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Traditional Chinese Herbs for the Kidney & Adrenals

By Karyn Maier ; Updated August 14, 2017

The adrenals play a significant role in how your body copes with stress. When the adrenals are “tired,” they produce less cortisol, a hormone involved in assisting the liver in converting carbohydrates and proteins into glucose. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, adrenal fatigue is attributed to kidney deficiency. Several Chinese herbs are used to correct this condition. However, follow the guidance of a physician experienced in the use of these herbs.

Adrenal-Kidney Deficiency

In TCM, the body’s vital energy, or “Qi” is stored in the kidneys. The kidneys are also the source of all Yin and Yang, the opposing forces that impart masculine and feminine qualities in the body’s systems to maintain optimum health. For instance, Yin is moist, cold and feminine and associated with the flow of blood and other fluids. In contrast, Yang is dry, hot and masculine and associated with drive and force, such as the pumping of blood from the heart or the manufacture of bile from the gallbladder. A blockage of Qi, or an imbalance of Yin and Yang, results in adrenal fatigue and kidney deficiency.

Kidney Yin Tonics

In an article written for the "Pacific College of Oriental Medicine," author Alex A. Kecskes says that the first step in addressing adrenal-kidney deficiency is to utilize herbs that support kidney Yin for a period of 60 to 120 days. Specifically, he recommends rehmannia root, also known as Chinese foxglove.According to Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Oregon, this herb is described as restorative, sweet and cold and was first written about in 100 A.D. Today, we know that the primary active constituent in this herb, an iridoid glycoside called catalpol, stimulates the production of adrenal hormones, such as cortisol. According to Michael Tierra L.Ac., O.M.D., the traditional formula for treating kidney Yin is Rehmannia Six, also known as “Liu Wei Di Wan,” which consists of Poria cocos, Moutan peony, Alisma orientalis, Dioscorea orientalis and Cornus off. berries.

Kidney Yang Tonics

After the initial period of using kidney Yin herbs, Kecskes suggests following up with herbs that boost kidney Yang, such as cinnamon, ashwaganda and damiana. According to Tierra, weak kidney Yang results in a weak flow of urine, despite a frequent urge to go. Since the kidneys govern water in the body, increasing the flow of urine with diuretics is another strategy employed in TCM to counter kidney deficiency. The following herbs exert a diuretic effect when prepared as a cool infusion or tea: Burdock, coriander, lovage, fennel, gravel root, oregano and ginger. John G. Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac., includes basil, caraway, cumin, rosemary, chives, angelica root, dill and parsley among the herbs used to treat kidney Yang deficiency.

Herbs to Avoid

According to Connor, certain herbs with stimulating properties should be avoided, such as black tea, ephedra and cola nut.

Safety Considerations

As with prescription medicines, herbs contain compounds that can interact with other drugs or cause complications in certain individuals. If you suspect that you may have a kidney or adrenal disorder, consult a qualified health care practitioner to determine the right course of treatment for you.

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