Your bladder muscle, also known as the detrusor muscle, relaxes when the bladder is storing urine, and contracts when it is expelling urine. If your bladder muscle cannot relax, you may have an overactive bladder and bladder control problems, like incontinence, which can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Symptoms include frequent urination, incontinence and nocturia. Herbs may help relax your bladder muscles naturally. Consult your health care provider before starting herbal therapy.
Herbs that relax your bladder muscle work in several ways, depending on the cause of your overactive bladder. Some herbs relieve an enlarged prostate, often related to overactive bladder. Antilithic and antimicrobial herbs help eliminate stones and fight infections that may cause your bladder muscles to contract or spasm. Check with a qualified practitioner for advice about dosage and preparation of herbs that relax your bladder muscle.
Yarrow, or Achillea millefolium, is a European perennial with a long history of medicinal use. The aerial parts are rich in alkaloids, flavonoids and essential oil. Herbalists use yarrow as a urinary tract antiseptic. It may help relax your bladder muscle by healing infections that cause it to contract. In their 2001 book “Herbal Remedies,” naturopathic doctors Asa Hershoff and Andrea Rotelli recommend yarrow for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. They state that it will soothe bladder spasms, relieve pain and tone your urinary tract. Do not use yarrow if you have allergies to plants in the Aster family.
Horsetail, or Equisetum arvense, is an ancient plant found throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Herbalists use the dried stems to reduce urinary tract inflammation, eliminate kidney stones and alleviate incontinence. In his 2003 book “Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine,” clinical herbalist David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG, notes that horsetail’s astringent action makes it useful for treating conditions related to overactive bladder, such as incontinence in children and the elderly. He also recommends it for bladder control problems related to benign prostate enlargement. Do not use during pregnancy. Horsetail may deplete thiamine.
Hydrangea, or Hydrangea arborescens, is a deciduous shrub native to eastern North America. The roots and rhizomes contain flavonoids, coumarin, saponins and volatile oil, and traditional healers use hydrangea for conditions associated with an overactive bladder. Hoffmann recommends it for inflamed and enlarged prostate, urinary stones and urinary tract infections. Hershoff and Rotelli cite its properties as an antispasmodic and antiseptic, which can help pass urinary stones, heal irritation and infection, and relax your bladder muscle. Do not combine this herb with other diuretics.