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Herbal Remedy May Reduce Urinary Tract Infections?

The number one Google news item today is a report of a mouse study (published in Nature Medicine, but apparently still embargoed to the public as it is not listed on their website) that suggested that an herbal supplement could (in combination with antibiotics) “eradicate” urinary tract infections.

In usual fashion, the buzz preceded the science, and now we have thousands of people on the lookout for forskolin (a root extract of coleus) tablets from the local health food store. Do these have any possible merit?

A recent review of the literature about this herb was conducted by the good docs at Harvard, and turned up “no conclusive evidence for its [forskolin’s] use for any health condition.”

My friend Dr. Charles also read the reports of this “miraculous” new cure – which posits that recurrent urinary tract infections are caused by pockets of bacteria that hide inside bladder walls. Dr. Charles rightly points out that there are many different points of entry for bacteria, and that an herb which (and we don’t know that it even does this) relaxes bladder walls would surely not affect the alternate routes of entry, hence it cannot be curative in all cases.

So my friends, I’m sorry to say that there is little justification for enthusiasm yet. But we will follow the research with interest, in case human subjects do indeed show benefit in the future.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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