Cleansing the kidneys has become a hot topic. Many herbs, supplements, foods, and drinks promise to make you feel great. But before you start looking for kidney cleansing herbs, learn if there is any truth to these “best” kidney detoxes and if it is even possible to naturally cleanse kidneys for improved health.
Table of Contents
What Is A Kidney Cleanse
A cleanse is when a person attempts to rid the body of substances regarded as toxic or unhealthy.
The kidneys are the body’s own cleansing system. They work hard all day, every day to flush out toxins, water, and wastes.
The marketing of these cleanses often targets people with poor kidney health. Anyone with a bladder infection, kidney stone symptoms, or any other kidney issue are prey to cunning advertising tactics. It will leave them feeling the need to take cleansing the kidneys into their own hands.
Kidney detoxes and cleanses consist of foods, drinks, supplements, and/or proclaimed kidney cleansing herbs taken over the course of a few days. The cleanse and detox methods restrict to only certain foods for a set period of days.
The following is a review of products you may come across online that claim to help in cleansing the kidneys. We are not recommending any type of kidney cleansing product. Be sure to discuss any and all supplements – herbal, over-the-counter, or even prescribed by other practitioners – with your nephrologist and/or primary care physician.
What To Know Before Starting a Kidney Cleanse
Be sure to get adequate calories and nutrients to avoid fatigue and potential deficiencies. If you have any nutrient restrictions include foods, herbs, and supplements that will not cause drug interactions and put your kidneys in jeopardy.
If you have any kidney issues it is best to talk to your doctor and registered dietitian (RD) about whether or not a kidney cleanse is right for you. They can help you make a plan tailored to fit your individual needs without compromising your health.
Connect with our dietitians at Plant-Powered Kidneys for private nutrition counseling.
Types of Kidney Cleanses
In a cleanse you will have specific foods, drinks, herbs, teas, and/or supplements over a few days.
Kidney Cleansing Herbs
Many herbs for cleansing kidneys claim to improve kidney function. Learn the truth behind these “so-called” best kidney cleansing herbs.
The herb also contains inulin. This nutrient may help to lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar.
Some common side effects include:
Don’t take this herb if you are on certain medications:
- Depression medications
- Estrogen-based birth control
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
You should also avoid dandelion if you have any weed allergies.
The long-term effects of this herb are unknown. Dandelion root has a high content of potassium.
One leaf contains an average of 43 to 45 mg of potassium per gram of dandelion root. Those with kidney issues should avoid it.
Stinging nettle was found to interfere with blood-thinning drugs, diuretics, blood pressure drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, alpha-blockers, and finasteride.
Stinging nettle has a high amount of potassium. One cup contains about 297 mg.
Limited research has shown stinging nettle to be potentially effective with antibiotic-related acute kidney injury in rats. No human studies have been found. This is another reason why stinging nettle should not be considered one of the kidney cleansing herbs.
Side effects include:
- Feelings of tightness in the chest
- Stomach and intestinal upset
We are unsure of its effect on the kidneys. Hydrangea has not been tested on humans.
Sambong decreased the size of kidney stones and reduced them from forming. It may also lower blood pressure.
Reactions can occur in those with ragweed allergies. Side effects include rashes and itchy skin.
We do not know how it specifically affects the kidneys.
Stomach upset and dizziness are some side effects.
This herb contains vitamin A, potassium, and sodium. Those with restrictions should avoid this root as it is not considered one of the kidney cleansing herbs.
Juniper is a herb with high water content. It is also a diuretic which is why it is claimed to help in cleansing the kidneys. It treats urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney stones.
This herb contains antibacterial compounds called terpenoids. They may improve kidney function.
The use of juniper may irritate the kidneys. It should not be used to treat kidney damage or kidney disease.
Overall, we do not know the true effects of parsley extracts in humans.
In addition, many supplements have side effects so it is best to use the actual food. Use this herb sparingly due to its high potassium content. One tablespoon contains 21 mg.
Parsley can be included in the diet without being used as one of the proclaimed kidney cleansing herbs. Try adding a little to your meals to provide a bright, fresh flavor.
Try a sprig of parsley as a breath freshener after a meal, which is in part why many restaurants serve it alongside their meals.
Red clover may improve kidney function due to compounds found in this herb. However, there is no evidence showing this, so the true effects of red clover are unknown.
Unfortunately, we don’t know if red clover can help the kidneys. Therefore, it should be avoided.
Goldenrod is used to treat diabetes and arthritis. It prevents kidney stones and UTIs by flushing out bacteria.
