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14 Best Natural Diuretic Herbs & Foods for Water Retention

Written by Aleksa Ristic, MS (Pharmacy) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Aleksa Ristic, MS (Pharmacy) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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diuretic

You’ll be surprised to see how many foods and medicinal herbs are natural diuretics. They may help you detox, reduce swelling, lower blood pressure, prevent kidney stones, and more. However, most of them aren’t backed up by solid clinical evidence. This article reveals ways to combat mild water retention safely and naturally.

What Is a Diuretic?

Diuretics are substances that increase the amount of urine you produce and help your body get rid of excess water [1, 2].

This excess water is called water retention. It can leave you feeling “puffy” and cause swollen ankles, hands, and feet (edema) [1].

Natural Diuretics and Water Retention

Various factors can cause water retention, including some underlying health conditions such as kidney and heart diseases. If you experience sudden and severe water retention, seek medical advice from your doctor immediately [3, 4].

However, lots of people have issues with mild water retention due to hormonal changes or extended periods of sitting, e.g. during a flight. Natural diuretics can come handy in such cases, but their potential uses don’t end there (see “Uses and Benefits” below) [5, 6].

Snapshot

DIURETIC HERBS AND SPICES:

DIURETIC FOODS:

DIURETIC DRINKS:

General Ways to Combat Water Retention

  • Get more magnesium: Magnesium maintains optimal electrolyte balance and may relieve water retention, especially for women in PMS [7, 8].
  • Exercise: When you work out, your body spends more water and gets rid of the excess through sweating [9].
  • Cut back on salt: High intake of table salt (sodium) promotes fluid retention [10, 11].

Uses and Benefits of Natural Diuretics

Important notes:

  • Natural diuretics don’t treat medical conditions.
  • You should seek immediate medical care in cases of sudden water retention.
  • Always consult with your doctor before taking a diuretic herb or supplement.
  • Don’t quit your medications or adjust doses on your own.

Diuretics are used for various health problems, including [12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18]:

  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Water retention due to heart or liver failure
  • Short-term weight loss in sports (“water weight”)
  • Additional treatment for UTIs

While severe conditions require medical care, many people rely on natural diuretics for milder forms of high blood pressure, swelling (edema), and UTIs.

Diuretic drugs enhance kidney function, but some of them may provoke kidney stones by impairing mineral balance. On the other hand, natural diuretics may prevent kidney stones and preserve essential minerals such as potassium [19, 20, 21].

Your kidneys are second only to your liver when it comes to detox. Since they filter your blood a remarkable 60 times a day, they might even be more important. Natural diuretics support the kidneys’ main detox mechanism, urination, which helps flush toxins from your body [22].

Those seeking to lose water weight often reach out for diuretic herbs and supplements, but their effect is temporary and doesnt contribute to actual weight loss.

Best Natural Diuretics

Preliminary research points to some amazing natural diuretics, but the level of evidence remains low. The following studies should encourage further investigation before we make any definite conclusions. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking any of the herbs and supplements discussed below. They can not replace medical treatment for any health condition.

1) Black Cumin (Nigella sativa)

Folks have been using black seed to relieve a wide range of diseases for millennia, including high blood pressure [23].

Black cumin seed extract (200-400 mg daily for 2 months) lowered mildly high blood pressure in 120 men. The extract also slightly dropped high blood pressure In 76 older people (at 600 mg/day) [13, 24].

A meta-analysis of 11 clinical trials confirmed that black cumin lowers blood pressure, with the extract being more effective than oil [25].

Both the extract and oil boosted urine production and cut the risk of developing kidney stones in studies on rats [26, 27, 28].

Additionally, black cumin extract and its main active compound (thymoquinone) prevented calcium oxalate buildup in rat kidneys [29, 30].

Find high-quality black cumin oil or simply use the crushed seeds. As a spice, black cumin is a great addition to many dishes.

2) Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

Roselle tea is an age-old traditional remedy for hypertension or high blood pressure. This species of hibiscus contains polyphenols that act as blood pressure-lowering drugs, ACE inhibitors [31, 32].

Roselle tea (1-2x/day for up to 6 weeks) lowered blood pressure in 3 clinical trials on 200 people with moderate hypertension. It had a mild effect on another 75 patients [12, 33, 34, 35].

