If you’re curious about herbal remedies for overactive bladder, you’re hardly alone. The CDC says about 75% of people with the condition have turned to a complementary treatment at some point.
Why do people go natural? Because their medical treatments don’t work, or they may have unpleasant side effects, says Bilal Chughtai, MD, an assistant professor of urology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
But are herbal treatments worth it? It’s hard to know for sure. “There’s very little scientific research on the topic,” says Linda Brubaker, MD, a professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "Without quality studies, doctors can’t say if these remedies work, or if they’re safe to use -- either alone or with other medications.”
Chughtai, who studies how herbs affect the urinary tract, agrees. “We’re still in the very early stages of uncovering how herbs may treat overactive bladder,” he says.
But even without solid proof that they work, there are a number of these remedies on the market. Some have been used to treat OAB for centuries.
Here’s what we know about 10 common herbal treatments.
Gosha-jinki-gan: This blend of 10 herbs is one of the most studied products. Japanese researchers found that people who took it daily for 8 weeks went to the bathroom less. Other studies confirm that it lowers the urge and helps with incontinence. Chughtai says it may work by stopping nerve signals to the bladder.
Hachi-mi-jio-gan: This Chinese remedy is a blend of 8 natural ingredients. A Japanese study done on animal tissue showed it eased bladder muscle contractions.
Buchu (Barosma betulina): Found in the mountains of South Africa, this flowering plant has been used as medicine since the 1650s. It treats everything from coughs and kidney infections to stomachaches -- and OAB.
Cleavers: Because of small, sticky hooks on the leaves, cleavers are usually brewed into a tea to treat urinary tract infections. There’s no research on them about OAB, but Chughtai says many people believe it can soothe the bladder.