Hi Sandra, I suffer from recurrent urinary tract infections and have done so for many years. I've had more antibiotics than I can count, and whilst they work to stop the infection at the time, it always comes back. Please help. Thanks, Karla.

Hi Karla, thanks for your question. Recurrent urinary tract infection (cystitis) is more common than many realise. Women of reproductive age and older men with an enlarged prostate are especially prone to recurrent attacks of cystitis. It significantly affects quality of life and multiple courses of antibiotics can have detrimental long-term effects on the delicate ecosystem of bacteria known as the microbiota that support our immune and general health.

There are a few key medicinal plants that are particularly suited for the prevention of recurrent cystitis.

An excellent urinary antiseptic is Birch leaves (Betula pendula). Also a strong diuretic, Birch leaves are capable of increasing urine volume by 5-6 times, making them an excellent choice for both prevention and relief of cystitis. By increasing fluid volume through the kidneys and urinary tract, infectious organisms such as E.coli and staphylococcus are prevented from adhering to the tissues.

Golden Rod (Solidago virgaurea) is one of the best kidney and urinary tract remedies for both acute and chronic conditions. It has diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, allowing it to gently cleanse an infected urinary tract. When combined with Birch leaves, Golden Rod significantly reduced the number of infections experienced in a 12-month period and increased quality of life for women with recurrent cystitis.

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In Europe, the medicinal plant Nettle (Urtica dioica) is nicknamed "the washing powder for the body", as it strengthens the body's elimination organs (kidney, bladder, stomach, liver, pancreas and gall bladder) and has a cleansing action on tissues. Its diuretic action supports the body in eliminating water-soluble wastes such as uric acid, resulting in less inflammation and acidity.

Other excellent plants for cystitis include Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) and Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Both are high in essential vitamins and minerals such as silica that can help strengthen and repair irritated mucus membranes.

Women and men prone to cystitis are advised to take bladder-protecting herbs preventatively to stop the cycle of infection. They can be easily worked into the daily routine with medicinal tea. If recurrent cystitis has been problematic for years, begin with three cups per day for three months. As urinary tract health builds, you can reduce the dose to 1-2 cups daily as maintenance to prevent further infections.

These plants can also be used in acute cystitis, however it is important to increase the daily dose of the medicinal tea to 1.5 litres and supplement it with another half-litre of water for an effective flushing regime. Changing to a more alkaline diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and the complete removal of sugar can also help to speed healing. However if cystitis is not improving within 48 hours of herbal treatment, professional attention is warranted.

References
Frumenzio, E., Maglia, D., Salvini, E., Giovannozzi, S., Di Biase, M., Bini, V., & Costantini, E. (2013). Role of phytotherapy associated with antibiotic prophylaxis in female patients with recurrent urinary tract infections. Archivio Italiano di Urologia e Andrologia, 85(4): 197-199.