Urinary Tract Infections


Prevention & Treatment
Causes Medicinal Plants
Symptoms References

By: Ashley Gilpin, Hayley Brown & Sergio Huerta 


A urinary tract infection is an infection of any of the organs in the urinary tract, which consist of the bladder, the ureter, the urethra, and the kidneys. 

Photo courtesy of http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/1122.htm

  • The diseases that affect each organ are:

  • Urethritis is infection/inflammation of the urethra. This can be due to other things besides the organisms usually involved in UTI's; in particular, many sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) appear initially as urethritis. However, stool-related bacteria (the most common bacteria on the skin near the meatus) will also often cause urethritis. 
  • Cystitis is an infection of the bladder. This is the most common form of UTI; it can be aggravated if the bladder does not empty completely when you urinate.
  • Ureteritis is infection of a ureter. This can occur if the bacteria entered the urinary tract from above, or if the ureter-to-bladder valves don't work properly and allow urine to "reflux" from the bladder into the ureters.
  • Pyelonephritis is an infection of the kidney itself. This can happen with infection from above, or if reflux into the ureters is so bad that infected urine refluxes all the way to the  kidney.

Photo courtesy of http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/1123.htm


UTI’s occur:

  • When microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra and begin to multiply
  • When bacteria enters the kidneys from the bloodstream
  • Most commonly from Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • From microorganisms called Chlamydia and Mycoplasma
  • From an obstruction – a urinary stone or enlarged prostate (in men)

UTI’s are more likely to occur when:

  • Catheters or tubes are placed in the bladder
  • A person has diabetes because of changes in the immune system
  • The immune system has been suppressed
  • Infants are born with abnormalities of the urinary tract
  • Women use a diaphragm
  • Women whose partners use a condom with spermicidal foam
  • A person who has already had a UTI

People more susceptible to UTI’s:

  • Diabetics because of changes in the immune system
  • Infants who are born with abnormalities of the urinary tract
  • Women who use a diaphragm
  • Women whose partners use a condom with spermicidal foam
  • A person who has already had a UTI
  • Pregnant women
  • Post-menopausal women
  • Women on birth control pills
  • Women with lowered immunity
  • Women with prolapsed urethra or bladder
  • Women with obstructions in the urinary tract
  • Women who are “non-secretors” of certain blood group antigens



Symptoms depend on age of person and where the UTI is located .

Symptoms of urethritis often include:

  • Burning sensation at the start of urination

Symptoms of cystitis often include:

  • Burning sensation in the middle of urination
  • Fever
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Funny smell, color, or appearance (cloudy, dark, blood tinged) of urine

Symptoms of Pyelonephritis often include:

  • Pain in back, flanks, or abdomen
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Other symptoms of UTI’s:

  • Uncomfortable pressure above pubic bone
  • Fullness in rectum (in men only)
  • Small amount of urine, despite urge to urinate
  • Irritability (in children only)
  • Abnormal eating (in children only)

 Complications if infected with pyelonephritis

  • Scarring and damage to kidney tissue
  • Kidney failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Frequent fainting
  • Strokes
  • Heart disease


Prevention & Treatment

Photo by Sergio Huerta

Diagnosis of UTI:

  • A urine sample is given to be tested for pus and bacteria (urinalysis test)
  • The urine is examined for white and red blood cells and bacteria
  • Bacteria are grown in a culture and tested against antibiotics to determine which drug best destroys bacteria
  • A sensitivity test is given
  • Nuclear scans to determine kidney damage
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) which gives x-ray images of bladder, kidneys, and ureters
  • Ultrasound of kidneys, ureter, and bladder
  • Cystoscopy
  • Dipsticks that change color with presence of an infection





Photos by Sergio Huerta


Anti-biotics used to treat UTI:

  • Trimethoprim (Trimpex)
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxamole(TMP/SMZ) (Bactrim, Septra, Cotrim)
  • Amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, Wymox)
  • Nitrofurantoin (Nacrodantin, Furadantin)
  • Ampicillin
  • Ofloxacin (Floxin)
  • Norfloxacin (Noroxin)
  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)



