Herbs for An Over-Active Bladder

Horsetail "Equesetim"-- a herb often used as a natural remedy of Over-Active Bladder

You may have experienced an "over-active bladder" (OAB) during a time when you had a urinary infection and felt the urgency to urinate, along with that unique searing pain that generally signals cystitis, or inflammation of the urinary bladder.

The International Continence Society, started in the UK and with global branches, defines "over-active bladder" as a symptom of an affliction that can include:

  • urgency, or a strong, sometimes painful, need to pee
  • frequency-- urgency to pee more often than normal
  • nocturia, or having your nighttime sleep interrupted by the need to get up to pee an excessive number of times
Over-active bladder, particularly when we use that phrase to describe what many of us think of as "urinary incontinence" (or usually just "incontinence"), is usually just a description of how the bladder and other urinary tract organs function and not a reference to a urinary tract infection, which is the reason that many are treated with antibiotics and tests of various sorts.  An abnormality in the structure of the urinary tract and/or organs or pelvic floor is generally associated with incontinence OAB.  

A urinary infection can certainly occur as a result of the stress of dealing with incontinence.

Incontinence is often isolating and frustrating.  Feelings of shame, having to wear protective pads or diapers, re-arranging your life to accommodate frequent bathroom visits, and the financial costs incurred are all down-sides of urinary incontinence.  While we mostly think in terms of OAB affecting the elderly (and indeed, most urgent requests for nursing home care come from the care-givers of older women with incontinence),  incontinence can affect all ages from small children and upward.

Here are the herbs ( many available through Amazon) that were reviewed in the NCBI article:

Gosha-jinki-gan (Chinese Medicine herbs-- Please discuss with your health provider)

Hachi-mi-jio-gan (Chinese Medicine herbs-- Please discuss with your health provider)

Buchu (Barosma betulina) (South African Herb -- Please discuss with your health provider)

Cornsilk (Zea mays) (yup, North Amercian corn-- the silk from the female plant) It has been used for years for relief from cystitis, but no clinical studies have been done.

Cleavers (Galium aparine) (North American Herb)-- not to be eaten raw, so often made as tea.  I call it the "velcro weed" because it tends to stick to you in the flower bed.

Horsetail (Equisetum) (European, North American)  Horsetail grows freely in the ditches around where I live.  My mother-in-law used to gather it for tea.  It is high in antioxidants, but there are no clinical studies regarding Over-active Bladder).

Ganoderma lucidum (Grown in Japan, China and other Asian countries) It is a large dark mushroom (fungus) revered as promoting longevity.  Please discuss with your health provider.


The current range of anticholinergic pharmaceuticals  available to treat OAB generally have side-effects like dry mouth and constipation, but can have more worrisome effects such as raised blood pressure, heart 'fluttering' and/or changes in heart rhythm.  

The United Nations World Health Organization estimates that about 80% of people, world-wide, use herbs and other alternatives to primary care traditional medical treatments.  Women are the largest users of herbal supplements.  

A medical doctor authored review of the most-used herbs for overcoming Over-Active Bladder-- OAB or incontinence-- was published here at the National Center for Biotechnology Information.  They state in their review's conclusion that many of the herb supplements they review show great promise but can't be endorsed because they lack the necessary research studies.  

I believe that most herbs and other 'natural' products will not be tested by the Pharmaceutical companies because they are not open to patent, and are therefore not economically attractive to this industry-- i.e., they can not be branded by the companies.

 I suspect that many of these herbs-- in supplement form-- are being used by women and men (and children?) attempting to deal with Over-active Bladder syndrome.  There are many "anecdotal" reports of their efficacy but until there are conclusive studies, most people will not feel confident in pursuing this route.  If you know of a Chinese medicine doctor, or a naturopath who you respect, you may want to discuss these herbs with them as possible in helping overcome OAB. 

I would also like to suggest that you listen to Dr. Michael Greger's informative audio called To Pee Or Not To Pee.  He will give you some great information about working to get your bladder back into health and deal with the situation from a place of optimal health... and he won't prescribe a bunch of high-cost supplements, either, promise!  Go here-->To Pee Or Not To Pee

Disclosure: References in this blog are meant for information only and if you have a condition of concern, please consult with your trusted health care provider.

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