Diuretic Herbs, How do Diuretics Work?

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Most people have heard the term diuretic but do they really understand the importance of what diuretics do?  Simply put, diuretics increase urination.  Diuretics are used to treat hypertension and edema.

The Mayo Clinic explains “They work by making your kidneys put more sodium into your urine. The sodium, in turn, takes water with it from your blood. That decreases the amount of fluid flowing through your blood vessels, which reduces pressure on the walls of your arteries.”

Sodium is necessary for your body to function, however, a sustained high sodium diet can cause serious health problems like high blood pressure, water retention and kidney disease.  The benefits of sodium in the body are:

  • Maintaining the right balance of fluids in your body
  • Transmits nerve impulses
  • Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles

Unfortunately, the processed food diet eaten by many North Americans is high in sodium.

The next time you are grocery shopping.  Check out the food labels for sodium content.  Some low fat or 0% yogurts have 300 or more mg for a ½ cup serving!

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HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH

The upper limits of sodium you should be consuming prior to age 51, is 2300 mg per day.  After age 51 or if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease the upper limit is 1500 mg per day.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American gets 3400mg per day. 

TYPES OF DIURETICS

There are 3 basic types of pharmaceutical diuretics:

Loop – Bumetanide, Ethacrynic acid (Edecrin), Furosemide (Lasix), Torsemide (Demadex)

Thiazide – Chlorothiazide, Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide), Indapamide, Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)

*****Thiazide Diuretics have interactions with a great many vitamins and herbs.  If you are taking them either avoid natural remedies or consult your Dr *****

Potassium-sparing – Amiloride,  Eplerenone (Inspra) , Spironolactone  (Aldactone)

NATURAL DIURETICS

For those wishing to try the natural remedies first, here are a few excellent foods and herbs.

Onions are an excellent diuretic as is Garlic.  Both should be used with caution for those on pharmaceutical diuretics as they will increase the effectiveness of the drug and may result in an over-lowering of blood pressure.  Having said that, for those not already on diuretics, including onion and garlic in your diet (generally raw) will give results.

Green Tea is an excellent choice to reduce water retention.  At least 3 cups per day.

Nettle Leaf.  Yes this is the stinging nettle that burns your skin.  The leaves of this plant used in a tea are not only amazingly nutritious, they are excellent for cooling menopausal hot flashes, eliminating the tummy tire and yes they are my herb of choice for water retention.  Since they are rich in potassium and the pharmaceutical diuretics deplete potassium, they are an excellent choice.  There are nettle supplements but once you get used to the taste of the tea you will find it very pleasant.  Rarely, they trigger allergies so try a cup and see if this is a good choice for you.

Dandelion is also an excellent diuretic.  The greens can be used in salads and the root is available in most health food stores as a coffee substitute.  In addition dandelion is a tonic for your liver and aids in digestion.  Please use organic pesticide free dandelions if you decide to use these plants.  Just picking them randomly can cause poisoning since most people use weed killer on them thinking they are a blight to the lawn.

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There are always choices to be made for our health.  Sometimes pharmaceuticals are the best option, however, I recommend if you want to try the natural remedies, try them before going on the pharmaceuticals.  Herbs and food take a bit longer to work because they have a subtle influence, however once you incorporate them into your diet you will notice a remarkable increase in your general health.

 Reference:

Davis F.A., Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, F.A, Davis Company Philadelphia