  • Antibiotics for 1-2 days
  • Single treatment is not recommended for patients with delayed treatments, kidney infections, diabetes, structural abnormalities, males with prostate infections
  • Longer treatment needed by patients infected with Mycoplasma or Chlamydia which is treated with tetracycline, TMP/SMZ, or doxycycline
  • Kidney infections require several weeks of antibiotic treatment
  • Heating pads may help in some cases
  • Doctors recommend lengthier therapy in men to prevent infections of prostate gland


Prevention of UTI’s:

  • Drink plenty of water every day
  • Urinate when needed; don’t resist the urge to urinate
  • Wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria around the anus from entering the vagina or urethra
  • Avoid coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods
  • Avoid smoking
  • Take showers instead of tub baths
  • Cleanse genital area before sexual intercourse
  • Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays and scented douches, which may irritate the urethra
  • Some doctors suggest drinking cranberry juice


Medicinal Plants

Herbal actions to help UTI:

  • Urinary support herbs – provide general heating support for the urinary system.  Herbs:  agrimony, couchgrass, elder flowers, plantain, yarrow, juniper, horsetail, Lady’s mantle, saw palmetto
  • Foundation support herbs – provide overall nutritional and adaptogenic support.  Herbs:  nettles, red clover, super blue-green algae, astragulus, ginsengs, acidophilus, burdock
  • Demulcents – will help soothe and coat irritated inflamed tissue. Herbs:  marshmallow, comfrey, plantain, violet, mullein, corn silk
  • Antispasmodics – helps body reduce muscular spasms along urinary tract. Herbs:  marshmallow, hops, red raspberry, skullcap, chamomile
  • Alkalizing herbs – may help alkalize the urine.  Herbs:  sarsaparilla, peppermint, marshmallow, comfrey, root, plantain, ginger
  • Anti-microbials – help overcome and destroy pathogenic bacteria and strengthen immune responses. Herbs:  echinacea, goldenseal, myrrh, burdock, garlic, bilberry, uva ursi, feverfew, honeysuckle, barberry, buchu
  • Diuretics – stimulate the kidney and bladder and increase the flow of urine. Herbs:  dandelion, corn silk, sassafras, juniper berry, fennel, cleavers, uva ursi, horsetail, goldenrod, meadowsweet, pipsissewa, plantain, shepherd’s purse
  • Anti-inflammatory – lessen inflammation caused by bruising or trauma, or from infection, and lessen pain. Herbs: ginger, Echinacea, yellow dock, licorice, gotu kola, comfrey, chamomile, marshmallow


For cystitis:  beth root, horsetail, hydrangea, corn silk, barberry, black haw

For kidney involvement:  gravel root, marshmallow leaf, couchgrass, barberry, stone root, hydrangea, corn silk, uva ursi


Bacteria specific herbs:

  • Enterobacter – eucalyptus
  • Candida – ginger, yarrow, barberry, fennel, black cohosh
  • E. Coli – yarrow, uva ursi, calendula, fennel, St. John’s wort, chamomile, Oregon grape root, thyme, ginger
  • Klebsiella – uva ursi, thyme, St. John’s wort, honeysuckle, ginger
  • Proteus– – garlic, eucalyptus, thyme, horseradish
  • Streptococcus faecalis – calendula, blessed thistle, ginkgo, thyme, ginger


Plants used in the treatment of urinary tract infections:

1.)    Cranberry: Traditionally, cranberry has been used for many urinary tract aliments. Preparation of cranberry: the use of encapsulated cranberry extract, several large glasses of high quality cranberry juice or of a cranberry tincture (cranberry extracted into an alcohol solution) are recommended. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which demonstrate an ability to prevent E. coli, the most common cause of bacterial urinary tract infections, from adhering to the inner walls of the bladder.    

Photo courtesy of The University of Maine Cooperative Extension

2.)    Blueberry: Blueberry has also been used traditionally to treat and prevent urinary tract infections.  Like the cranberry, blueberries demonstrate bioactive compounds that inhibit the ability of E. coli to adhere to the walls of the bladder. Rutgers University is currently conducting a wide variety of studies on the medicinal values of blueberries, including its use for urinary tract infections.  

                                                   Photo courtesy of http://Free-Stock-Photos.com

3.)    Bearberry/ Uva ursi: Bearberry preparation: an effusion of bearberry leaves is the recommended method of use, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables to make the urine more alkaline. Bearberry leaves contain arbutin, which exhibits an antibacterial effect in alkaline urine, where arbutin breaks down into glucose and an antibacterial unbound hydroquione.             


