These herbs for kidney health offer a variety of healthful attributes, including nourishing, strengthening, toning and tonifying the kidneys and bladder
Before getting into herbs for kidney health, we must first consider the kidneys. When herbalists speak of the kidneys, you must be prepared to ask what they mean. My classes view plants through three to four different lenses, primarily Chinese, Western, and Native American, and Ayurveda to a lesser degree. The domain of influence under the umbrella of Chinese Kidneys is far larger than that of the Western perspective. For starters, the Chinese Kidney also includes the endocrine system, especially the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, as well as foundational core vitality. It is considered both the Foundation of Fire (Kidney Yang) and the Foundation of Water (Kidney Yin and the lowest portion of the Triple Burner).The Western perspective, on the other hand, goes into much greater depth concerning the intricacies of anatomy and chemical-based physiology. These classes describe both views, and in language that is easily understood.
Epimedium (E. grandiflorum, Chinese: yin yang huo), aka horny goatweed, is a versatile plant infamously known for its invigorating aphrodisiac effect on sexual libido, particularly on male genitalia. Any plant that has libido-lifting effect is considered a Kidney Yang tonic in Chinese Medicine, and epimedium is no slouch. It also has protective and restorative effect (anti-aging/deteriorating agent) on the brain, the mind, joints, bones, lungs, and deep core vitality (if not abused). These virtues place epimedium in a category of herbs for kidney health that is usually reserved for stimulating adaptogens, like ginseng and rhodiola.
Artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus) is a Western herb primarily touted for its beneficial influence on digestive, intestinal, and liver-gallbladder function. It is also similar to other herbs for kidney health in that it is a respectable antidyskratic (an agent that aids kidneys to eliminate filtrates from blood, such as uric acid). Therefore, it is useful in prevention and treatment of gout.
Herbs for the Kidney and Bladder
Kidney health — in the herbalist mind – often encompasses the entirety of the urinary system. Cleavers, clove and couchgrass are three beneficial herbs for the kidney and bladder.
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) bud is a potent antimicrobial, and can be useful in protocols for treatment of acute bladder infections (UTIs). It is also used in Ayurveda for the treatment of gout. Long-term use, however, is discouraged, as it will eventually detrimentally irritate renal tissue.
Cleavers (Gallium aparense) herb is a superior tonic for kidney and bladder health. It is cooling to the kidneys, relieves nephritis, and helps to resolve buildup of urinary calcium deposits. It is also an excellent bladder tonic. Cleavers is light and diffusive in its action toward urinary mucous membrane tissue as well, and it can be useful treatment for acute UTIs of an inflamed nature.
Couchgrass (Agropyron repens) is the most disreputable of the bunch . . . in that it is considered one of the world’s worst nuisances by gardeners, farmers, and lovers of lawns. Inversely proportional to its ‘weed’ reputation, it is one of the best herbs for kidney and bladder health. Its gentle nature makes it effective in protocols for treatment of interstitial cystitis (IC), and its sweet-deep and mineral rich nutrition makes it a candidate — in my opinion — for a restorative Chinese Kidney Yin tonic, or what Westerners would call a kidney trophorestorative (an agent that restores the strength, tone, balance and function of an organ).
Nettles can be considered food for Kidneys. It is trophorestorative, meaning that it strengthens weak, fragile, damaged, senile, atrophied and/or inactive kidneys. It is also useful in situations with chronic cystitis, edema, and difficult but frequent urination. Nettles is known for repairing damaged kidneys from lacerations brought about by over-use or irritation. This may include marathon runners, truck drivers, or people who have been punched in the kidney one too many times. Nettles not only rebuilds damaged kidneys, but it also helps to eliminate excess protein waste through kidney filtration. Nettles works to cleanse blood, which then helps the joints. This benefit extends to the preventing and resolving gout. Nettles is also a gentle, non-irritating, potassium-enriching diuretic.
Nettles seed in particular provides strong trophorestorative effects for Kidneys, and treats glomerulo-nephritis. In some cases nettles can slow kidney failure and delay the need for intervention like dialysis.
There are many more kidney-supportive herbs, in the Western, Chinese, Ayurvedic and many indigenous traditions, for health and maintenance as well as acute and chronic conditions. Today I touched on just a few.
The first online herbal medicine course from Clearpath School of Herbal Medicine, Foundations of Western Herbalism, Part 1 , begins with a systematic and comprehensive exploration of human beings and human health through the lenses of Western/European and First Nations/Native American health modalities while also interweaving principles and practices with contemporary scientific and medical understanding.
Learn more about this online herbalist course here. You can watch an introductory video and take a deeper look at the information you will learn from this course.