When it comes to detoxification, we hear a lot about the importance of the liver, lymphatic system, and gut. Yet, our kidneys—one of the most critical organs of detoxification—are rarely thought of…until we experience unpleasant symptoms.
Located below your rib cage on either side of your spine, healthy kidneys work hard removing wastes, toxins, and excess water from the blood to make urine. To put it in perspective, your kidneys filter about 150 quarts of blood per day (half a cup per hour). They also play a role in regulating blood pressure, removing acid from the body, maintaining fluid, salt and mineral balance, keeping your bones strong, and creating red blood cells.
However, if the kidneys become compromised their filtration system can become compromised, resulting in a variety of imbalances. Yet, Western medicine offers very few tools to help us keep our kidneys strong.
Fortunately, Ayurveda and other traditional systems have long used herbs to support normal kidney function, flush the kidneys, and help restore energy and vitality to these detoxification powerhouses. Here are a few of our favorite herbs for kidney health:
#1: BHUMYAMALAKI, AKA: “STONEBREAKER”
In Ayurveda, it’s understood that kidney health is reliant on liver health. Thus, you cannot properly support and nourish the kidneys without also addressing the liver. Bhumyamalaki accomplishes both these objectives by supporting normal liver detoxification, helping kidney tubes stay clear and strong, and restoring Kapha and Pitta balance.
Also known as “the bitter root”, Katuki is used to balance Kapha and Pitta doshas. Its bitter taste helps stimulate normal bile function which supports the liver and digestive system, thereby aiding kidney function. Research also shows that Katuki may help support normal blood sugar, enzyme, and cholesterol levels.
Punarnava is an incredible rejuvenator for the kidneys and provides support, protection, and nourishment on multiple levels for multiple-related organs and systems. For example, in Ayurveda it’s used to support blood sugar balance, blood formation, hemoglobin levels, fluid balance, and the circulatory system. It’s also used to maintain a normal balance of fats, proteins, and sugars in urine.
Its Tridosha nature makes it appropriate for all body types.
As the name suggests (“Tri” meaning three and “phala” meaning “fruit” in Sanskrit), Triphala is an herbal combination of three different fruits: Amla, Haritaki and Bibhitaki.
Traditionally, it’s been used to aid kidney, digestive, liver, metabolic, cognitive, cardiovascular and immune function. Modern research has identified several active compounds in this ancient trifecta including high levels of antioxidants like vitamin C, gallic acid, and chebulinic acid; along with flavonoids, tannins, and phenolic acids. It is believed these antioxidants are responsible for its success as a traditional kidney- and whole-body-supportive herb.
Ginger is one of the most versatile, widely available, affordable, effective, and widely-studied herbs on the planet. Typically thought of for digestive and immune health, it’s also prized in Ayurveda for its positive effects on the kidneys.
Traditional practitioners would recommend it as a warming tea (since teas flush through your kidneys and urinary system) or to use Ginger tea as a warm compress applied directly to the kidney area in the evening. This is a lovely practice to enjoy during the colder fall and winter months.
Nettles have long been used in traditional systems to build the blood, detoxify the liver, and as an adaptogen (which helps the body adapt to stress). In Ayurveda the seeds and leaf are prized for their positive effects on kidney health, including supporting urinary flow, the prostate, normal iron levels, healthy creatinine levels (imbalanced levels can indicate a kidney issue), and assisting with the breakdown of mineral, protein, and toxin build up that can lead to kidney stones. In other words: nettles provide multi-faceted support for your blood, kidneys, liver, and other organs of detoxification.
Cranberry juice has become infamous for supporting urinary tract health. It works so well that some people drink it every day to avoid kidney and urinary problems. How does it work? Research has shown cranberries have antilithogenic properties, which means they help prevent the formation of calcium in the kidneys which can lead to kidney stones. They also help maintain proper chemical balance in your urine which has a positive effect on kidney health.
#9: DANDELION ROOT
In Ayurveda, Dandelion Root is prized for its liver, gallbladder, digestive, metabolic, and kidney-supportive properties. This nutrient-dense root is one of the best herbs for kidney health and contains a wealth of kidney-nourishing minerals that support balance and proper function, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. While its diuretic properties help flush the kidneys and keep the urinary system flowing strong. Dandelion also contains powerful antioxidants that may help maintain inflammatory balance throughout the body.
#10: CELERY ROOT
This clean tasting root vegetable is ideal for balancing Kapha body types and brings warmth to the body and organs. In traditional Ayurveda, it is used along with radish and other herbs to help break up and expel toxins and debris in the kidneys and maintain fluid balance. It also contains antioxidants and acts as a mild diuretic, which helps the kidneys and urinary system function optimally.
HOW TO USE HERBS FOR KIDNEY HEALTH
Since kidney issues vary from person to person, it’s always best to consult your Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner for individual recommendations. However, for basic maintenance and preventative support, any of these herbs can be taken as a tea to help flush the kidneys and liver, or as a supplement to nourish these hard-working detoxification pathways.
Ginger, for example, is a wonderful herb to turn to in the colder months while Dandelion, Celery Root, and Nettles are especially nourishing in the spring.
In Ayurveda, it’s also recommended you drink an appropriate amount of water (not too little, not too much), practice yoga and deep breathing, address stress, and avoid excess amounts of potassium, sodium, protein, and phosphorus in your diet for optimal kidney health.
Your kidneys work hard for you 24/7 and ask very little in return. This new year, make it a point to reward them with a little extra care in the form of healthy lifestyle practices and herbs for kidney health. In return, they’ll reward you with greater energy and stamina while reducing the likelihood of future kidney ailments. Happy New Year!