Overactive bladder (OAB) is most commonly treated with prescription medications to control bladder muscles. However, herbal remedies are becoming more common as a natural treatment.

You may see herbs as natural ways to prevent bladder problems, but they aren’t always safe and effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t approve herbs as effective treatment methods.

Though these herbs do show some promise in helping to treat overactive bladder, you should always consult your doctor before starting any complimentary treatments.

Bladderwrack is a form of seaweed. Due to its high iodine content, this herb is most recognized in treating underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). It’s also used in the treatment of overactive bladder.

At this stage there isn’t enough evidence to deem bladderwrack an effective treatment method. You should avoid it if you:

  • take synthetic hormones for hypothyroidism
  • have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • use other forms of iodine, such as kelp
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

Other herbs have a little more backing from science, like Gosha-jinki-gan. A 2007 study focused on the effects of this herb over six weeks on bladder activity in elderly men with overactive bladder symptoms. According to the study, significant improvements in overactive bladder symptoms were observed.

Researchers concluded that Gosha-jinki-gan may be a new potential therapy for overactive bladder in men with benign prostatic obstruction. This provides some hope for overactive bladder treatment.

Horsetail is an herb used to treat a variety of ailments. Among them are these symptoms of overactive bladder:

  • urinary leaks (incontinence)
  • bladder stones
  • urinary tract infections

Horsetail may also be used for “general disturbances” related to the bladder. There still isn’t enough evidence to prove that horsetail is effective for treating overactive bladder. Only the above-ground parts of the plant are deemed safe for human consumption.

Saw palmetto plants are common in eastern parts of the United States, such as Florida. While the tree might look good in your yard, some evidence suggests that it can do your bladder good, too.

The herb is actually derived from saw palmetto berries. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), it’s been traditionally used to treat overactive bladder in men with prostate problems. However, an NCCIH study found that saw palmetto did not decrease urinary symptoms associated with prostate problems any more than a placebo.

While there are some stand-alone herbs used to treat overactive bladder, others can be combined with different ingredients. One example is the BioActive Homeopathic Kidney Tonic. This tonic includes some herbs, such as pareira brava and Echinacea, to help decrease urinary urges and frequent bathroom visits. Tonics like this one still aren’t FDA-approved, and they aren’t recommended for children.

Unwanted side effects can be a downside to the natural aspect of herbs. Horsetail may also be a diuretic. Herbs like these may actually increase trips to the bathroom, as well as your urges to go.

Other common herbal side effects can include:

  • upset stomach
  • sleeping problems
  • blood clotting issues

These side effects are more likely when taking more than one herb at the same time.

Most herbs are off-limits during pregnancy and breast-feeding because of transfers to babies.

Misconceptions surrounding safety are among the biggest risks associated with herbal remedies. While herbs are deemed “natural,” they can be just as powerful as conventional medications. This means that seemingly safe herbs can pose side effects. It’s also possible for them to interact with other bladder medications. Discuss all safety aspects with your doctor before choosing an herbal remedy for overactive bladder. Your doctor can talk through dosage, side effects, drug interactions, and more.