Jul 9, 2020

best herbs for kidney disorders


Urinary issues can interrupt everyday life for a large population of people. Frequent trips to the restroom or emergency room create the need to strengthen urinary health. Problems with the genitourinary tract affect cardiac function, musculoskeletal physiology, as well as digestion and reproductive health. Common urinary health issues include urinary tract infection, renal stones, and nephron damage. There are several drugs that are effective, yet the side effects do not dramatically increase the quality of life. Luckily, there is an arsenal of herbs that are side-effect free and successful in treating urinary conditions.

Cranberry, or Vaccinium macrocarpon, has been used for urinary tract infections for centuries. The berry has been made into juices and tablets, becoming the most widely known natural remedy for urinary discomfort. Specific to UTI, cranberry has been studied in comparison to standard protocol antibiotics. Recently, studies have been conducted to use cranberry as a long-term preventative of urinary tract infection. One specific study looked at cranberry extracts compared to trimethoprim, a leading UTI prophylactic antibiotic used in the older population. Participants that had two or more antibiotic-treated UTIs in 12 months were randomly selected to receive 100mg of trimethoprim or 500mg of cranberry extract for six months. It was found that cranberry was only slightly less advantageous for the prevention of UTI than trimethoprim and did not present as many side effects. Furthermore, cranberry provided the older population a cheaper natural product that did not increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance like the leading prophylactic antibiotics1.

A different research endeavor showed that younger women (premenopausal women between the ages of 26-46 years) with histories of recurrent UTIs had good outcomes when given 500mg of cranberry capsules twice a day compared to those give 480mg trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) once a day for 12 months. TMP-SMX marginally outperformed cranberry extract, but at the expense of creating several antibacterial resistant strains2.

Tribulus terrestris is considered a prime nephroprotective herb in Ayurveda. Several mouse model studies have shown this herb to assist in the healing of induced kidney damage. Recently, it has been confirmed that several common prescription drugs cause slow, progressive, but severe renal tissue damage. A study focused on the anticancer drug, cisplatin, used to successfully treat several different types of solid tumors. This particular drug can only be used in high doses for a very short amount of time due to the extreme oxidative stress that it causes to renal tissue. The study divided mice into 5 groups: a control group of normal saline, cisplatin only, cispatin +100mg/kg of T. terrestris, cisplatin +300mg/kg of T. terrestris, and cisplatin+ 500mg/kg T. terrestris. Cisplatin was given at a dose of 5.5mg/kg. All groups were given herb, saline, and drugs by injection intraperitoneally for 4 days. After treatment, the kidneys of the mice were collected, weighed, and then underwent histological analysis. It was found that the cisplatin only group had severe widening of the Bowman’s capsule space as well as tubular cell necrosis in the renal cortex and renal medulla. The animal groups that received Tribulus terrestris had a dose dependent improvement in renal damage3. These findings not only show the power of the renal protective use of this herb but also shows a bridge between the ancient medicine and conventional medicine worlds. T. terrestris has also been shown to be a great antilithiatic treatment.

Several environmental factors cause nephrotoxicity and therefore damage to kidney tissues. Achyranthes aspera has been shown to reduce damage in renal cells upon induced renal damage in rats. Urinary analysis showed reduced renal enzyme activity for reactive oxidative damage. This shows that there is less damage or the need to clear reactive oxygen species has been reduced. Furthermore, upon histology, it was shown that inflammatory markers in the treatment group were greatly reduced compared to the placebo group4.

The kidneys facilitate various chemical reactions well as molecular balance, creating natural reactive oxidative species. Didymocarpus pedicellata has been shown to provide protection from oxidative stress in the kidneys as well as offer nephroprotecive properties, and positive results are seen in as little as seven days of administration in human subjects5

Mimosa punica is a bitter and acrid herb that acts as a diuretic. An investigation showed that this herb assists in treating UTIs. Patients with UTI given a decoction of Mimosa were compared to patients given cortimaxazole, a leading prescription antibiotic. Both treatments were given for seven days and physical, chemical, and microbiologic properties of urine were recorded at one, three, five, and seven days. It was found that M. pudica performed just as well as the antibiotic with few side effects such as dry mouth, nausea, and lack of appetite6.

Equisetum arvense is another powerful but balanced diuretic. A randomized, double-blind clinical trial was performed using this herb against placebo or hydrochlorothiazide. Patients were given each treatment option for four days followed by a 10-day washout period. The water balance was measured over 24 hours after the fourth day of herb, placebo, or drug administration. It was found that the E. arvense was stronger than placebo and was as effective as hydrochlorothiazide in all patients7.

Another aspect of urinary health that affects a large population is kidney stones or rather, the prevention of kidney stones. Dolichos biflorus has been studied for the treatment of kidney stones as well as to prevent them in people who are prone to renal calcifications. Extracts of this herb and cystone, a drug given as a kidney stone dissolvent, were compared for efficacy. It was shown that the herbal extracts were able to dissolve the calculi both in vitro and in vivo in the mouse model.

Saxifraga ligulata has been studied for calcium oxalate kidney stones. The herb not only causes diuresis in rats, it also dissolves renal stones. Furthermore, the herb acted as an antioxidant in the kidneys8.

Crataeva religiosa is a urinary antimicrobial as well as kidney stone dissolving agent. An investigation conducted on experimental kidney stones formed in rates showed that C. religiosa was capable of lowing the number of stone-forming constituents in mice that were given a diet that causes calcifications. The mice were then weaned off the herb for 10 days. It was found that the renal stones reformed in the group that continued to be given a stone forming diet. Furthermore, oxalate-synthesizing liver enzymes were remarkably reduced in mice that received Crataeva relgiosa9.

Ocimum sanctum has been studied as a balanced antimicrobial, not only in the urinary tract but all over the body. Many studies have shown that O. sanctum not only eliminates unwanted microbes but helps to balance microbial ratios of the microorganisms associated with health10–16. Furthermore, this herb acts as a general anti-inflammatory, easing the stress on the tissues of the urinary system17.

            Bearberry or Uva ursi has been shown to be a specific antimicrobial for the urinary tract. Studies showed that bearberry was not only a great treatment for bacterial strains, but also for fungal species18.

            Much more evidence exists for these herbs using different populations and concentrations of herbal strengths. These are but a few examples of how herbs can not only produce positive effects on urinary health but also of powerful aid without downstream side effects.

Avoid foods in kidney problems

High potassium foods to limit or avoid include:

  • root vegetables such as beets and beet greens, taro, parsnips, and potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes (unless they’re boiled)
  • bananas and plantains
  • spinach
  • avocado
  • prunes and prune juice
  • raisins
  • dates
  • sun-dried or pureed tomatoes, or tomato paste
  • beans (like adzuki beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, soybeans, etc.)
  • bran
  • potato chips
  • French fries
  • chocolate
  • nuts
  • yogurt
  • salt substitutes

High potassium drinks to limit or avoid include:

  • coffee
  • fruit or vegetable juice (especially passion fruit and carrot juices)
  • wine
  • beer
  • cider
  • milk

Foods to add to your diet

Foods are considered low in potassium if they contain 200 milligrams (mg) or less per serving.

Some low-potassium foods include:

  • berries, such as strawberries and blueberries
  • apples
  • grapefruit
  • pineapple
  • cranberries and cranberry juice
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • eggplant
  • green beans
  • white rice
  • white pasta
  • white bread
  • egg whites
  • canned tuna in water


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