Nourishing Mutra: Foods and herbs to soothe the urinary tract

Dietary counseling and Ayurvedic herbs are extremely useful in acute and chronic symptoms in mutravaha srotas, the urinary tract. In general, a pitta-soothing diet and cooling, anti-inflammatory herbs will be beneficial. However, there are certain foods and herbs with specific prabhav for healing mutravaha srotas.

Okra

Okra, the edible hibiscus, has many of the same pitta-soothing properties as hibiscus. Highly demulcent, it soothes an inflamed urinary tract. This recipe combines the pitta-soothing virtues of okra and coconut.

Okra Coconut Curry

Serves: 2
Cooking time: 25mins

Ingredients:
20-25  Okra
2 tbsp Shredded fresh coconut

1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp salt or to taste
A pinch of Asafoetida/hing
1 tbsp Sunflower Oil

For Tempering:
1 tsp  Mustard seeds
1 tsp Urad dal
1 tsp Channa dal
One sprig curry leaves
Wash and pat dry okra with a dry cloth. Cut them into small circles by discarding the ends.
Take a pan, add oil. When hot, do the tempering in the order given. When the dals turn golden brown, add turmeric, asafoetida and chopped okra. Stir-fry for 5 minutes, then add the coconut. Continue cooking for about 15 mins. When it is sufficiently cooked it will be tender and no longer sticky. Add salt and mix well.

Cilantro

Cilantro leaves are extremely good for pitta and soothe burning urination. Mix chopped cilantro and shredded coconut as a pitta-soothing garnish. Or make a cilantro chutney. But for mutravaha srotas, omit chilies from the chutney. Here is a very pitta-soothing chutney recipe.

Cilantro Chutney

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp cumin seed

1/2 tsp mustard seed
1 bunch of cilantro, large stems removed
1/4 C unsweetened grated coconut
1/2″ piece of ginger roughly chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
salt to taste

Put the cumin seed and mustard seed in a small heavy bottomed pan and roast over heat until the spices are fragrant, taking care not to burn.

Put the spices in a spice grinder and pulverize.

Put all ingredients including the toasted spices into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, adding water as necessary.

Urad dal

Urad dal is heavy, sweet in post-digestive effect, demulcent, cherishable, reduces vata, laxative, nutritive, promoter of semen and very nourishing. It enhances defaecation and acts as a diuretic and galactagogue. (1)

Again, for mutavahasrotas, use a very bland recipe with no chilies or tomato.

Urad Dal

Ingredients:

1 cup Urad dal (split, with husks removed)
3 cups water (use more if not using pressure cooker)
Salt to taste (1-1 1/2 tsp.)
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp dry methi leaves, if available
1 bunch cilantro

For tempering:

2 tbsp ghee or sunflower oil.
1 tsp cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida or hing powder
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and shredded

Instructions

Wash dal well and soak in water for half an hour. Drain this water off before cooking.

Place the dal, water, and turmeric in a pressure cooker and cook for an hour.

Allow pressure cooker to cool before opening. Open the lid and check water. If too thick, add a little boiling water, until it reaches the consistency you desire.

Basic tarka or tempering: Heat ghee or oil in a small frying pan. Add cumin seeds and asafoetida powder and let the seeds start to splutter. Add chopped ginger, stir quickly with a small spoon, add to the cooked dal and cover with a lid. This will infuse the flavors into the dal and stop the dal splashing out during tempering.

Purslane is no longer commonly grown as a vegetable in America, but does occur as a garden weed. According to Bavprakash, it cures all diseases of the urinary tract and is also antidiabetic (2).

Gokshura

Gokshura is sweet in taste, cold in potency, strength giving, and removes bladder turbidity. It is appetizer, aphrodisiac, tonic and lithotropic. It cures urinary disorders. (3).

In animal studies, gokshura has been shown to break down urinary stones (4). Its diuretic action is similar to that of urea and appears to be an osmotic action due to its potassium content (5).

For urinary disorders, gokshura is traditionally taken as a decoction. In renal calculi, it is taken with goat milk and honey.  It can also be used in a synergistic formula with other mutral herbs. For urinary stones or more chronic bladder or kidney conditions, gokshuradi guggulu is used for added scraping action.  Gokshura is a component of dashamula, which in itself is a good mutra remedy for vata conditions. Gokshura, having shita virya yet a special affinity for vata, is a good choice for urinary tract infections in vata prakriti and elders.

