These kidney herbs offer a variety of healthful attributes, including nourishing, strengthening, toning and tonifying the kidneys and bladder.  

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 America, 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, it includes the endocrine system, specially the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, as well as foundational core vitality. It vis considered both the Foundation of Fire (Kidney Yang) and the Foundation of Water (Kidney Yin and the lower 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 more, in language that is easily understood.

epimedium leaf imageEpimedium (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 photoArtichoke 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.  clove bud photo

cleavers photo 3


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.


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).

couchgrass photo with roots
Want to learn more about herbs for kidney health? If you’re in the western Massachusetts area, join me for my Materia Medica series, which focuses on the healthful benefits of an array of Chinese and Western herbs. Find out more information here (link to other article), or Clearpath Herbals for more information.

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