Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are no joke. Not only are they incredibly uncomfortable but they can also lead to kidney damage. If you’ve experienced a UTI yourself I’m sure you haven’t forgotten the burning, pain and the constant feeling like you have to ’go’.
Natural medicines are extremely well placed when it comes to treating and particularly preventing UTIs. Golden rod is one herb that’s useful for the treatment of infections and inflammation of the urinary tract (including the kidneys), so I thought I’d highlight it in today’s article.
But first, let’s dig a little deeper into UTIs.
UTIs are surprisingly common, particularly in women, babies and older people. It’s estimated around one in two women and one in twenty men will have a UTI in their lifetime and for some people it’s a recurrent problem.
What are UTIs?
Our urinary tract is made up of several parts, including your kidneys, bladder and urethra. Sometimes, bacteria can infect your urinary tract. When this happens, it’s called a urinary tract infection (UTI).
The most common type of UTI is an infection of the bladder (cystitis). Infections of the urethra (urethritis) are also common.
Like an infection of the bladder or urethra, a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is a type of UTI. While all UTIs require treatment, a kidney infection can be quite serious and can lead to potentially severe complications if left untreated. If there is a fever, chills, lower back pain, nausea or vomiting this may indicate the infection has spread to the kidneys, in which case urgent medical attention is needed.
How do infections damage the kidneys?
Infections can cause kidney injury either by direct invasion of bacteria into the kidney or indirectly as a result of the body’s immune system fighting off an infection in another area of the body.
Scientists believe that most kidney infections start as a bladder infection that moves upstream to infect one or both kidneys. Most often, the infection is caused by bacteria that normally live in your bowel.
The urinary tract has several ways to prevent infection from moving up the urinary tract. For example, urination generally flushes out bacteria before it reaches the bladder. Sometimes your body can’t fight the bacteria and the bacteria causes a UTI.
In some cases, your blood can carry bacteria or viruses from another part of your body- as in cases of septicaemia or infective endocarditis- to your kidneys resulting in a kidney infection.
Medical treatment of UTIs
Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat UTIs which while helpful in getting rid of the infection and symptoms by killing the bacteria causing the infection, they also kill off the good bacteria in the body which are important for many vital functions, including protecting against the growth and spread of bad bacteria. So, taking antibiotics against UTIs often leads people into a vicious cycle of infection, treatment and re-infection.
It makes sense then that we should look at different options for the treatment and prevention of UTIs and that’s where golden rod comes in!
What is Golden rod?
Golden rod (Solidago virgaurea) is a herb with a long history of use with the bladder and urinary system and more specifically for inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and kidneys, prevention and treatment of urinary calculi and kidney gravel and as an adjuvant in the treatment of bacterial infections of the urinary tract. Golden rod also helps the kidneys from getting bogged down with bacterial and immune by-products that build up after an infection.
On that note, let’s take a look at the specific actions of golden rod that make it a great herb for the prevention and treatment of urinary tract and kidney infections and inflammation.
- Antiseptic and antimicrobial – inhibits microbial growth and expression to prevent UTIs from occurring and bacteria tracking up into the kidneys. In a study of people with UTIs, treatment with golden rod on its own was as effective as when it was combined with antibiotics.
- Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation and local irritation. Not only does this reduce pain caused by infection and inflammation but by improving barrier function, you also reduce the risk of recurrent infections. Golden rod is frequently used to treat urinary tract inflammation, particularly bladder and kidney inflammation. In a study of patients suffering from urinary tract inflammation, symptoms disappeared in 70-73% of people treated with golden rod.
- Diuretic – increases the volume of urine produced and eliminated from the body which helps prevent UTIs from occurring by helping to flush bacteria from the urinary tract so they can’t set up shop and cause an infection and reduces the chance of bacteria making their way to the kidneys.
- Analgesic – reduces pain from irritation and inflammation of the urinary tract. Studies have shown that its pain-relieving properties are comparable to the anti-inflammatory diclofenac.
- Astringent – Golden rod has astringent properties which means it causes constriction or tightening of the mucous membranes of the urinary tract which can help to prevent infection from getting deeper in the tissue. It also provides a protective layer that helps to heal inflamed tissue and reduce bleeding.
- Antispasmodic – UTIs can cause spasms of the bladder which aren’t just painful but are also part of the reason why you keep feeling like you have to ‘go’ but when you sit on the toilet nothing much happens. Golden rod helps to relax the bladder and reduce those painful spasms. For this reason, it’s also helpful for people with overactive bladder syndrome.
As a side note, golden rod is also useful in the prevention and treatment of kidney stones. Evidence shows that it can help to prevent stones from forming and its diuretic properties may also help with expelling small stones. It has the added benefit of reducing inflammation and spasms of the bladder so may also help reduce pain associated with kidney stones.
The therapeutic dose of golden rod is 2 to 2.6gms a day. Before starting any new supplements make sure you speak to your healthcare provider first to ensure it is appropriate for your use, particularly if you are taking any diuretic medication as golden rod has its own diuretic effects.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of why golden rod is a great herb when it comes to preventing and treating UTIs and for reducing inflammation of the kidneys and urinary tract.
Don’t forget though, if you have a UTI and develop a fever, chills, pain in your lower back or side, nausea or vomiting make sure you get urgent medical attention as the infection may have travelled to your kidneys and medical treatment is needed.
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