Natural Remedies for Incontinence
Natural remedies for incontinence are surrounded by uncertainty. In fact, when it comes to using traditional herbal and natural remedies for urinary incontinence, “whether or not they work, I don’t know.” That’s the word from Dr. Geo Espinosa, ND, Lac, CNS, director of the Integrative Urology Center at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, and a specialist in alternative and naturopathic treatments for urinary tract disorders. The problem, he says, is that “you don’t know exactly how they work until they’re looked at scientifically,” and such studies need to be done.
That said, some natural remedies for incontinence are advertised as being specifically for overactive bladder. These remedies come as single ingredient or multi-ingredient formulations. Espinosa notes that combining various herbs is believed to provide a synergistic effect.
Despite the lack of scientific studies in humans to support any beneficial claims, the following natural remedies for incontinence are sometimes used to manage overactive bladder symptoms. Check with your healthcare provider before taking any of these herbal remedies.
- Buchu (Barosma betulina) is a South African plant that has a history of use for bladder and kidney infections. According to Espinosa, bucha may “nourish the bladder tissue.”
- Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a plant commonly found in the eastern United States and along the Pacific coast. Cleavers is typically added to herbal remedies for treating urinary conditions because the herb is believed to have a diuretic effect. Espinosa explains that cleavers may also help soothe the lining of the bladder wall and protect against irritation.
- Cornsilk (Zea mays) for urinary infections goes back to the time of the ancient Incas. The silky threads of the corn stalk are said to soothe the urinary tract.
- Gosha-jinki-gan is a combination of 11 Chinese herbs. Animal studies suggest the formulation may increase bladder capacity and reduce bladder contractions, while a few small Japanese studies in adults with overactive bladder reported an improvement in symptoms. In one study, 30 older men with overactive bladder showed significant improvement in symptoms after taking gosha-jinki-gan for 6 weeks.
- Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is credited with antioxidant, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used to treat urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and kidney and bladder stones.
Dr. Espinosa notes that naturopathic physicians sometimes recommend men take natural remedies for incontinence that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help manage processes that can contribute to urinary incontinence. Suggested antioxidants include alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin E, while anti-inflammatory options may include bromelain and quercetin. Other natural remedies for incontinence and urinary tract health in general include the following.
- Cranberry contains phytonutrients called proanthocyanidins that help prevent infection and inflammation of the urinary tract. This characteristic may support urinary continence. Read more on cranberry
- Omega-3 fatty acids suppress inflammation in the urinary tract, which can help manage urinary incontinence and overactive bladder. Read more on omega-3s
- Pollen extract can improve nocturia, which is the need to get up multiple times during the night to urinate. Read more on pollen extract
- Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can restore the bacterial balance in the urinary tract and therefore provide a better environment for urinary continence. Read more on probiotics
- Saw palmetto is effective in improving urinary tract symptoms and by extension, may also benefit urinary continence. Read more on saw palmetto
- Stinging nettle has demonstrated an ability to help improve urine flow, residual urine, and the need to urinate during the night. Read more on stinging nettle
- Uva ursi is a herb with antibacterial abilities shown to effectively treat and prevent urinary tract infections, suggesting uva ursi may be helpful in treating urinary incontinence. Read more on uva ursi