In a clinical trial on 80 people, roselle tea was more effective than hydrochlorothiazide (25 mg/day) at lowering slightly high blood pressure. The tea didn’t cause sodium, potassium, or chloride imbalance. They used about 10 g of the herb/day in tea (for a 150 lbs person) [36].

In rats and rabbits, the combination of roselle extract with hydrochlorothiazide enhanced urination and prevented sodium, chloride, and bicarbonate loss. But it also slowed down hydrochlorothiazide elimination so the combination may not be safe [37].

Roselle may also help with kidney stones. One clinical trial on 18 men found that roselle tea increased uric acid excretion, cutting the risk of kidney stones and gout [19, 38].

Plus, roselle extract prevented the buildup of stone-causing minerals (such as calcium and oxalate) in rat kidneys [39, 40].

Roselle also contains quercetin, a flavonoid that contributes to blood vessel relaxation. It increased urine production by 48% in a study on kidney tissue [41].

Although supplements are available, the simplest way to get the benefits of roselle is to drink roselle tea.

3) Horsetail (Equisetum spp.)

Horsetail has a long history of use as a natural diuretic.

In a clinical trial on 25 healthy people, the extract of the Andean horsetail (0.75 g/day for 2 days) had diuretic effects. It slightly enhanced sodium, potassium, and chloride flushing [42].

One clinical trial tested field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) extract (900 mg/day) on 36 healthy men. It had the same diuretic effect as hydrochlorothiazide (25 mg) but a much lower risk of causing potassium and sodium deficits [43].

In a study on rats, the extracts of four different Mexican horsetail species were as effective as hydrochlorothiazide and had a similar mechanism of action [44].

Standardized horsetail extracts are available, while drinking tea will offer you milder benefits.

Caution: People with HIV should avoid horsetail since it blocked the effects of anti-HIV drug combinations (lamivudine/zidovudine/efavirenz and emtricitabine/tenofovir) in two cases [45].

4) Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine cherish dandelion for its diuretic benefits, which probably stem from its potassium-rich leaves [46, 47].

Dandelion leaf extract (8 mL, 3x/day) enhanced urination in a clinical trial on 17 people [46].

In rats, dandelion leaf extract had a diuretic effect comparable to a strong diuretic drug (furosemide) and prevented kidney stones [48, 20].

The dried root can be used in tea, while tinctures and extracts are also widely available.

5) Coffee

Many people wonder if coffee is a diuretic. Technically speaking, yes: the caffeine in coffee is a natural diuretic that binds to adenosine receptors. This effect prevents the kidneys from taking up sodium and enhances water and sodium elimination [49, 50].

Moderate doses of caffeine (around 300 mg) may increase urination, especially in people who don’t drink coffee regularly [51, 52].

One cup of coffee will contain ~50-80 mg of caffeine. The levels depend on the coffee variety and preparation method [53].

That said, 4 cups of coffee per day (~320 mg) had no effect on water balance in a clinical trial on 52 regular coffee drinkers. But the well-known fact is that people develop tolerance to coffee’s diuretic effects over time [54].

In 10 healthy adults, higher doses of caffeine (540 mg) boosted urination while lower doses (270 mg) failed to produce this effect [55].

But theres a major downside. Caffeine can trigger anxiety, insomnia, and other unpleasant side effects in sensitive people or when used at high doses. Plus, people widely differ in how well they break down caffeine or how they react to it. A dose that works for one person may be harmful to another [56, 57, 58].

6) Pomegranate

Pomegranate is loaded with antioxidants that protect the urinary tract from infections and kidney stones [59].

In a clinical trial on 30 people, pomegranate extract reduced calcium oxalate buildup in urine, cutting the risk of kidney stones. A study on rats revealed the same effect [60, 19, 61].

Animal Research (Lacking Evidence)

7) Black and Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)

Just like coffee, black tea and green tea act as natural diuretics due to their caffeine content [52].

They both had diuretic effects in 2 studies on rats. Green tea boosted the effects of hydrochlorothiazide and reduced potassium loss [62, 63].

Green tea may be a safer option than coffee, especially if you’re prone to anxiety. Green tea contains EGCG, which could counteract the stimulant, anxiety-provoking effect of caffeine on the brain [64].

8) Garlic

Medicinal uses of garlic are as old as mankind. It offers a range of potential benefits for the heart and blood vessels [65].

Garlic extract acted as a diuretic in many animal studies. In dogs, it also lowered blood pressure and boosted sodium flushing [66, 67, 68, 69, 70].

