Kidneys are the organs that maintain our water balance and help manage the pH of our bodies. While we generally think of kidneys as organs that get rid of water, they actually conserve water by filtering waste products into urine while returning the rest to the blood stream. Approximately 100 quarts of liquid are filtered through the kidneys daily with only 1½ quarts passing out of the body as urine.
High protein diets are hard on the kidneys. Uric acid, a by-product of protein metabolism, must be eliminated by the kidneys. If too much protein is consumed, the kidneys get overloaded with waste which can result in high blood pressure, joint problems, and fluid retention. Many of the herbs used for kidney conditions help to neutralize uric acid so that it can be eliminated.
Traditional Chinese medicine views the kidney as a major energy channel or meridian in the body. Imbalances along this energy channel tend to affect other parts of the body related to this energy channel. Accordingly, kidney imbalances may relate to dry mouth, lung congestion, low back or hip pain, knee and ankle pain or proneness to injury, and/or hemorrhoids, hernia or tailbone pain. Working with kidney-strengthening herbs can help alleviate symptoms along this energy channel.
Kidney stones and calcification in the kidneys are problems partially caused by excess calcium in the urine. This excess calcium can be from a magnesium deficiency, a potassium deficiency, inadequate water consumption, high sodium intake, high calcium intake from unbalanced sources such as antacids, high oxalate intake from foods such as chocolate, coffee, spinach and beans, and high intake of acid-forming foods such as sugar, coffee, sodas and animal protein. If this reminds you of my articles on pH and bone health, you are following along perfectly. It’s all related.
One of the best ways to help your kidneys is to drink water. Good quality water is the best, most natural drink for your body. Adding lemon juice to your water is also helpful for the kidneys as the lemon juice is alkalizing, helping the kidneys eliminate acid waste.
Herbs that are useful for kidneys fall in several major groups. Diuretics such as parsley and dandelion help with water retention. Antiseptics such as juniper, buchu, uva ursi and cranberry fight infection. Demulcents such as marshmallow leaf and corn silk have a soothing action. Anti-lithics such as parsley, hydrangea and gravel root help remove stones. Herbal tonics that strengthen and tone the urinary system include buchu, uva ursi, juniper and dong quai. In looking for an herbal remedy for kidneys, there are many good blends that combine several of the herbs listed above.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.