Diuretics can stimulate the kidneys to flush water, thus helping to reduce water retention and edema. A number of natural herbs can act as diuretics in the body. While herbs are a time-honored way to support the health of the body, be sure to talk with your health care practitioner about the use of herbal diuretics, particularly if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, taking pharmaceuticals or have any serious health concerns.
Stinging Nettle to Stimulate Urination
Stinging nettle -- known scientifically as Urtica dioica -- is a nutritionally dense herb with an astringent, drying and potentially diuretic action in the body. Master herbalist and naturopathic doctor Michael Tierra recommends a cool tea of nettle leaf as a diuretic to cleanse the urinary tract and counteract water retention and inflammation. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, nettle has been used since the Medieval period as a diuretic to rid the body of excess water, along with treating painful joints, although no scientific research has been conducted on nettle as a diuretic to date.
Dandelion; the Premier Herbal Diuretic
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelion was used by Native Americans to treat swelling, and the leaves are used today as a diuretic to treat edema. Dandelion has traditionally been used in conditions where a diuretic may help, including high blood pressure and liver and kidney disorders. According to research published in the August 2009 “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,” an extract of dandelion was shown to increase urinary output in human subjects, suggesting that its use in traditional and folk medicine as a remedy for edema has basis in scientific fact. Scientists state that more long-term research is needed to establish dandelion as an appropriate alternative to pharmaceutical diuretics.
Cleavers for Edema
Cleavers -- known also as Galium aparine -- has been used in folk medicine to treat edema and to rid the body of excess fluid. Herbalist Susun Weed suggests using a fresh tincture of cleavers to treat PMS symptoms like tender breasts as well as relieve edema due to cleavers' ability to stimulate the lymphatic system. No reputable scientific studies have been done on cleavers, but naturopathic doctor Sharol Tilgner asserts that cleavers has a beneficial effect on swollen lymph glands and cysts, along with stimulating urination to rid the body of excess fluid.
Herbal diuretics can be taken as cool or cold teas to stimulate urination and may help to reduce swelling and edema. They can also be taken as a tincture or standardized extract to stimulate the kidneys to remove excess fluid and waste buildup from the body. Diuretic herbs tend to be drying in nature, so have caution using them if you have excessively dry skin or mucous membranes, as they may worsen the situation. Edema may be a sign of a serious health problem, so be sure to work with a qualified practitioner when choosing to treat edema with herbal diuretics.
- Planetary Herbology; Michael Tierra, CA., ND.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Stinging Nettle
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Dandelion
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: The Diuretic Effect in Human Subjects of an Extract of Taraxacum officinale Folium over a Single Day
- SusunWeed.com: Fresh Cleavers Tincture
- Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth; Sharol Tilgner, N.D.
Amy Myszko is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritional consultant who has been helping people find greater health and balance through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies since 2006. She received her certification from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism in Boulder, Colo. Myszko also holds a BA in literature from the University of Colorado.