An Herbal Blend for Urinary Tract Infections
Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor
Need to get your urinary tract back on track? This tea blend is helpful for addressing the symptoms and the root cause (primarily, bacterial infection) of urinary tract infections (UTIs). The herbs in this formula soothe inflamed urinary mucosal membranes through their demulcent, astringent, and anti-inflammatory actions. They are also antimicrobial as well as diuretic—they help flush out bacteria by promoting urination.
It’s important that the tea be drunk at room temperature, which augments the herbs’ diuretic effect. It is also prudent to take an immune-stimulating tincture—along with the tea—to enhance the body’s innate immune efforts in combating the bacterial infection. Good immune-stimulating medicinals for UTIs include echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), spilanthes (Acmella oleracea), and usnea (Usnea spp.) Additionally, you can drink unsweetened cranberry and blueberry juice along with the tea. Avoid sugar and natural sweeteners until the infection clears.
If the infection worsens or fails to clear up after three days, consult your health care provider—antibiotics may be necessary. If you develop a fever, lower back pain, or feel really sick and achy, you may have a kidney infection; seek immediate medical attention, as kidney infections have the potential to irreparably damage the kidneys and are best resolved by antibiotics, not herbs.
Most UTIs are caused by bacteria found in the vagina or genitourinary tract (much rarer) but sometimes they are caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you have had unprotected sex, or your partner has potentially had unprotected sex, you’ll want to rule out an STI as the cause of infection.
- 1 Tablespoon goldenrod flower and leaf (Solidago spp.)
- 1 Tablespoon marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis)
- 2 Tablespoons corn silk (Zea mays)
- 1½ Tablespoons uva-ursi leaf (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
If the uva-ursi leaf is whole, crush it with a mortar and pestle or grind in a coffee grinder. Add the uva-ursi and marshmallow root to 32 ounces (1 L) of water in a small pot. Simmer covered for twenty minutes. Turn off the heat and add the corn silk and goldenrod. Infuse covered until the tea cools to room temperature and strain. Adults may drink up to 4 cups (32 ounces or 1 L) a day for up to one week.
The measurements in this blend are for dried cut and sifted herbs (store-bought). If you’re using homegrown or wildcrafted herbs—or fresh herbs—use larger quantities. See below for important precautions regarding uva-ursi.
Safety and Contraindications: Goldenrod can be overly drying as a beverage or tonic tea for people with a dry constitution, as it is diuretic, astringent, and decongestant. Short-term usage shouldn’t be a problem. Do not use in pregnancy. Although rare, goldenrod has caused allergic contact dermatitis after both handling and oral administration.1 Those with Asteraceae allergies should exercise caution with goldenrod. If you are harvesting your own goldenrod, be sure to gather only true Solidago species because there are deadly look-alikes (please see my in-depth article on goldenrod for details).
Herbs for UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections):
Co-Starring Herbal Featurettes
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Goldenrod has a wonderful affinity for the urinary tract and is beneficial as a diuretic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory herb to soothe urinary tract infections. The diuretic property of goldenrod is also helpful in addressing edema, gout, and kidney stones.
You can find information on goldenrod’s Safety and Contraindications above, and please take a peek at my article on goldenrod's medicinal uses for even more information.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
Marshmallow’s demulcent roots and leaves have been used for medicine since ancient times. This perennial wildflower and garden herb is well-loved by herbalists for its soothing, demulcent properties, especially for addressing issues with the urinary, digestive, and respiratory tracts.
Marshmallow can be taken internally as a warm or cold infusion (tea), powder, or food herb (add to salads, smoothies, or just have a nibble).
Safety and Contraindications: Marshmallow has no known adverse side effects but some herbalists still caution about its use during pregnancy, as there are no studies confirming its safety.
Corn Silk (Zea mays)
When shucking corn over the summer, save your corn silk, as it’s valuable medicine. Corn silk is one of my most treasured remedies for the urinary tract with its soothing, cooling, diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to relieve urinary tract infections and also eases general urethral irritation, as in interstitial cystitis. It is better as a tea than a tincture, as its demulcent properties are not alcohol-soluble; plus, the extra fluid inherent in tea is helpful when working with urinary problems.
Safety and Contraindications: Only use the silk from organically-grown corn. No other known precautions.
Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Uva-ursi, also known as bearberry or kinnikinnick, is a native North American evergreen herb related to cranberry. In my experience, it’s the most useful antimicrobial and astringent remedy for UTIs. Of any herb, it’s the most likely to effectively throw off the bacteria causing an infection.
Safety and Contraindications: Contraindicated in pregnancy and breastfeeding.1 Due to its high levels of tannins, it should only be used on a short-term basis and is contraindicated in constipation, iron deficiency anemia, and malnutrition. GI irritation is possible due to tannins as well. Use cautiously in the presence of ulcers and inflammatory digestive conditions.1
Want to know even more about goldenrod? We share all about identifying, growing, gathering, and using this native wildflower here.
- Mills, S., and Bone, K. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2005).
Meet the Green Mastermind Behind Blog Castanea:
JULIET BLANKESPOOR founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She's been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She's owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school.
These days, she channels her botanical obsession with her writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She's writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. Juliet and her houseplants share a home with her family and herb books in Asheville, North Carolina.
INDY SRINATH is a Los Angeles based urban gardener, mushroom cultivator, and food justice advocate. She’s committed to increasing organic food access and health literacy in underserved populations. Find her work on Instagram @indyofficinalis.