This herb can lower levels of sodium, potassium, and calcium.
It may cause high blood pressure. Those with kidney disease should not take goldenrod.
Diabetic rats given basil extract had lower blood sugar and better heart health.
Eugenol is a compound that lowers blood pressure for a short period. It is found in basil.
Garlic may produce a compound that relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Because of this, many think of it as one of the kidney cleansing herbs.
It may protect the kidneys. Cell damage and kidney function were prevented or improved in rats fed garlic.
Those with potassium restrictions should be careful when consuming garlic so they do not get too much of this mineral.
There is some concern with ginger as a detox since it may interfere with some medications.
Turmeric contains the compound curcumin. It lowers inflammation.
In rats, curcumin prevented the formation of arterial plaque. It also reduced protein losses and improved kidney function.
However, curcumin is not well absorbed. Taking it with the spice black pepper can increase the bioavailability. Some recipes, like Golden Milk, use both of these spices.
Turmeric contains both potassium and phosphorus. These nutrients may need to be limited in some people with kidney disease.
Burdock root is a herb often made into tea. It has many antioxidants and a diuretic effect which make it a recommended herb for kidney stones. It is thought to decrease sodium levels.
Burdock root improved circulation and detoxified blood but it is uncertain how it affects those with kidney disease.
Rehmannia contains a compound called catalpol. Catalpol makes Rehmannia a diuretic that can lower blood sugar.
Rehmannia may improve blood, immune, endocrine, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. Claims stated it would revive the kidney.
However, there is no evidence on how it affects kidney health.
Food for Cleansing the Kidneys
Foods have been praised for their health benefits. However, it is important to know about any nutrients that might interfere with kidney function. Food for cleansing your kidneys are reviewed in the next section below.
Kidney beans provide soluble fiber and a plant-based protein. These essential nutrients regulate blood pressure and glucose levels.
Kidney beans do contain phosphorus, however, nutrient levels often decrease during digestion. This is because the phytates in kidney beans will bind to phosphorus. Subsequently, the level of phosphorus ingested will be lower.
Those with a phosphorus restriction still should be mindful of this food in regards to their overall phosphorus intake, especially from additives.
Watermelon Kidney Cleanse
This fruit is also high in potassium. Too much watermelon may increase potassium levels and compromise normal kidney function or worsen symptoms of renal disease.
This kidney cleanse has not been proven effective. There are no studies to back up the claims about a watermelon kidney cleanse.
This type of cleansing for the kidneys, which consists of eating only watermelon for a certain number of days, increases the risk of malnutrition, blood sugar fluctuations, dehydration, and other health complications. It also promotes unhealthy disordered eating patterns.
Pomegranate Extract and Pomegranate Juice
Additionally, pomegranate extracts prevented kidney stones and increased urine output.
In the short term, pomegranate juice or extract did not improve inflammation, blood pressure, or cholesterol. Long-term pomegranate had improved kidney function when compared with a placebo. Consumption of 100 mL for a year improved health outcomes in hemodialysis (HD) patients. It reduced inflammation, infections, risk of death, and improved immunity.
Kidney disease can cause problems with filtering certain minerals so it is important to be aware of the potassium levels in pomegranates.
Additionally, some medications may also have interactions with pomegranate.
Beetroot contains betalain and nitric oxide. These compounds lower blood pressure and blood sugar.
When compared with animals, humans had less improvement in kidney function when given beetroot. Alternatively, animals also had a slower progression of the disease.
The progression of the disease was reduced. There was also a lower risk of death in those with hypertensive CKD and diabetic nephropathy. Beetroot and beetroot juice may work as a complementary therapy for kidney treatment.
A beetroot extract improved structural damage by and decreasing inflammation and cell death.
- Reduce blood pressure
- Lower inflammation
- Prevent oxidative stress
- Maintain blood vessel function
- Restore brain blood flow to the brain
Beetroot juice has some interactions with medications like ED drugs resulting in low blood pressure. Beets are also high in potassium and those with potassium restrictions should limit this food.
Cherries contain polyphenols and vitamin C. These compounds lower inflammation. Regular consumption of cherries may prevent cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
There is no evidence showing benefits for improved kidney health.
Cherries have a medium amount of potassium so it may be good to eat them in moderation. Cherry juice was also found to interfere with medications. As a result, it caused acute kidney injury in patients with chronic kidney disease.
Cherries and cherry juice may help prevent gout. Read more about that here.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and phytonutrients. These compounds lower inflammation, cholesterol, and the risk of heart disease. In addition, olive oil is used to alleviate kidney stones. Unfortunately, there is no evidence this actually works.
