Diuretics and Formulas

Diuretics express the main functions of increasing the frequency of urination and volume of urination. Overall, this increased release of fluid is called diuresis.

Dandelion leaf is a classically valued diuretic used in TCM and Ayurveda that actually contains and provides more potassium than is lost with most diuretics. This makes Taraxacum (and other diuretics) a valuable alternative or adjunct to pharmaceutical diuretics and has not shown to irritate the bladder. Some widely used diuretics in the realm of Western Herbalism are Goldenrod, Nettle leaf, Yarrow, Cornsilk, and Cleavers.  Pipsisewa is also a very useful diuretic with a more anti-infective action that clears heat and cleanses the urinary track.

In most diuretic plant medicines, metabolite constituent groups of terpenes, phenolics, or alkaloids are found. These navigate diuresis pathways along with potential secondary metabolites to increase urinary secretions and thus increase metabolic wastes from the body.

The Urinary system is composed of the kidneys, urethra, ureters, and bladder all which serve a function in fluid and waste elimination. The kidneys refine the blood by removing water-soluable wastes and stabilizing electrolytes, balancing pH, and red blood-cell formation. The bladder receives that waste in the form of urine via the ureters and stores it until released into and out via the urethra.

In general, herbal medicine uptake is a water soluable process, or hydrophilic equation, making herbal diuretics valuable and effective. On a deeper level, the use of herbal diuretics can act as alteratives, promoting greater metabolic function and the removal of toxins from the body. When the right combination of herbal diuretics (and plenty of water intake) is utilized, this process benefits the kidneys, cleansing bacteria from the ureters,  resolving edema, excess water retention, swelling, overall detox, detox from addictive substances, ridding of infections, and assisting in effective lymphatic drainage.  Diuretics are also useful for cystitis because they move fluid and toxins through the body, which prevents stagnation and infection of trapped fluids.

According to Professional Herbalist Krist Shapla, "There are a few different ways that diuretics work. Some actually irritate the nephrons in the kidneys.  Some increase heart rate.  This induces diuresis because the kidneys are responsible for maintaining blood pressure.  When the heart rate increases, the kidneys respond by lowering the volume of water in the blood and thus lowering the overall pressure within the blood vessels."


Herbal Therapy: I have used diuretics personally and with clients to assist in water retention and ridding of Urinary Tract Infections and/or bladder infections and have created two formats of UTI herbal medicine that I would like to share.
This tincture, extracted with organic cane alcohol at 1:4 herb:menstruum ratios,  I call Urine Luck. The main function is to increase diuresis and remove harmful bacteria (like e.coli) from the urinary tract:

  • 2 parts Sticky, summer harvested Grindelia buds -
    • kills e.Coli, anti-infective
  • 2 parts WC Horsetail -
    • diuretic, nutritive, soothing
  • 1 part Uva Ursi -
    • tonic diuretic
  • 1 part WC Usnea moss - antiseptic
  • 1 part WC Chapparal - antiseptic
  • 1/2 part Bilberry - anti-oxidant
  • 1/2 part fresh ginger root - moving
    • with 5 drops Grapefruit seed extract per dose

This tea blend is a more 'planetary' formula including a few wild-crafted plants as well.
Directions for use - Simmer 1 oz herbs in 1 L of water for 20 min and drink a full liter/day when infection is present. As maintenance and for cleansing, drink 2 cups daily.

Urinary Support Tea:

  • 2 part WC Horsetail (Equisetum variegatum) *soothing, diuretic, mineral rich
  • 2 part WC Plantain leaf (Plantago major) *soothing
  • 2 part Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis)  - *stimulant diuretic
  • 2 part Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale) - potassium-rich diuretic
  • 1 part Oatstraw - soothing / cooling
  • 2 part Indian sarsaparilla root (Hemidesmus indicus) - diuretic
  • 2 part Marshmallow leaf (Althea officinalis) - soothe tissues
  • 2 part Nettle leaf - tonic diuretic
  • 2 part Cornsilk (Zea mays) *soothing and cooling
  • 1 part Creosote leaf WC (Larrea tridentata) - antiseptic
  • 1 part Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) - *antiseptic, warm & stimulating
  • 1 part Gardenia fruit - cooling
  • 1 part Violet Leaf (Viola tricolor)
  • 1 Part Yarrow - WC - nourish urinary tissues - tonic
  • 1 part Ginger - circulating
  • 1 part Chinese motherwort (Leonarus japonicus)
  • 1/2 part Boneset leaf - antiseptic


Tongue diagnosis with dampness include:
*wet/slippery coat - accumulation of fluids
*swollen shape - accumulation of fluids, heaviness, edema, loose stools
*scalloped - dampness
*white - dampness
*with these, diuretics drain damp and aromatic stomachtics can also be used

In the case of detected spleen dampness, edema, nephritic edema, cardiac edema, urinary retention with a slippery, floating, and rapid pulse: Hoelen Five Herbs Formula (Wu Ling san) can be prescribed. This formula (in grams):

  • Fu ling (Poria cocos)  6-9
  • Ze xie (Alisma)           9-12
  • Zhu ling (Polyporus)   6-9
  • Bai zhu (Atractylodes) 6-9
  • Gui Zhi (Cinnamon twig) 6-9

*made into a decoction to drink twice daily or taken in tea pills

*This information is composed from: lecture notes from East West Seminar, East West Guidebook: compiled by Micheal Tierra & personal studies / application.

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