Horsetail: Named for its long tail-like appearance, this member of the fern family grows in swamps, marshes, and rivers. It’s high in antioxidants, which are thought to protect against the natural stress that comes with aging. “Over time, bladder tissue can become unhealthy and fibrous,” Chughtai says. Horsetail may slow or reverse this process, although there’s little research to back that idea up.
Cornsilk: These fine threads are a pain when you’re shucking corn, but they’re packed with vitamins and antioxidants. They’ve been used to treat urinary tract infections for centuries. More recently they’ve become a treatment for OAB.
Ganoderma lucidum: For 2,000 years this mushroom has been a staple of Chinese medicine. A Japanese study showed it lowered the urge to go after 8 weeks. Doctors think it lower levels of the hormones that boost prostate growth -- one cause of OAB in men.
Resiniferatoxin: Made from a Moroccan cactus-like plant, this remedy is known for its scorching-hot pepper-like burn. Experts believe it works by blocking nerves in the bladder that tell your brain you have to go. It may also help your bladder hold more, which means fewer trips to the bathroom.
Capsaicin: Chili peppers get their heat from this spicy compound. It likely acts the same way as resiniferatoxin, Chughtai says. A small trial in Thailand found that it helps you go less and controls leaks. One downside: It can cause side effects like pain and irritation.
Saw palmetto: People in Europe use this extract, made from the berries of the dwarf palm tree, to treat problems caused by an enlarged prostate. Research suggests that compounds in saw palmetto may work with nerves in your urinary tract to ease OAB.
Before You Go Herbal
Plant-based treatments sound safe because they’re made from natural ingredients, but that may not be true, Chughtai says.
The FDA doesn’t control these products like it does prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Some may not contain the herbs listed on the label. Your best bet is to see a naturopath, holistic doctor, or a physician who specializes in complementary medicine. They can help you choose wisely.
Always tell your primary care doctor or urologist about any supplement you’re thinking about taking. They'll check into whether it might mix poorly with any meds you're taking. And if you get the OK to take the supplement, they'll want to know if you have side effects.