Despite this, it is still a healthy food to incorporate into the kidney diet. Olive oil plays a large role in the Mediterranean diet, which can lower inflammation, insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Furthermore, olive oil itself can reduce cardiovascular risk, inflammation, and improve the health of blood vessels.
There is no evidence olive oil can improve kidney health. It may, however, lower inflammation associated with kidney disease.
Red peppers contain antioxidants lycopene, vitamin A, C, fiber, and folate.
There is no specific evidence showing peppers can improve the kidneys or do any cleansing of the kidneys. However, nutrients in bell peppers may prevent heart disease associated with kidney conditions.
Red grapes contain flavonoids. These compounds may protect from kidney disease. Mice given flavonoids had improved kidney function.
Grapes also contain resveratrol. This is a flavonoid that reduces fibrosis, inflammation. It also repaired kidney cells and improved function. In humans, resveratrol improved kidney function in kidney disease.
More research needs to be done to know the true effects of resveratrol.
Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. These vegetables may reduce kidney cell cancer in humans.
Large consumption of broccoli lowered the incidences of kidney failure in mice lacking the gene GSTM1. Mice with the defect had improvements in kidney injury when given broccoli powder. Normal mice were not affected.
These vegetables are high in fiber. Fiber helps improve blood pressure and blood sugar. These vegetables are low in potassium, sodium, and phosphorus.
Seaweed is a popular kidney cleanse food. It is nutrient-dense and has been shown to improve health. Mice who consumed brown seaweed for 22 days had reduced diabetic kidney damage.
Types of seaweed include spirulina or chlorella. They have been known to eliminate heavy metals that may cleanse the kidneys. Spirulina and chlorella are high in potassium which may not be good for those with mineral restrictions.
Berries contain phytochemicals that reduce inflammation. Rats with acute kidney injury had lower blood pressure and cell damage after consumption of berries. Eating blueberries for 15 weeks also improved glucose tolerance and lowered blood pressure.
Blueberries also repaired the angiotensin system in animals. This regulated blood pressure and had an overall protective effect on the kidneys
It is unknown how blueberries affect the kidneys of humans.
Information on pumpkin seeds is conflicting. Some say they can reduce kidney stones, while other information says it is not a kidney-friendly food.
Cleanses involving pumpkin seeds claim they increase circulation and can flush out uric acid and other toxins.
There is no scientific data to back this up. Furthermore, some sources show that pumpkin seeds are too high in potassium and are not always a renal-friendly food.
Detox Drinks and Juicing for Kidneys
The best drinks for cleansing the kidneys is a question that often comes up with kidney patients. There are a ton of kidney cleanse drinks that claim to improve kidney health. But when it comes to research some of these may be no help at all. See how these kidney cleansing drinks stack up.
You cannot function without water. It is an essential nutrient that needs to be consumed daily. Water flushes toxins from the body by increasing urine output.
Increases in water slowed the progression of kidney disease in animals. It also prevented high blood pressure and heart disease.
For optimal hydration getting 2 to 2.5 liters a day is recommended.
Drinking cranberry juice for kidney health is popular due to the antioxidants found in cranberries. Cranberries contain tannins that have antimicrobial properties. They can block the growth of bacteria on the urinary tract as well as flush toxins out of the body.
Cranberry juice is recommended to improve both UTIs and kidney stones.
Increased incidences of gut permeability and leaky gut occur in kidney disease. This can also increase the production of toxic bacteria further fueling inflammation.
Cranberries reduce inflammation and may also promote the production of healthy bacteria that can heal the intestinal lining. Cranberry improved an impaired intestinal barrier in rats with leaky gut. These mice also produced Akkermansia sp, a bacteria that protects the intestinal barrier.
Some cranberry juices are high in potassium and sugar. It is best to get one that has no sugar added and is 100 percent juice.
Coconut water is a hydrating drink that provides essential nutrients and antioxidants. It is high in potassium. Those with mineral restrictions may need to avoid this product.
Lemon juice is recommended for kidney stone prevention. There is some controversy over whether this actually can prevent stones.
Naringenin is an antioxidant compound in lemons that may improve kidney function in rats at moderate doses. Higher doses were ineffective.
Cucumbers have been said to be a cleansing food and remove waste materials and chemical toxins such as kidney stones.
However, there is no specific evidence on how cucumbers may help kidney function. They may prevent tissue damage and slow cell aging.
Damaged and diseased kidneys have a harder time regulating the blood pH. Cucumbers and cucumber juice reduced inflammation and regulates blood sugar and cholesterol in animals.
