Natural diuretics are typically made from a plant or other naturally occurring substances. They are likely to be prescribed by naturopaths or Chinese medicine doctors, but many natural diuretics are also available in grocery stores.
The exact mechanism behind how natural diuretics work is unknown, says Dr. Doctor. “However, it is thought [that they] increase blood flow to the kidneys, which produces more urine and excretes excess fluid.”
Although natural treatments are generally safe, they raise concerns because of their unpredictable effects and limited research, says Dr. Postalian. Unlike FDA-approved drugs with rigorous testing and consistent dosages, natural treatments typically lack extensive clinical trials, making them less popular among traditional doctors, he adds.
The leaves of the dandelion, also known as Taraxacum officinale Plants affect the nephrons – units within the kidneys, says Dr. Doctor and explains that channels in nephrons control salt and water levels and diuretics act on these channels to increase salt and water excretion. Dandelion is available as a tea or in supplement form, notes Jenelle Kim, DACM, a San Diego-based Chinese medicine and acupuncture doctor, adding that while standard doses can vary, a general recommendation is one to two Steep teaspoons of dried leaves in hot water as a tea, up to three times daily.
There are few studies on the diuretic effects of dandelion. In a 2009 pilot study (which included 17 participants and lasted just one day) Taraxacum officinale The extract increased urinary frequency in a small group of healthy participants. Due to the small size and short duration of this study, as well as the lack of current research, further clinical studies are needed to investigate details of dandelion’s diuretic effects.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna or Crataegus laevigata) is a flowering tree or shrub in the rose family. It has been studied in people with heart failure – a condition in which the heart does not pump as much blood as it should – because the condition can cause symptoms such as fatigue, swelling of the feet and difficulty breathing, says Dr. Doctor. The diuretic effects of hawthorn are mild and have not been extensively studied, notes Dr. Kim.
While a small clinical study from 2002 suggests that Crataegus extract may improve exercise performance and reduce heart failure symptoms in people with heart failure, another small study from 2008 concluded that it does not reduce the progression of heart failure and may even increase a person’s early risk of the condition. Because of these mixed results, further research is needed.
Hawthorn is usually consumed as a tea or as an extract, adds Dr. Kim added, explaining that dosage may vary and it’s best to follow package directions or consult a doctor.
Green and black tea
Green tea and black tea come from the Camellia sinensis Attachment. These teas contain caffeine, a natural diuretic, says Dr. Kim. There is little research examining the diuretic effects of tea in general, and among studies, the diuretic effects of black and green tea appear to have only been examined in animals. Nevertheless, the diuretic effects of caffeine are generally well known: it helps the body eliminate excess salt and water by increasing urine output.
Both green and black tea can be enjoyed as a beverage, although moderation is key due to the caffeine content, says Dr. Kim. Too much caffeine can lead to problems such as restlessness, insomnia and rapid heart rate. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists 400 milligrams of caffeine as the optimal dose (which is generally not associated with adverse effects in healthy adults). However, because everyone metabolizes caffeine slightly differently, optimal doses may vary.
For reference, an 8-ounce cup of black tea contains about 47 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of green tea contains about 28 milligrams.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a bright green plant used to flavor foods. Its roots and leaves are traditionally used as a diuretic. There are very few clinical studies examining parsley in general, although Dr. Kim notes that its high potassium content and compounds like apiol and myristicin contribute to its diuretic effects. There are no standard doses for parsley because it can be eaten fresh and added to foods such as salads and soups, says Dr. Kim.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), a popular diuretic and antihypertensive herb in traditional Mexican medicine, contains a compound that increases kidney filtration, helping to lower blood pressure. Its effects on blood pressure are an active area of clinical research. Hibiscus is usually consumed as a tea and there is no standard dosage, says Dr. Kim.
According to Dr. Doctor, coffee is the most commonly consumed diuretic due to its caffeine content, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Caffeine in general has been studied with regard to fluid balance. A 2015 meta-analysis of clinical trials that primarily used 300 milligrams of caffeine from coffee and other caffeinated beverages concludes that caffeine has a minor diuretic effect but does not cause excessive fluid weight loss in healthy adults. As with black and green tea, it’s important to keep coffee consumption in moderation due to its caffeine content, says Dr. Kim. An 8-ounce cup of coffee contains 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine.