthcare provider. UTIs can sometimes progress to serious kidney infections, manifested by fever, chills and lower back pain – which require immediate medical attention.
To prevent UTIs from taking hold in the first place, natural health experts advise staying well hydrated, avoiding antibiotic overuse, wearing cotton underwear and avoiding irritating bubble baths and commercial vaginal hygiene products. Of course, eliminating refined sugars from your diet can also lower the risk of these uncomfortable infections.
Marshmallows, cranberries, corn silk and bearberry (uva ursi) may lack the multi-syllabic, official-sounding monikers of the latest drugs cooked up by big pharma. But, these herbal strategies can still offer wonderful results.
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