Herbal Remedies for Cystitis

The term “cystitis” is a general reference to inflammation of the bladder. Commonly referred to as a bladder or urinary tract infection (UTI), cystitis occurs in about two out of every 100 people. Usually a relatively brief and acute infection, cystitis is most of the time, but not always, caused by bacteria; and the infection is generally limited to the surface of the bladder.

Cystitis occurs most commonly in women—in fact, women are about 30% more likely to develop the infection than are men. About 20% of all women will experience cystitis in their lifetime; and sexually active women between the ages of 20 and 50 are most likely to be affected. When the condition does occur in men, it is usually due to an enlarged prostate gland.

The most notable symptoms of cystitis are a strong urge to urinate, burning upon urination, and blood in the urine. The urine may also have a strong smell and/or cloudy appearance. Individuals with cystitis normally pass frequent, small amounts of urine, experience pressure or pain sensations in the pelvic area, and may run a low fever. Individuals who’ve experienced cystitis once are much more likely to experience it again; and for some it can become a chronic, recurring problem.

Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics in order to treat the underlying infection, but symptoms of cystitis are notoriously difficult to manage and may last several days. While prescription or over the counter medications may help, several alternative remedies have shown to be effective in relieving the discomforts associated with cystitis. Following are a few of the most common herbal remedies for cystitis and how they work to relieve the symptoms.

Cranberry is the most commonly used and most effective herbal “weapon” for combating cystitis symptoms. Cranberry contains natural acids that can be extremely beneficial in restoring and maintaining the appropriate pH balance of the bladder. Because cranberry makes urine more acidic, and because bacteria generally thrive in a less acidic environment, drinking cranberry juice can help speed recovery from a bladder infection and, once the infection is gone, can help to prevent bacteria from taking hold again. For this reason, doctors of both traditional and holistic medicine often recommend drinking cranberry juice to both fight and prevent cystitis occurrences.

Thanks to its diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties, corn silk is also recommended to help treat cystitis symptoms. Corn silk is normally used in tea or as a tincture. Another anti-inflammatory and diuretic, marshmallow root can be effective at relieving some of the pain and discomfort associated with cystitis. Marshmallow root is available in tea, powder, extract, capsule or tablet form. Lastly, pipsissewa, an evergreen shrub, is sometimes recommended by herbalists to help combat fever and disinfect the urinary tract. Pipsissewa should be used for only a short time, however, and may interfere with hormone-based birth control methods—so talk with your doctor before trying it for your cystitis. Pipsessewa may be taken in tincture, extract, tablet, or tea form.

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