Herbs for Cystitis

Cystitis is inflammation of the lining of the bladder, more frequent in women than men. It is a very distressing condition causing low abdominal pain, the constant or frequent desire to urinate, and sometimes burning pain on urination. It is most often caused by a bacterial infection, which is diagnosed by urine culture, and treated with antibiotics. There are a few reasons why one may choose to use herbs to treat it. It may not respond well to antibiotics or tends to quickly recur, or the antibiotics may be causing unpleasant side-effects.

The herbalist will use three classes of herbs for cystitis of bacterial origin:

  1. Diuretics.
  2. Demulcents.
  3. Antibacterials

Why diuretics? You may think that is counter-intuitive, because you are peeing frequently anyway. But when you have cystitis the bladder never fills very much before you want to pee, so it is never given a good flushing out. Taking a diuretic herb as well as drinking lots of water will ensure that there is a nice through-put of water to flush out bacterial growth. Safe, effective diuretics to use are dandelion leaf and/or stinging nettle (the aerial parts of the plant). Make a tea with the fresh or dried plant parts. If fresh, a tablespoon in a cup of boiling water, if dried a teaspoon. Take three times a day.

Demulcents are soothing to the bladder lining. Both marshmallow root and plantain leaf are gentle and effective. (N.B. Plantain does not refer to a banana! It is a common herb also called Plantago.) Use plantain in the same way as for dandelion and nettle – you can put it in the same cup. With marshmallow you need to make what is called a cold decoction. Put a tablespoon of dried marshmallow root in a litre of water and put it in the fridge overnight. Take three cups a day. One litre will serve for two days. You can even boil this ‘cold’ decoction to make your dandelion or nettle tea.

Two good antibacterials are yarrow (aerial parts) and bearberry leaf (aka uva-ursi). Use one or the other in the same cup for the tea and at the same dose as described above for dandelion or nettle; or you can take them as tinctures: 50-100 drops in a little water three times a day. Do not use bearberry when pregnant or for more than 6 weeks at a time.

IMPORTANT: Please speak to your healthcare provider:

  • Before acting on this information.
  • If you experience any untoward symptoms while using herbs
  • If your cystitis does not respond or keeps recurring.

Do not use any herbs in pregnancy or while lactating, or for children, without first seeking professional advice.

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