International Journal of Urologic History

A History of Four Chinese Herbs Used to Treat Acute and Chronic Urinary Disorders

Amanda Rubano, Ronald Rabinowitz, and Divya Ajay
First Published: Sept. 24, 2023
DOI: 10.53101/IJUH.3.1.092402
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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has treated Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) for over 4 millennia. This review explores history of the classical diagnosis of “urinary syndrome (US)” in TCM and the four herbal ingredients of Huang-lian-Jie- du Decoction (HLJDD), a traditional herbal tonic, used to treat US. With increasing antibiotic resistance, alternative therapies for UTIs have gained importance. We explore the TCM concept of US and lin and its relevance to the modern antibiotic era


Primary Chinese texts, translations, medical literature, and academic publications were reviewed to investigate the treatment of US with HLJDD in TCM. Botanical gardens were explored to find living versions of historic herbs used in HLJDD.


The concept of US, referred to as lin in TCM, can be traced back to in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine in 2600 BCE. In 610 CE, Chao Yuanfang described herbs as a treatment of US. Wang Tao, in 752 CE, classified US into five types, with Heat US corresponding to the Western diagnosis of UTI. Wang Tao also documented HLJDD as an herbal remedy for ‘heat clearing’. In The Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies (220 CE), HLJDD consists of Coptis chinensis (Franch.)†, Radix scutellariae, Cortex phellodendri, and Fructus gardeniae in a 3:2:2:3 proportion. Recent clinical trials have examined HLJDD and its ingredients, investigating their efficacy as alternative treatments for UTI. Some trials found that the herbal ingredients not only enhance the effects of antibiotics, but also prevent UTIs when taken prophylactically by postmenopausal women. Most recently, Coptis chinensis was found to have inhibitory activity against many uropathogenic bacteria, including E. coli.


This historical perspective provides a more complete understanding of the evolution of Heat US in TCM and its correlation to the modern diagnosis of UTI, along with the herbal ingredients of HJLDD as treatment. Modern research confirms the application of HLJDD and its ingredients as an alternative treatment for UTI.

Editor in Chief: John L. Phillips, MD
Journal Design: Akhil A. Saji, MD
DOI: 10.53101
US ISSN: 2769-2183