HERBAL REMEDIES for Urinary Tract Infections

Cranberry Extract

You might not want to take in the extra sugar and calories from a daily glass or two of cranberry juice, and you may want to avoid the artificial sweeteners in the “light” brands ofjuice. Capsules of dried cranberry contain between 300 and 800 milligrams of dried cranberry powder, and are available in health food stores and pharmacies. Take two 500-milligram capsules to get the equivalent of 300 milliliters of cranberry juice.


There is good evidence to support this herbal remedy’s immune-boosting power. Studies have shown that garlic, in particular the allyl sulfur compounds plentiful in aged garlic extract, stimulate the body’s immune system. Animal studies have found that the amount of garlic equivalent to three aged garlic extract capsules dramatically increases the activity of white blood cells that fight infection—the killer cells, macrophages and leukocytes. You might want to take garlic daily to help maintain a healthy immune system. Or, if you are experiencing a UTI, consider adding this herb to your treatment plan.

Most scientists agree that one-half to one clove of fresh garlic consumed each day will offer health benefits. And most people can take one or two cloves a day without any problems. Use more raw garlic in cooking: add it to salad dressings, pasta sauces and stir-fries.

It’s the oil-soluble compounds in fresh garlic that account for its odor and its potential to cause stomach upset. If you decide to take garlic pills, buy a supplement made with aged garlic extract. This form of garlic has the highest concentration of the special sulfur compounds that boost the immune system. Aged garlic extract has two other benefits—it’s odorless, and the irritating components present in raw garlic are removed. Take between two to six capsules a day—that’s one or two with each meal. Because aged garlic extract can thin the blood, check with your physician first if you are taking blood-thinning medication such as Coumadin® (warfarin).

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Uva Ursi

Studies suggest that, when taken on a short-term basis, this herb may be effective for urinary tract problems, including UTIs. (In chapter 23, I discuss its use for interstitial cystitis.) The leaf of the plant is where the three active ingredients are found: arbutin, tannins and hydroquinone. When taken orally, uva ursi has antiseptic and astringent effects in the urinary tract and it may reduce inflammation. Although not proven, it is believed that foods that increase the acidity of the urine, like cranberry juice, may actually diminish the antibacterial properties of uva ursi.

If you experience a UTI and want to give this herb a try, be sure to use it safely.

• Do not use the herb longer than one week without medical supervision. Tannins can irritate the stomach and limit the herb’s duration of use. Hydroquinone can have toxic effects if taken in larger amounts for an extended period of time.

• Your doctor should evaluate urinary tract symptoms that persist for more than 48 hours.

• Limit your use of the herb to five times a year.

• Do not take uva ursi if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The herb can increase the speed of labor in pregnant women, and there is very little information available about its use during lactation.

• Do not use uva ursi if you have a kidney disorder.

You can take the herb as a standardized extract or as a tea. If you are buying the herb in pill or tablet form, buy a product that is standardized to contain 20 percent arbutin; this is the extract used in clinical studies. A statement of standardization can be found on the front label or the ingredient list. Buying an herb that is standardized means you are purchasing a product that has a guaranteed amount of the active ingredient. If you are using a tea, steep 3 grams of the dried leaf in 150 milliliters of cold water for 12 to 24 hours and then strain; take one cup of tea four times a day. It’s recommended that you prepare the tea with cold water to minimize the tannin content, as tannins can cause stomach upset. Uva ursi leaves are available from a certified herbalist.

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