Have in mind that raw, freshly chopped garlic is most potent. Once chopped, its beneficial components quickly evaporate, while cooking deactivates them [71, 72, 73].

If you’re not a big fan of its taste, though, standardized extracts and garlic oil are also easy to find.

9) Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley is a well-known diuretic in folk medicine.

Although we still lack clinical trials, parsley extract enhanced urination in three studies on rats. It also alkalized the urine and prevented kidney stones [74, 66, 75].

10) Raspberry

Raspberry is bursting with antioxidants that support your kidney health and combat different chronic diseases [76].

In animal studies, raspberry extract increased urine production and helped prevent kidney stones [19, 77, 78].

11) Juniper (Juniperus communis)

Ever seen a bottle of drink with juniper berries inside? It’s not just about taste and decoration.

Herbalists praise juniper for its antimicrobial and detox properties. Diuretic activity of juniper, although forgotten nowadays, has attracted researchers for decades [79, 80, 81].

A 10% infusion (tea) of juniper berries enhanced urination in a study on rats [82].

12) Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

This delicious spice has countless potential benefits and uses in traditional medicine, including water retention and kidney stone treatment [83].

In rats, oregano extract prevented kidney stone formation. It also reduced stone-forming calcium oxalate crystals in test tubes [84].

Aside from using it as a spice, numerous oregano supplements exist. Oregano essential oil is rich in active compounds; it can be used in liquid form, while softgels are a better option for those who want to avoid its strong aroma.

13) Caraway (Carum carvi)

Traditional uses of caraway include high blood pressure, water retention, and digestive disorders [85].

In rats, caraway extract was as effective as a diuretic drug (furosemide) at boosting urination [86].

14) Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

Water retention is a major problem in patients with heart disease. Hawthorn may strengthen the heart muscle and stimulates circulation, enabling the removal of excess water [87, 88].

In rats, hawthorn flavonoids (procyanidins) cut the blood levels of uric acid, which may cause gout. They increased urinary sodium flush (4.8 times) and urine flow (2.6 times), lowering the risk of kidney stones [89].

Diuretic Foods

Besides the foods listed above, fennel, melon, and mustard greens have shown notable diuretic effects in a review of natural diuretics [65].

Potassium counteracts water retention caused by high sodium or salt intake. The following potassium-rich foods may thus help you get rid of mild water retention [90, 91]:

  • Lentils
  • Potatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Squash
  • Bananas
  • Beets

How to Take Natural Diuretics & Dosage

The doses below used in clinical trials may not apply to you personally. If your doctor suggests using a natural diuretic, work with them to find the optimal dosage according to your health condition, potential drug interactions, and other factors.

  • Roselle tea: 150 mg/kg daily [36]
  • Horsetail extract: 750-900 mg daily [42, 43]
  • Black cumin seed extract: 200-600 mg daily [13, 24]
  • Dandelion leaf extract: 24 ml daily [46]
  • Coffee and tea: 300-540 mg of caffeine daily [52, 55]

Most natural diuretics are available as supplements, alone or in different combinations. For everyday consumption, you can prepare teas with diuretic herbs and dishes with diuretic foods and spices.

Take-Away

Natural diuretics enhance urination without disturbing your mineral balance. They may help reduce blood pressure, prevent kidney stones, relieve mild swelling, and support the treatment of UTIs. Still, none of them should be used instead of medical treatment for any condition.

Diuretic herbs and spices include roselle, horsetail, black cumin, dandelion, parsley, and oregano. People can take them as teas and supplements or use them in cooking.

Raspberry, pomegranate, garlic, and melons are diuretic foods that may help remove excess water. Caffeinated drinks and potassium-rich foods – beans, lentils, bananas, potatoes – may also contribute.

To ensure optimal kidney health, you should exercise regularly, stay hydrated, and limit the intake of table salt. Magnesium supplements may combat water retention in PMS. Seek medical help if you experience sudden water retention and consult your doctor before supplementing.

About the Author

Aleksa Ristic

MS (Pharmacy)
Aleksa received his MS in Pharmacy from the University of Belgrade, his master thesis focusing on protein sources in plant-based diets. 
Aleksa is passionate about herbal pharmacy, nutrition, and functional medicine. He found a way to merge his two biggest passions—writing and health—and use them for noble purposes. His mission is to bridge the gap between science and everyday life, helping readers improve their health and feel better.

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