Chills, fever, low back pain, bladder irritation, pain on urination (dysuria), frequency, and possible edema. Each acute episode causes some permanent kidney damage.

What is Kidney Disease?

From Modern Western Medicine

There are many disorders that affect the kidneys. High blood pressure damages the nephrons, or the functional unit of the kidneys, but nephritic damage can also result from some other causes. Nephrotic syndrome occurs when fluid collects in the body and large quantities of protein are lost in the urine. Acute or chronic renal failure is another serious and even life-threatening disorder of the kidneys.

Many people suffer from congenital kidney abnormalities. A person might be born with only one functional kidney, or with both kidneys on one side, or with a kidney that has two ureters and partially duplicates itself (duplex kidney). Such conditions are rarely life-threatening, however.

A wide variety of illnesses can give rise to kidney disease, including diabetes mellitus and hemolytic-uremic syndrome; an autoimmune disorder known as glomerulonephritis, or the inflammation of the filtering units of the kidneys; kidney stones (see the section on Kidney Stones); and infection (known as pyelonephritis), most often causes by blockage of the urine flow.

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form of kidney cancer in adults over 40, while nephroblastoma (Wilm’s tumor) is the kidney cancer that affects children, most of them under four years of age.

Allergies to pharmaceutical drugs can also cause kidney disease.

The techniques used to diagnose kidney disease include blood tests, urinalysis, renal biopsy, ultrasound scanning, intravenous or retrograde phylography, angiography, and CT scanning.

From Traditional Medicine

One of the most common causes of kidney disease related to lifestyle in the West is excessive protein in the diet. Protein converts to uric acid, which the kidneys excrete from the blood. Excess uric acid damages kidneys. Anyone with a kidney disorder should minimize protein by avoiding animal foods, expect for small amounts of fish. Temporarily adopting a vegetarian diet can be helpful for those with kidney problems.

In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are regarded as part of the water element, which is responsible for the health of the kidneys, bladder, and sex organs. The kidneys are said to be the seat of the will, meaning that willpower emanates from these organs. The kidneys also provide qi, or life force, to the entire body. Any damage to the kidneys will weaken the body and the will.

Most kidney disorders are the result of deficiencies, either adequate yang (expansive energy) or yin (contractive energy). Deficiencies of kidney yin—a common cause of premature ejaculation in men and frequent urination—is caused by inadequate amounts of yin fluids. Without sufficient yin fluids, all other parts of the body are affected, including the heart, liver, and lungs. Common symptoms of deficient kidney yin include low backache, weak legs, rapid pulse, dry mouth and throat, ear problems, (including tinnitus), anxiety, and fear. (See list of Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid in order to nurture kidney yin.)

Kidney yang, regarded as the fire within the kidneys, is needed to warm the body, energize it, and provide out going energy that supports willpower, courage, self-expression, and social interaction. When the kidneys are deficient in yang, the person is said to lack spirit and will suffer from fatigue. He may become introverted, lack physical and mental vitality, and suffer from poor sex drive. Women experience irregular and vaginal discharge. People often experience the inability to urinate (not enough outgoing energy), weak legs, and low backache (from tightness). Asthma may also result. (See list of Foods to Eat and Avoid for warming kidney yang and providing kidney yang.)



Food to Eat

  • Cranberry juice
  • Mullein tea
  • Watermelon seed tea
  • Parsley water
  • Barley water
  • Watermelon juice


Incorporate the following foods into the dietary regimen, as they are excellent for healing kidney disease:

  • Garlic
  • Green vegetables, such as asparagus, kale, parsley, watercress, dandelion greens, and turnip greens
  • Watermelon
  • Celery
  • Potato skins
  • Horseradish
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Cucumbers
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots, celery, and parsley juice
  • Kidney beans


Chinese Medicine

To nurture kidney yin:

  • Millet
  • Barley
  • Tofu
  • String beans
  • Black beans and all other beans
  • Mung beans and sprouts
  • Seaweeds
  • Spirulina and chlorella
  • Black sesame seeds


To nurture kidney yang:

  • Onion family, such as garlic, onions, leaks, and scallions
  • Salmon
  • Quinoa
  • Herbs, such as cloves, fenugreek seeds, anise seeds, and dried ginger
  • Walnuts


To nurture kidney qi:

  • Parsley
  • Wheat berries
  • Sweet rice


Foods to Avoid

For kidney yin deficiency:

  • Animal foods, especially eggs, pork, and cheese
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Hot spices


For kidney yang deficiency:

  • Cooling foods and fruits
  • Raw foods
  • Excessive salt
  • Use seaweed cautiously


Herbs to Treat Kidney Disease

  • Crushed or whole oyster or clam shell (good for deficient kidney qi): Crush if whole (find them on the beach) and decoct into a tea or else purchase at Chinese herb store.
  • Prepared rehmannia root is the main herb in Chinese Rehmannia-Siz formula found in all Chinese pharmacies as well as many other herb shops. (Builds kidney yin; most widely used tonic.)
  • Stinging nettles (diuretic): tincture, 10 – 40 drops, three or four times per day
  • Buchu (diuretic, antispasmodic): tincture, 10 – 15 drops, three or four times per day



Massage the following mixture across the kidney area and abdomen:

1 oz. dissolved mutton tallow

20 drops spirit of gum turpentine

40 drops camphor

20 drops benzoin

3 drops sassafras


  • Beta-carotene: 15 – 30 mg per day
  • Vitamin B complex: 25 mg per day
  • Vitamin C: 100 – 500 mg per day
  • Vitamin E: 100 – 400 IU per day
  • Magnesium: 100 mg per day