You know that looking fabulous makes you feel fabulous too, but there’s something that always gets in your way. By the afternoon, your legs swell up from their original toned appearance (which you’ve been working on since forever!) into water balloons.
Many factors can cause your legs to retain excess water, including excessive sodium, hormonal imbalance and poor circulation. So, can we reduce water retention without medication?
It is important to know what the root causes of your water retention are. Herbal teas such as turmeric, hibiscus, cinnamon, chaste berry, and nettle tea may aid to reduce water retention in your legs, depending on what the cause is.
Let’s read on to find out how you can get rid of excess water in your legs with herbal teas.
Reduce fluid retention and sodium with hibiscus tea
Sodium accumulation is also one of the main causes of water retention in legs. Thankfully, diuretic herbal teas such as hibiscus tea may help.
The balance and distribution of fluid in our bodies is also partially controlled by the number of mineral salts, or electrolytes, inside it. Your two main electrolytes are sodium and potassium, which have opposing effects. Sodium is the main electrolyte that acts outside of the cell, and when there is too much sodium, water can build up as there is plenty of space.
If you had biology or chemistry class in high school, you may remember that water will rush in to dilute an area where the salt concentration is higher. It’s the same situation for the human body. Issues such as hormonal imbalance or aging can impair your ability to remove excess sodium, causing water to accumulate alongside it unless we do something to restore the natural regulatory process.
Hibiscus is a natural diuretic
Hibiscus tea (H. sabdariffa) is a popular diuretic, meaning a class of remedies that increases urination. It may sound a little inconvenient, but it’s how we remove excess fluid from the body.
Both laboratory and human studies show that hibiscus tea may be helpful in reducing water retention. In a clinical trial, taking hibiscus tea for four weeks was even able to lower blood pressure almost as much as a common medication!
Systolic blood pressure (the top reading you get) fell by an average of 14mmHg, while diastolic pressure (the bottom number) dropped by 11mmHg. The treatment was compared against reduced blood pressure by 16mmHg and 13mmHg. Even better, the researchers confirmed that hibiscus tea increased sodium excretion in their urine without a similar rise in potassium loss.
This is not advised to stop your medication as you must only come off prescription treatment under medical advice. We must also remember that a relatively high dose was used, with 10 grams of the dry tea mixed in 500mL of water. It’s important too that we don’t keep eating high amounts of sodium in food, either. As a general rule, fresh food is lower in sodium while fast food and packaged food is higher.
A buildup of water and sodium leads to water retention, but Hibiscus sabdariffa could be your solution to swollen legs in this case. It boosts both water and sodium excretion in the urine, protecting against high blood pressure too.
Increase your potassium intake with cinnamon and fresh fruits
Low potassium causes your body to hold onto what electrolytes it does have, contributing to fluid retention and high blood pressure. The best way to get enough potassium is to increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables with the help of cinnamon.
Some research suggests that increasing potassium intake lowers blood pressure, as you are able to urinate enough and let go of excessive sodium.
Additionally, potassium helps out with muscle contractions, so a deficiency can cause tired muscles and leg cramps. This could mean that low potassium impairs your ability to pump out excessive fluid, which you’re already holding onto.
Fresh fruits are great sources of potassium but don’t worry about their sugar content, as some herbal teas can help.
How to increase potassium intake with fresh fruits without concern about their sugar content?
Bananas are a fantastic and versatile source of potassium, which you can enjoy as a snack, fried into chips, or as a base ingredient in smoothies. But what if you are restricting fruit because you’re worried about its effect on blood sugar In this case, cinnamon may come to your rescue!
Research shows that cinnamon can reduce not only blood sugar levels, but also the severity of cellular glycation. This is the result of unabsorbed blood sugar becoming tangled in cell and tissue proteins. As these results are seen even in people with diabetes, you are likely to benefit if your blood sugar spikes are less serious. You can add cinnamon to smoothies and desserts containing fresh bananas if you have concerns about its sugar content.
Cinnamon helps to control blood sugar in several ways. First, it can behave like insulin, shuttling glucose from the blood and into cells. It turns down the activity of an enzyme that suppresses insulin too, partly restoring insulin sensitivity if age or lifestyle choices has impaired signalling. Finally, cinnamon increases the numbers of your GLUT-4 receptor. This is the only insulin-dependent glucose receptor, and with reduced insulin sensitivity, its counts fall.
Potassium is necessary to keep fluid balance and urination in healthy ranges in order to prevent high blood pressure and water retention. You don’t have to miss out on some of its best sources just because they are sweet fruits, as cinnamon can improve blood sugar control.
Increase blood circulation with turmeric
A loss of integrity in the blood vessels, whether the muscles are weak or the lining is leaky, can contribute to water retention. Fortunately, turmeric has many benefits to your cardiovascular health because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Your circulatory system, including both your heart and the system of blood vessels, is responsible for carrying fluid around your body. While the heart pumps blood, the system of vessels plays an active role too, through its muscles and ability to expand and contract as needed.