Apple Cider Vinegar
There is no specific evidence showing this food is helpful for kidney disease.
Apple cider vinegar may be helpful for kidney stones. Here is an article all about that.
Vitamin Supplements for Kidneys
Supplements for kidneys are also a popular part of detox programs. You’ll often find these supplements and more included in products that are sold for cleansing the kidneys.
B6 forms the compound glyoxylate which inhibits oxalate production. Without adequate B6 oxalate levels may increase. Too much oxalate can result in kidney stones.
B6 can prevent kidney disease and elevated cholesterol in diabetic rats. It also improves cardiovascular health and immunity in dialysis patients.
Too much or too little magnesium is a problem for those with kidney disease. This is because kidneys lose the ability to regulate magnesium. Too low levels can result in cardiovascular disease.
Taking 30 mg of magnesium for 8 weeks lowered levels of calcification propensity, a marker for hardening of the arteries in kidney disease. This indicated a possible delay of atherosclerosis when compared with a placebo.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Taking 1,200 mg of fish oil daily decreased the incidences of kidney stones.
Besides fish, omega 3 fatty acids can be found in plants like chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and walnut oil.
Potassium citrate is associated with the prevention of kidney stones. It can increase urine pH and prevents stone formation. Potassium citrate showed improvements in 70 to 75 percent of those with kidney stones.
Potassium citrate does not benefit kidney disease. Supplements including potassium are not recommended for those with kidney disease unless prescribed by your nephrologist.
Pre-Formulated Kidney Detox Supplements
On the market today there are many preformulated kidney detox pills, powders, and teas. Some common ones include the following:
- Stone CLR
- Kidney Complete
- Stone Free
What to Know and Be Aware of Before Using Kidney Cleansing Herbs and Detoxes
Before you try a kidney cleanse or kidney cleansing herbs, there are some things to consider.
Benefits of Kidney Cleanses
The benefits associated with these detoxes claim to include improved energy, focus, digestion, and reduced infections.
The inclusion of these foods into the diet may help to lower kidney disease-related inflammation. Reduced inflammation may improve:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Weight management
However, as discussed above, the herbs and cleanse products are not always scientifically proven to be effective nor safe. The above benefits are results of reducing inflammation.
Risks of Kidney Cleanses
There are some things you should know before cleansing the kidneys.
On detoxes, calories are often restricted. Limiting calories can sometimes slow down metabolism and increase weight gain.
Certain drinks, foods, and supplements high in oxalates may affect kidney function.
Too much fluid intake from water, juices, and teas may increase levels of potassium, sodium, and/or phosphorus. This can lead to an electrolyte imbalance which can have serious health consequences.
Kidney detox supplements may contain large amounts of herbs that could be hazardous to those with kidney dysfunction. They may also cause adverse side effects as seen above.
The risk of drug interactions can also occur with certain foods, supplements, and drinks.
What the Research Says About Cleansing the Kidneys
When it comes to detoxes and cleanses there is little evidence these practices actually can improve health. The few studies done on detoxification programs showed some positive results in blood pressure and insulin resistance but the studies are often of low quality.
Many programs only offer anecdotal evidence that cannot be applied to everyone.
When medically reviewed, these programs have no compelling short or long-term research to support their claims.
Other Ways To Improve Kidney Health
You Incorporating daily healthy habits can help to improve kidney disease symptoms and lower inflammation. These include
- Consuming enough water
- Eating more whole unprocessed foods
- Limit or avoid added sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Lower sodium intake
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake from sources like coffee
- Get daily exercise
Some foods, drinks, and supplements including kidney cleansing herbs may help to lower inflammation in kidney-related conditions. Often kidney detox and cleanses are very restrictive and may lead to more health problems if not done properly. If you’re looking for cleansing the kidneys, be sure to address your diet before anything.
Those with kidney disease should work with their healthcare provider and RD to find if a kidney cleanse is right for them. Incorporating a healthy diet and lifestyle habits is an easy natural way to cleanse the kidneys without causing potential harm. This may help to improve blood sugar, blood pressure, and facilitate kidney health.
If you are interested in learning how to eat better with whole, plant-based foods and not worry about kidney cleanses or extreme ways to help your kidneys, consider joining us in our 6-week Plant-Powered Kidneys online course!
Jen Hernandez is a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in renal nutrition. She has nearly a decade of experience with kidney disease patients in all stages - from stage 1 through kidney transplant. Jen writes on the blog of Plant-Powered Kidneys to help reach and teach more kidney patients about how they can enjoy more foods in a plant-based diet while protecting kidney health.