Kidney Health with an Eastern Slant

Harmonizing with the Seasons

Eastern thought believes in "following the path of least resistance" based on an observation of nature's cycles and the flow of water, and the effects this has on life and our bodies.

Our pioneer ancestors naturally ate seasonally for optimum health. The wise agrarians had huge gardens and gathered herbs in the wild. They feasted on salads and baby potatoes in the Spring and early summer. They preserved what they could by canning, drying or packing away in 'root cellars'. Exotic fruit-- oranges and bananas-- was eaten rarely, and even then it was available only during certain times of the year. Who knew that what seemed like deprivation (I'm sure we all grew up with stories about 'only having oranges at Christmas') was actually a much healthier lifestyle.

From this same Eastern perspective comes the thought that winter, with its cold and precipitation, is linked most to the functioning of the kidneys. Thus, if you have existing problems with the kidneys, they will play up with the more inclement weather. Kidney imbalance shows up as sluggish/inadequate clearance of toxins through the kidneys, edema (water retention), urinary tract infections, mucous build-up, coldness, rheumatic complaints, fatigue, and dizziness. If you are someone with this sort of kidney imbalance, it makes a lot of sense to do a kidney cleanse before the onset of winter. A kidney cleanse involves eating seasonal foods, as much as possible, and adding mild herbs supporting good kidney health to our diet.


I once took a Macrobiotic cooking class and learned that eating in harmony with the seasons means using foods that come to market from your local region or from other similar climate zones at the same latitude. (I was fascinated that we were at the same latitude as Japan, which meant that I sampled "sea vegetables" that were about as foreign to land-bound Saskatoon as one could find). Apparently, these same-latitude foods have nutrients to support our bodies through the particular season's onslaught. In the temperate zones, root vegetables and other fall-harvested foods-- such as cauliflower, potatoes, burdock, fennel, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, beets, hard squashes and beans, onions, leeks, garlic, pears, apples, nuts, seeds, grains and dried mushrooms-- have a longer storage-life. Tenderer vegetables, such as cabbage, celery, broccoli, kale and other firm greens, usually only keep for a short time and were eaten in early winter before they spoiled. Gorging on unfamiliar fruits and vegetables from tropical climates-- hot chilies, sweet corn, zucchini, peas, green beans, strawberries, bananas, oranges-- tends to lead to digestive upsets and poor elimination. The body is seen to need these cooling, moistening characteristics in the more tropic-like, but in the winter they will lead to a build up of mucus and edema. When we live in temperate zones, we learn to bake casseroles in the winter, and to use less pungent herbs and spices like garlic, thyme, savory, or bay leaves. Our family also uses a good-quality Celtic sea salt to obtain the minerals that are quite often missing from our diet (because of our depleted soils).

It is fascinating to find that this "fall harvest" provides the essential nutrients our Creator wants us to have over the Winter: carotene, essential fatty acids or "good fats," minerals, vitamins and fibre. We need these whole foods to resist infections and to be regular. There is some indication that our elimination does actually slow down during winter, including the kidneys. Given the fact that many of us would just as soon "cocoon away" in the winter months, and not be as physically active as we are in more pleasant seasons, we can see where the kidney will have quite an overload of toxins to get rid of with an inclination to be more sedentary. Foods we can eat in the winter to help our kidneys include: red, purple and black beans, mushrooms, buckwheat, beets, burdock, chestnuts, sesame, miso, and tempeh. Modern foodies suggest that it is wise to keep a balance of proteins to carbohydrates, both for good hormonal regulation of all of our organs, but also to lower the tendency of grain-based carbohydrates that can increase mucous accumulations.


Eastern thought looks at cleansing an organ system just before the season with which it is associated: liver with spring, intestines with fall and kidneys with winter. Cleansing helps decrease the burden on that particular organ, freeing it to rebalance itself and better meet the demands of the season. During the kidney cleanse it is important to use only Western herbs with with mild to strong diuretic action at the start of or early in winter when temperatures are still moderate. These are mostly herbs traditionally thought to help remove poisons built up in the nodules and fatty tissues of the kidneys. This would also seem to cleanse the blood as well. Good kidney cleansing herbs include: dandelion root, parsley root, gravel root, hydrangea, cleavers, couch grass and uva ursi. When you take these herbs, increase your water intake, and only use them for about a week. Be sure to consult your health care practitioner for guidelines as to the appropriate duration for your body and health history. These herbs are generally strong enough to ward off any infections, quite apart from their roles in detoxing and building up the urinary system. This is a good time to check out some of the excellent natural products offered by Native Remedies for kidney health, such as Kidney Dr. Infections in this area of the body may cause permanent organ damage if not treated promptly. These herbs may be combined with other milder, more soothing diuretics, like Kelp, marshmallow, cornsilk and plantain are considerations. