Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common types of bacterial infections worldwide. It’s estimated that over 150 million people contract UTIs each year (1).

E. coli is the most common type of bacteria to cause UTIs, although occasionally other types of infectious bacteria may be implicated.

Anyone can develop a UTI, but women are 30 times more likely to be affected than men. Approximately 40% of women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives (2).

A UTI can affect any part of the urinary system, including the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys, but it usually starts in organs of the lower urinary tract, bladder, and urethra (2).

Common symptoms associated with UTIs include (3):

  • a burning sensation when you urinate
  • frequent and intense urges to urinate
  • cloudy, dark, or bloody urine
  • fever or fatigue
  • pain in your pelvis, lower abdomen, or back

UTIs can be treated with antibiotics, but infection recurrence is very common.

What’s more, the overuse of antibiotics can have long-term negative consequences, such as damage to the normal, healthy bacteria in your urinary tract, and possibly contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria (1).

If you suspect that you have a UTI, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible. What may start as a mild infection can quickly become serious and potentially fatal if left untreated for too long.

That said, some research suggests that up to 42% of mild and uncomplicated UTIs can be resolved without the use of antibiotics (4).

If you’re one of the many people in the world who experiences recurrent UTIs, you may be seeking natural and alternative solutions to avoid excessive exposure to antibiotic drugs.

Here are 8 herbs and natural supplements that may help prevent and treat mild UTIs.

D-mannose is a type of simple sugar that’s frequently used to prevent and treat mild UTIs.

It occurs naturally in a variety of foods, including cranberries, apples, and oranges, but is usually consumed in powder or tablet form when used as a UTI therapy.

Not much is known about how D-mannose works, but many experts believe it inhibits the ability of certain infectious bacteria to adhere to the cells of your urinary tract, making it easier for them to be flushed out before they can make you sick (5).

More research is needed to determine whether D-mannose can reliably treat or exert preventative effects against UTIs. However, a few small studies have delivered some promising results.

One 2016 study evaluated the effect of D-mannose on 43 women with active UTIs and a history of recurrent UTIs.

For the first 3 days, study participants took a 1.5-gram dose of D-mannose twice daily, followed by one daily 1.5-gram dose for 10 additional days. After 15 days, approximately 90% of their infections had resolved (5).

Although these results are encouraging, the study design was somewhat flawed due to the small sample size and lack of a control group (5).

A 2013 study in 308 women compared the effectiveness of a daily 2-gram dose of D-mannose and common antibiotic used to prevent UTI recurrence (6).

After 6 months, results revealed that D-mannose was as effective as the antibiotic at preventing UTI recurrence, and it was associated with fewer side effects (6).

For most people, taking D-mannose doesn’t pose any major health risks. The most frequently reported side effect is mild diarrhea.

However, because D-mannose is a type of sugar, it may not be appropriate for people who have challenges regulating their blood sugar levels.

There’s not currently enough evidence to establish an ideal dose of D-mannose, but most available research has safely tested doses of 1.5–2 grams up to 3 times daily.

summary

D-mannose is a type of naturally occurring sugar that may treat UTIs by preventing infectious bacteria from sticking to the cells in your urinary tract. Early research suggests that it may treat and prevent UTIs, but more studies are needed.

Uva ursi — otherwise known as Arctostaphylos uva ursi or bearberry leaf — is an herbal remedy for UTIs that has been used in traditional and folk medicine practices for centuries.

It’s derived from a type of wild, flowering shrub that grows across various parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.

The plant’s berries are a favorite snack for bears — hence the nickname bearberry leaf — while its leaves are used to make herbal medicine.

After the leaves are harvested, they may be dried and steeped to make tea, or leaf extracts may be consumed in capsule or tablet form.

Modern research supporting the use of uva ursi to treat UTIs is limited, though several compounds present in the plant have exhibited potent antimicrobial capabilities in test-tube studies (7).

Arbutin is the main compound credited with uva ursi’s UTI-healing potential, thanks to its antibacterial effect on E. coli — one of the most common causes of UTIs (7).

One older study in 57 women found that supplemental use of uva ursi with dandelion root significantly reduced UTI recurrence, compared with a placebo (8).

However, a more recent study in over 300 women observed no difference between uva ursi and a placebo when they were used as a treatment for active UTIs (9).

Available research suggests uva ursi is relatively safe at daily doses of 200–840 mg of hydroquinone derivatives calculated as anhydrous arbutin.

However, its long-term safety has not been established, and it should not be taken for longer than 1–2 weeks at a time due to the potential risk of liver and kidney damage (10).

summary

Uva ursi is an herbal UTI remedy made from the leaves of a shrub called Arctostaphylos uva ursi. Test-tube studies have found that it has strong antimicrobial effects, but human studies have demonstrated mixed results.

Garlic is a popular herb that has been widely used in both culinary and traditional medicine practices throughout history (11).

It’s often used medicinally to treat a broad range of physical ailments, including fungal, viral, and bacterial infections.

Garlic’s healing potential is usually attributed to the presence of a sulfur-containing compound known as allicin (11).

In test-tube studies, allicin exhibits strong antibacterial effects against a variety of infectious, UTI-causing bacteria — including E. coli (11).

Additional evidence from individual case reports suggests that garlic may be an alternative therapy for treating UTIs in humans, but strong research to validate these results is lacking (12).

Ultimately, more well-designed studies are needed to better understand the role garlic may play in treating and preventing recurrent UTIs before any definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding its effectiveness or ideal dosage.

Garlic can be consumed in its whole, raw form, but supplemental doses are usually sold as extracts and consumed in capsule form.

Garlic supplements are likely safe for most people, but side effects may include heartburn, bad breath, and body odor (13).

Some people may experience allergic reactions to garlic supplements, and they should be avoided if you have a history of allergies to garlic or other closely related plants, such as onions or leeks (13).

These supplements may increase your risk of bleeding and can interact with some medications, such as blood thinners and certain HIV drugs. If you’re taking any such medications, talk to your healthcare provider prior to using garlic to treat your UTI (13, 14).

summary

Garlic has been used for a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes. Test-tube studies and case reports suggest that garlic’s antibacterial effects may help treat UTIs, but more well-designed human studies are needed to validate these claims.

Cranberry products, including juices and extracts, are among the most popular choices for natural and alternative treatments for UTIs.

Cranberries contain a wide variety of chemical compounds, such as D-mannose, hippuric acid, and anthocyanins, that may play a role in limiting the ability of infectious bacteria to adhere to the urinary tract, thus hindering their growth and ability to cause infection (15).

Test-tube and animal studies have demonstrated that cranberry prevents UTIs, but human research has found considerably less convincing results (15).

A 2012 review of human studies on cranberry products’ ability to treat and prevent UTIs concluded there was insufficient evidence to determine that cranberry exerts these effects (16).

However, the authors of the study noted that drawing definitive conclusions was difficult, as many of the studies were poorly designed, lacked a standard dosage, and used various cranberry products (16).

Another 2019 review suggested that although cranberry treatment may help reduce UTI occurrence and UTI symptoms in some cases, it’s not as effective as other treatment methods, such as D-mannose and the antibiotic fosfomycin (15).

Cranberry juices and supplements are safe for most people, but they may cause an upset stomach. Plus, long-term use may increase your risk of developing kidney stones (17).

Moreover, excess consumption of calories from cranberry juice may encourage unnecessary weight gain, and large doses of cranberry supplements may interfere with certain types of blood-thinning medications (17).

summary

Cranberry juices and supplements are often used to treat and prevent UTIs, but studies have not found them to be particularly effective. More human studies are needed to understand the role cranberry products may play in the treatment of UTIs.

Green tea is derived from the leaves of a plant known as Camellia sinensis. It has been used for its broad pharmacological potential in a variety of traditional medicine practices for centuries.

Green tea contains a rich supply of plant compounds called polyphenols, which are well known for having strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects.

Epigallocatechin (EGC), a compound in green tea, has demonstrated potent antibacterial effects against UTI-causing strains of E. coli in test-tube research (18).

Several animal studies have also found that green tea extracts containing EGC may improve the effectiveness of certain types of antibiotics frequently used to treat UTIs (19).

Still, human studies evaluating green tea’s ability to treat and prevent UTIs are lacking.