Photo courtesy of Luz Hernandez


4.)    Horseradish: Horseradish preparation: ingestion of the volatile oil. Horseradish’s volatile oil exhibits an antibacterial effect on the bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections. 

5.)    Goldenseal: Bererine, an alkaloid that may act similarly to proanthocyanidins in inhibiting bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder, is present in goldenseal, as well as Oregon grape and other plants. However, more research into the effectiveness of bererine is needed.

6.)    Asparagus: like birch, horsetail, Java tea, lovage, parsley, and spiny restharrow, asparagus appears to help relieve urinary tract infections by increasing urinary volume, which would in turn help flush out the infectious material.

7.)  Juniper berry: contains bitter compounds that increase the flow of urine.  It also increases production of digestive fluids that assist in absorption as well as relieves pain. The berry is often used as an antiseptic, diuretic, and stimulant.  It is extremely useful with chronic cystitis but best when not used when there is acute inflammation because may result in irritation of bladder

8.)  Plantain : Diuretic properties useful for kidney and urinary bladder infections

9.)  Dandelion root: Contains bitter compounds that enhance efficiency of eliminative and detoxifying functions.  Dandelion root also restores normal liver function and increases the flow of urine.  It is used as a strong diuretic and relieves false sensations of urgency.

10.) Chamomile flowers : Contain aromatic compounds that increase production of digestive fluids.  The flowers reduce muscle spasms and pains, and inflammation.  It is often used as an antiseptic

11.) Couch grass: It is used as a diuretic.  Also used as and anti-inflammatory on lining of bladder

12.) Cleavers : Are used as a soothing diuretic and are extremely useful with acute or chronic cystitis

13.) Nettles: Used as a mild diuretic

14.) Buchu: Is used as a diuretic and a urinary disinfectant.  It stimulates urination and soothes burning sensations during urination. Buchu should not be used if there is acute inflammation in the urinary tract

15.) Echinacea: Improves overall immune responses and strengthens tissues.  Echinacea also stimulates immune responses

16.) Corn silk: Used as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory. Corn silk reduces painful symptoms and swelling.  It is often used as a urinary demulcent.

17.) Hydrangea: Stimulates and cleans kidneys.  Hydrangea also helps urinary and back pains and irritation in the bladder and the urethra. It works quickly on urethral pain

18.) Marshmallow Root: Inhibits bacterial growth in the urinary tract and strengthens and cleans bladder.  It is used as a demulcent , emollient , and a diuretic.  It soothes urinary system and helps kidney and bladder inflammations.  It effectively stops bleeding in urine

19.) Yarrow: It is used as an anti-inflammatory, antiypyretic , spasmolytic , diaphoretic, astringent, and tonic.  Yarrow also regulates urination problems and soothes and heals mucous membranes

20.) Gravel Root: Used as a mild diuretic, stimulant, tonic, and urinary anodyne.  It helps with deep back ache and cloudy and milky urine

21.) Burdock : Kills disease causing bacteria and fungi

22.) Goldenrod: Used as a mild antiseptic, diuretic.  Helps pain in kidneys and dark urine

23.) Cinnamon : Proven to completely suppress causes of E. coli and Candida albicans, UTI causing bacteria and fungus, respectively.


Copson, Mary Ann. Herbs for Urinary Infections.  http://www.evenstaronline.com/articles/urinary.html

Howell, Amy. Research Update on Beneficial Medicinal Compounds in Blueberries. http://cook.rutgers.edu/~bluecran/medicinalgeneralinfopage.htm

Johnston , Laurance Ph.D Natural Urinary Tract Health:  Herbal, Essential Oil, & Homeopathy Therapies.  http://healingtherapies.info/Urinary-Tract%20Health%20-%20Part%202.htm

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Urinary Tract Infections in Adults. http://www.kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/utiadult/index.htm#Research

Supplements A-Z: Bearberry. http://www.supplementwatch.com/supatoz/supplement.asp?supplementId=324

Urinary Tract Infections. http://www.mycustompak.com/healthNotes/Concern/UTI.htm

Viday, Reddy M.D. Urinary Tract (Kidney and Bladder) Infections.  http://www.drreddy.com/uti.html

Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/encyclopedia.html


Last updated July 20, 2004
For more information contact Dr. Mary O'Connell at moconnel@nmsu.edu

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