Jul 302019

Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor

Goldenrod Tea An Herbal Blend for Urinary Tract Infections

Need to get your urinary tract back on track? This tea blend is helpful for addressing the symptoms and the root cause (primarily, bacterial infection) of urinary tract infections (UTIs). The herbs in this formula soothe inflamed urinary mucosal membranes through their demulcent, astringent, and anti-inflammatory actions. They are also antimicrobial as well as diuretic—they help flush out bacteria by promoting urination.

It’s important that the tea be drunk at room temperature, which augments the herbs’ diuretic effect. It is also prudent to take an immune-stimulating tincture—along with the tea—to enhance the body’s innate immune efforts in combating the bacterial infection. Good immune-stimulating medicinals for UTIs include echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), spilanthes (Acmella oleracea), and usnea (Usnea spp.) Additionally, you can drink unsweetened cranberry and blueberry juice along with the tea. Avoid sugar and natural sweeteners until the infection clears.


Admiring a golden friend (Goldenrod - Solidago spp.) in the wild

Admiring a golden friend (Solidago spp.) in the wild


If the infection worsens or fails to clear up after three days, consult your health care provider—antibiotics may be necessary. If you develop a fever, lower back pain, or feel really sick and achy, you may have a kidney infection; seek immediate medical attention, as kidney infections have the potential to irreparably damage the kidneys and are best resolved by antibiotics, not herbs. 

Most UTIs are caused by bacteria found in the vagina or genitourinary tract (much rarer) but sometimes they are caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you have had unprotected sex, or your partner has potentially had unprotected sex, you’ll want to rule out an STI as the cause of infection.

  • 1 Tablespoon goldenrod flower and leaf (Solidago spp.)
  • 1 Tablespoon marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis)
  • 2 Tablespoons corn silk (Zea mays)
  •  Tablespoons uva-ursi leaf (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)


If the uva-ursi leaf is whole, crush it with a mortar and pestle or grind in a coffee grinder. Add the uva-ursi and marshmallow root to 32 ounces (1 L) of water in a small pot. Simmer covered for twenty minutes. Turn off the heat and add the corn silk and goldenrod. Infuse covered until the tea cools to room temperature and strain. Adults may drink up to 4 cups (32 ounces or 1 L) a day for up to one week.

The measurements in this blend are for dried cut and sifted herbs (store-bought). If you’re using homegrown or wildcrafted herbs—or fresh herbs—use larger quantities. See below for important precautions regarding uva-ursi.

Safety and Contraindications: Goldenrod can be overly drying as a beverage or tonic tea for people with a dry constitution, as it is diuretic, astringent, and decongestant. Short-term usage shouldn’t be a problem. Do not use in pregnancy. Although rare, goldenrod has caused allergic contact dermatitis after both handling and oral administration.1 Those with Asteraceae allergies should exercise caution with goldenrod. If you are harvesting your own goldenrod, be sure to gather only true Solidago species because there are deadly look-alikes (please see my in-depth article on goldenrod for details).

Herbs for UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections):
Co-Starring Herbal Featurettes

A bee pollinating goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

A bee pollinating goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Goldenrod has a wonderful affinity for the urinary tract and is beneficial as a diuretic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory herb to soothe urinary tract infections. The diuretic property of goldenrod is also helpful in addressing edema, gout, and kidney stones.

You can find information on goldenrod’s Safety and Contraindications above, and please take a peek at my article on goldenrod's medicinal uses for even more information.


Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

Marshmallow’s demulcent roots and leaves have been used for medicine since ancient times. This perennial wildflower and garden herb is well-loved by herbalists for its soothing, demulcent properties, especially for addressing issues with the urinary, digestive, and respiratory tracts.

Marshmallow can be taken internally as a warm or cold infusion (tea), powder, or food herb (add to salads, smoothies, or just have a nibble).

Safety and Contraindications: Marshmallow has no known adverse side effects but some herbalists still caution about its use during pregnancy, as there are no studies confirming its safety.