Punarnava

Punarnava is another herb well known for its actions on renal calculi and kidney and bladder infections. In fact it is also used in the Brazilian Amazon and in Iran for these purposes, as well as in Ayurveda (6). Punarnava is clinically proven to be safe and effective in cases of nephrotic syndrome (7). It can be used as decoction or in a synergistic formula. In more advanced or chronic conditions such as nephrotic syndrome of polycystic kidney disease, or in renal calculi, Punarnavadi Guggulu is used. Punarnava is a top choice for kapha prakriti and vikriti.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus is diuretic and calms burning sensations, making it ideal for use in urinary infections. Hibiscus appears to prevent urinary stones by decreasing oxalate retention in the urine and increasing oxalate excretion in the urine (8). Hibiscus can be enjoyed as a cold infusion, sun tea or hot infusion and is beneficial when hot summer weather and dehydration lead to increased incidence of urinary infections and stones. Hibiscus can also be combined in synergistic formulas.  It is a good choice for pitta prakriti.

Anantamul

Anantamul is diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and febrifuge and is traditionally used in cystitis, urethritis, pyelonephritis and prostatitis (9). When I was a girl in the 1950s you could still purchase a traditional sarsaparilla beverage in London’s street markets. It was made from the root of the western sarsaparilla, but a root beer from anantamul would be equally delicious as a health tonic. In Ayurvedic tradition, sweetened anantamul decoction is given in fevers. Anantamul is also used in synergistic herbal formulas.  Its sweet taste makes it a good choice for pitta prakriti.

Vidari

Vidari is sweet in taste, demulcent, nourishing…it is cold in potency, acts as a diuretic, protective and general tonic. (10).

Vidari’s diuretic action may be due to its content of natural sugars (11). As a cooling, soothing vata prayanika herb, it is ideal for use when a vata person has a pitta urinary infection.

There are numerous herbs with action on mutravahasrotas, too many to discuss in a single article.  In fact almost all herbs with rakta shodhan (blood cleansing) or shotahara (anti-inflammatory) actions are also diuretic and or urinary antiseptics. The wide selection of choices, of which key herbs are featured here, makes it easy to select appropriate herbs for each constitution and season.

  1. Bhavprakash, chapter on Cereals, pulses and millets, v 42-43
  2. Ibid, chapter on potherbs v 21
  3. Ibid, Guduchyadi varga v 53-54
  4. R. Anand, G. K. Patnaik, S. Srivastava, D. K. Kulshreshtha and B. N. Dhawan Evaluation of Antiurolithiatic Activity of Tribulus Terrestris 1994, Vol. 32, No. 3 , Pages 217-224 (doi:10.3109/13880209409082997)
  5.  REVIEW ARTICLE: Critical analysis of herbs acting on Mutravaha srotas Savitha D Bhat, BK Ashok, Rabinarayan Acharya AYU (An international quarterly journal of research in Ayurveda), Year 2010, Volume 31, Issue 2

  6. Gulshan Chaudhary and Prem Kumar D Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 5(11), pp. 2125-2130 4 June, 2011 Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/JMPR Morphological, phytochemical and pharmacological, studies on Boerhaavia diffusa L.
  7. Singh RP, Shukla KP, Pandey BL, Singh RG, Ushana, Singh RH (1992). Recent approaches in clinical and experimental evaluation of diuretic action of punarnava (B. diffusa) with special reference to nephrotic syndrome. J. Res. Educ. Ind. Med., 1: 26-36.
  8. Surachet Woottisina, Rayhan Zubair Hossaina,  Chatchai Yachanthaa et al Effects of Orthosiphon grandiflorus, Hibiscus sabdariffa and Phyllanthus amarus Extracts on Risk Factors for Urinary Calcium Oxalate Stones in Rats The Journal of Urology Volume 185, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 323–328
  9. Anoop Austin A Review on Indian Sarsaparilla, Hemidesmus indicus (L.) R. Br. (2008) ournal of Biological Sciences 2008 http://www.scialert.net/pdfs/jbs/2008/1-12.pdf
  10. Bhavprakash, Guduchyadi varga, v 180-182.
  11. Savita D Bhat, op cit