Aging, unfortunately, brings with it a loss of muscle tone, tissue integrity, and overall impaired function. This is partly caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, which damage tissue. Bringing partial relief to these age-related problems is possible when we reverse this inflammation and oxidative stress.
Curcumin may help protect blood vessel function and integrity
Curcumin is the main beneficial phytochemical in turmeric. It by both reducing inflammation and increasing nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. The antioxidant effects of curcumin allow for protection against tissue damage, too.
A study involving middle-aged and older volunteers found that blood flow improved after curcumin supplementation. Both the curcumin and placebo group’s blood flow were measured after stimulation with a natural signalling chemical that should widen the blood vessels. With aging, the response becomes impaired. This is both a symptom and contributor to the general breakdown of cardiovascular health as we age.
However, two important things to remember are that a high-quality supplement was used, and the study period was 12 weeks. This means you must use a substantial amount of turmeric, and results won’t appear overnight.
Click here if you want to learn more about other amazing abilities of turmeric.
Poor circulation and "leaky" blood vessels can contribute to water retention. Fortunately, curcumin, the main phytochemical in turmeric, may protect blood vessel function and integrity as we age, through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Drink stinging nettle tea to avoid the need for NSAIDs
A little less than 5% of people who take NSAIDs are estimated to get fluid retention, making it the most common kidney-related side effect. But what if you didn’t have to choose between pain and potential kidney symptoms? Stinging nettle has anti-inflammatory benefits and, therefore, may be a replacement for NSAIDs.
NSAIDs can be found in almost every medicine cabinet in Australia! Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include ibuprofen, which we often take for granted as safe and convenient. However, long-term use or taking high doses of NSAIDs may harm our kidneys.
When NSAIDs reduce inflammatory prostaglandin levels, they do so with stronger effects than remedies such as ginger. An overpowering action against prostaglandins then restricts blood flow to the kidneys, leading to water retention as you can’t get rid of excess fluid and sodium through urine. This, fortunately, is usually mild and reversible by stopping the drugs.
Stinging nettle: an NSAIDs alternative
A study of people with osteoarthritis tested a combination of fish oil, vitamin E and nettle for its effects on symptoms and NSAID use. After three months, total WOMAC scores fell by around 60%, from an average of 1085 to 430. The WOMAC scoring system measures pain, stiffness and function. NSAID use fell by just over half. While volunteers taking the supplement originally took an average of 1.13 NSAID doses per day, this fell to 0.51 after the three months were up.
Stinging nettle is far more pleasant in your teacup than on your hand as a fresh plant. And if you're interested in learning more about other herbal teas for inflammation, check out this article!
NSAIDs may reduce blood flow to the kidneys and cause fluid retention in a small but substantial proportion of people. However, herbal remedies such as nettle may be an effective alternative.
Soothe pre-menstrual syndrome with chaste berry
There are over 100 possible symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), which are divided into several common groups, with water retention a feature in PMS-H (hydration). Inflammation is thought to be a possible cause of excess water in your legs. As it can cause swelling through water accumulation, it is possible that anti-inflammatory herbal teas such as chaste berry could help out here.
Chaste berry: a remedy for the PMS-H symptom
Chaste berry has been popular for many years as a remedy for the PMS-H symptom cluster and may relieve water retention wherever you experience it.
A study on women at the end of their reproductive years tested a combination of chaste berry and St John’s Wort to a placebo over 16 weeks, covering roughly four menstrual cycles. After the 16 weeks of treatment, average PMS-H severity scores fell by roughly half, from just over 5 to a little under 2.5 on Abraham’s Menstrual Symptoms Questionnaire. The placebo didn’t lead to lasting improvement.
Through inflammation, PMS causes a range of symptoms, including water retention. Chaste berry tea may thankfully be a solution.
When to see a doctor
Sometimes, there are things that herbal tea cannot fix, and you need to see a doctor. Water retention in your legs can have serious underlying causes, including:
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Blood clotting in your legs
- Venous insufficiency
- Leg infection
- Previous injury or surgery to the area.
Organ failure is, of course, a dangerous situation to be in, so seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Blood clots can be caused by certain medications, while venous insufficiency means weak valves in your veins aren’t helping to pump out fluid from your legs. A leg infection will call for antibiotics. Lymphedema may overlap with injury or surgery, as it means a blockage in the lymph vessels which can be serious. The earlier any of these problems are found, the more likely treatment will be successful.
There are many factors that can cause water to retain in your legs, including excessive sodium, hormonal imbalance and poor circulation. Thankfully, there are natural remedies, including herbal teas such as turmeric, cinnamon, nettle, chaste berry and hibiscus tea, that can help.
Have you tried nettle, hibiscus, or another herbal remedy for water retention?
If so, how did they go, or did you try something else entirely?