Corn Silk (Zea Mays)

Corn Silk (Zea mays)

Corn Silk (Zea mays)

When shucking corn over the summer, save your corn silk, as it’s valuable medicine. Corn silk is one of my most treasured remedies for the urinary tract with its soothing, cooling, diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to relieve urinary tract infections and also eases general urethral irritation, as in interstitial cystitis. It is better as a tea than a tincture, as its demulcent properties are not alcohol-soluble; plus, the extra fluid inherent in tea is helpful when working with urinary problems.

Safety and Contraindications: Only use the silk from organically-grown corn. No other known precautions.

Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Uva-ursi, also known as bearberry or kinnikinnick, is a native North American evergreen herb related to cranberry. In my experience, it’s the most useful antimicrobial and astringent remedy for UTIs. Of any herb, it’s the most likely to effectively throw off the bacteria causing an infection.

Safety and Contraindications: Contraindicated in pregnancy and breastfeeding.1 Due to its high levels of tannins, it should only be used on a short-term basis and is contraindicated in constipation, iron deficiency anemia, and malnutrition. GI irritation is possible due to tannins as well. Use cautiously in the presence of ulcers and inflammatory digestive conditions.1

Want to know even more about goldenrod? We share all about identifying, growing, gathering, and using this native wildflower here.





  1. Mills, S., and Bone, K. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2005).

Meet the Green Mastermind Behind Blog Castanea:

Juliet Blankespoor

JULIET BLANKESPOOR founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She's been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She's owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school.

These days, she channels her botanical obsession with her writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She's writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. Juliet and her houseplants share a home with her family and herb books in Asheville, North Carolina.

Want to take a deeper dive into medicinal herbs and their uses?

Our 1,000-hour Herbal Immersion Program is the most comprehensive handcrafted online herbal course available, covering botany, foraging, herb cultivation, medicine making, and therapeutics.


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Oct 162017

Ear infections (otitis media) are one of the most common childhood ailments. Around 90% of all children will suffer from ear infections at some stage before they start school. Before you start asking for antibiotics, find out how you can prevent and treat ear infections naturally.

Ear infections can be a random occurrence or can be chronic for may children. Most ear infections stem from a bout of the common cold. Mucous from the upper respiratory tracts travels to the narrow Eustachian tubes creates the perfect environment for an infection to take hold.

For those with children that have chronic ear infections, then further investigation into why this is occurring is warranted. For these kids, we would look into diet, lifestyle and immune health. While sometimes it can be due to structural issues making the ears more prone to infection, it most often is due to immune systems inability to fight infection.

Ear infections have been on the rise in the past decade, in line with the rise of allergies and asthma. We have to question why this is occurring, and most likely it is due to environmental exposures, poor nutrition, depleted microbiome and stress.

So is it a problem that children are getting recurrent ear infections? Well, yes it is. Recurrent ear infections can lead to scarring on the eardrums, poor achievements in school due to a lack of hearing, and for those using antibiotics, altered gut microbiota and reduced immune health. In addition to this, the use of antibiotics in the first two years of life is linked to an increase in the incidences of asthma.

Antibiotics and Ear Infections.

Studies have confirmed that the use of antibiotics to treat ear infections is usually unnecessary and is contributing to the worldwide crisis of antibiotic resistance. Firstly, most ear infections are a viral infection, rendering antibiotics pointless. Doctors will often prescribe antibiotics in the hope of preventing a secondary bacterial infection. Antibiotics should never be used as preventative medicine. Most doctors agree that a standard ear infection will clear on its own over the course of several days.

However, if the infection stems from swimming in contaminated water, or there is discharge coming from the ear, please consult with our doctor as antibiotics may be warranted in these cases.

Preventing Ear Infections

Boost your child’s immune system

Building up your child’s immune system is the best way to prevent any type of infection from taking hold. The best way to do this is through a diet that is robust in nutrients and is void of foods that deplete the immune system.

