Discovering Herbs: Uva-ursi - Don't Feel the Burn
Over two million women in the UK suffer from cystitis every year. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder caused by bacteria from nearby skin travelling up the urinary tract and growing in the bladder. Bacteria from the colon are common culprits. Women get cystitis more than men because their urinary tract opening is nearer to the anus, so the distance for the bacteria to travel is shorter.
Sometimes, the bacteria will track back up the urinary tract towards the kidneys, causing generalised Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). All of this can be really quite painful and debilitating, not to mention making it hard to continue with a normal schedule, as running increasingly frequently to the loo becomes a necessity.
Symptoms of cystitis
- Pain when passing urine - usually stinging or burning sensations
- Feeling an urgent need to urinate, even when there's little urine to pass
- Strong-coloured and strong-smelling urine
- Sometimes pain will travel to the lower abdomen or lower back if the bacteria have travelled upstream
How to minimise the risk
- Drink at least 1.5 litres of still, plain water daily
- Reduce the intake of coffee, tea and fizzy drinks
- Reduce the daily amount of refined sugar
- Be careful when inserting tampons
- Empty the bladder after having sex
- Wipe from front to back after using the toilet
- Don't resist the urge to urinate
- Avoid tight trousers and non-cotton underwear
Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for cystitis, but they tend to wipe out friendly bacteria and thus precipitate attacks of thrush.
Uva-ursi is a herb that has a remarkable effect on the bladder, possessing the clever attribute of working specifically in the bladder rather than anywhere else in the body. It travels through the body without doing anything, until it reaches the bladder. There, it changes its chemical structure, being hydrolysed to produce a substance called hydroquinone that disinfects the bladder. This disinfecting action is accompanied by no side effects and it does not cause thrush. It can be used short term to deal with an attack of cystitis, or long term to prevent recurrence.
Using it long term to prevent further attacks is particularly useful for women who suffer repeated infections. Those suffering from generalised UTIs will also benefit from long term courses of Uva-ursi, to keep the bladder clear and prevent recurrences.
Cranberry, the other commonly used natural remedy for cystitis, prevents bacteria sticking to the bladder wall. It will not disinfect the bladder as Uva-ursi does, nor cure an attack of cystitis, but can be taken to help ward off future attacks. Uva-ursi and Cranberry can be taken together. Uva-ursi has no contraindications with other medication.
Consult the doctor if in any doubt as to the nature of the problem, if there is blood in the urine, or if a fever is present. Uva-ursi and Cranberry are not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women.