A single cup (240 mL) of brewed green tea contains approximately 150 mg of EGC. The current research indicates that as little as 3–5 mg of EGC may be enough to help inhibit bacterial growth in the urinary tract, but this theory hasn’t yet been proven in humans (19).

A moderate intake of green tea is safe for most people. However, it naturally contains caffeine, which may contribute to impaired sleep and restlessness (20).

Moreover, consuming caffeine while you have an active UTI may worsen your physical symptoms. Thus, you may want to opt for decaffeinated green tea products instead (21).

High dose green tea extract supplements have been linked to liver issues, but it’s unclear whether the supplements caused these issues.

Speak with your healthcare provider if you’re interested in taking green tea supplements and have a history of impaired liver function (20).

Summary

Test-tube and animal studies have demonstrated that certain compounds in green tea have potent antibacterial activity against E. coli. However, no human studies have been conducted to validate these results.

Several types of herbal teas may be used to treat and prevent UTIs, but despite their popularity, very few studies have been conducted on their use for this purpose.

6. Parsley tea

Parsley has a mild diuretic effect, which is supposed to help flush UTI-causing bacteria out of the urinary tract.

Two case reports found that a combination of parsley tea, garlic, and cranberry extract prevented UTI recurrence in women with chronic UTIs. However, more research is needed to determine whether these results can be replicated in larger groups (22, 23).

7. Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is used in herbal medicine practices to treat a wide range of physical ailments, including UTIs.

Like parsley, chamomile possesses a weak diuretic effect and contains plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties (24).

These features are thought to help reduce inflammation, inhibit bacterial growth, and flush the urinary tract of infectious bacteria, but more research is needed (24).

8. Mint tea

Teas made from peppermint and other types of wild mint are also sometimes used as a natural remedy for UTIs.

Some test-tube research has found that mint leaves have antibacterial effects against various UTI-causing bacteria like E. coli. Certain compounds found in mint leaves may also help reduce bacterial resistance to antibiotic medications (25).

However, there are currently no studies available to support the use of mint tea to fight UTIs in humans.

Summary

Some herbal teas like parsley, chamomile, or peppermint may be used to treat and prevent UTIs. Still, scientific evidence for these remedies is weak.

Herbal supplements and medicines are often assumed to be safe because they’re natural, but that’s not always the case.

Much like modern medications, herbal supplements come with their own set of potential risks and side effects.

For instance, garlic and cranberry supplements may negatively interact with certain types of prescription medications, while the long-term use of uva ursi may contribute to liver or kidney damage.

What’s more, in some countries, such as the United States, herbal and nutritional supplements are not regulated in the same manner as conventional medicine.

Supplement manufacturers are not required to prove the purity of their products. Thus, you may end up consuming improper doses or ingredients and contaminants that aren’t listed on the product label.

To ensure the supplements you’ve chosen are of the highest quality, always opt for brands that have been tested for purity by a third-party organization, such as NSF International.

Summary

Given that herbal and nutritional supplements are generally not regulated in many countries, always choose brands that have been independently tested by a third party, such as NSF International.

If you suspect that you have a UTI, consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Even mild infections can quickly worsen and spread to other parts of your body, potentially leading to very serious health consequences.

Thus, attempting to diagnose and treat yourself for a UTI without the guidance of a medical professional is not recommended.

Instead, communicate openly and let your healthcare provider know if you’re interested in trying herbal alternatives instead of antibiotics. They will be able to help you create the safest, most effective treatment plan for your infection.

Summary

Even mild UTIs can quickly worsen and cause more serious complications. Thus, it’s important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional and discuss your desire for a more natural treatment plan.

UTIs are one of the most common types of bacterial infections worldwide.

They’re often effectively treated with antibiotics, but infection recurrence is common. Plus, the excessive use of antibiotics may lead to negative health outcomes.

Many people choose natural and herbal supplements to treat their UTIs to avoid overexposure to antibiotic medications.

Although research on their effectiveness is limited, D-mannose, uva ursi, cranberry, garlic, and green tea are popular choices for natural UTI treatment and prevention. Certain herbal teas may also help.

If you suspect you’re developing a UTI, consult a qualified healthcare provider prior to beginning any herbal therapy on your own.