Ensuring that your child eats a diet that has 4-6 serves of vegetable per day and 1-2 pieces of fruit will set them on the right path. A child’s serve is considered to be around ½ cup or 1 piece of fruit or vegetable. Include a piece of good quality protein at each meal, this can be animal or plant-based. Adding in high-quality fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, oily fish, grass-fed butter or avocado at least twice a day. Healthy carbohydrates should be included at every meal to support their high energy lifestyle. This includes oats, quinoa, rice, sweet potato, white potato, corn, spelt, millet to name a few.

In addition to what you include in your child’s diet, it is important to look at what you DON’T include. Avoiding processed foods, fizzy drinks, refined grain products such as white bread, cakes, muffins and pastries all support the immune system. The reason is that these foods contain virtually no nutrients. In fact, they will often rob the body of nutrients to metabolise them and they fill your child up so that they are less likely to eat a healthy meal. I understand that this can be very hard to do, especially with the pester-power of children. A great way to encourage a healthy diet is to have a ‘healthy home’. This means that all the food you have at home is healthy and high in nutrients. When the kids are out, or at birthday parties, then you can relax the rules a little and let them enjoy some of these foods. Complete avoidance of ‘treat-like’ foods can create an unhealthy relationship with food leading to secretive eating or binge eating.

If you feel that you can’t quite get enough of the right type of foods into your child diet, then consider supplementing them with these nutrients that have a proven benefit for children’s health.

  • Vitamin D (400-800UI of D3). Cod liver oil supplements can be a great source of vitamin D, plus you will get the added benefit of vitamin A and essential fatty acids.
  • Multi strain probiotic (around 8 different strains at 109strength)
  • Multivitamin with zinc.

 Treat a cold at the first sign

Ear infections often occur from catching a cold. AT the first sign of a sniffy nose remove WHEAT, DAIRY, SUGAR and JUICE from their diet. Sugar is known to suppress the immune system, reducing the bodies ability to fight the infection. Wheat and dairy products may contribute to mucus production in some children, enhancing the breeding ground for pathogens. Adding in some Elderberry syrup or Echinacea drops will help to boost the immune system. You can find these supplements at most health food stores, however, it is best to consult your naturopath or herbalist to ensure that the product you are using contains the therapeutically active parts of the plant.

Avoid exposure to second-hand smoke

This point doesn’t need too much explanation. Just as smoke exposure is dangerous to adults, it is even more so for children. As a parent or caregiver, it is your responsibility to avoid this exposure to your children.

Manage stress

You might be surprised just how stressed our children can get. Today they are living in a busy and hectic environment and are more likely to be away from the family home for longer periods of time. School-aged children can begin to feel the pressure from bullies and academic expectations. Taking the time help your child recognise when they are feeling stressed and giving them tools to manage this is setting them up with practical life long skills. Teaching them some breathing exercises, mediation and yoga/stretching techniques will be very supportive. Please don’t underestimate the effect that stress has on both our own health and our children’s health.


Breastfed babies are half as likely to develop ear infections compared to formula-fed babies. Exclusively breastfeeding until 6 months of age, and ideally, up the 12 months of age can dramatically reduce the chance of infection. It is also good to remember when feeding baby, to hold her at an upright 45-degree angle, rather than lying flat. This reduces the chance of milk getting into the back of the throat up into the immature Eustachian tubes. 

Treating Ear Infections

So the ear infection has set in…what to do now.

  • As mentioned above, stop wheat, dairy, sugar and juice.
  • Continue with the Echinacea and elderberry
  • Take 250mg vitamin C, 3-5 times per day
  • Mullein ear drops. This is a wonderful traditional remedy for ear infections. It will help to treat the infection and will soothe any associated discomfort. You can find this extract of the herb mullein in your local health food store.

Lastly, if your child does appear to have an ear infection, please take to your chosen health professional to get a correct diagnosis. Understand that you have the right to express to them that you are happy to take the ‘wait and watch’ approach before considering antibiotics. It is your child, and ultimately your choice as to how you manage their healthcare.

A note on chronic ear infections and glue ear…

These conditions need a thorough consultation with your naturopath to establish the root cause of the problem. With a little time and dedication, you can restore your child’s ear health.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-blur-child-close-up-573293/

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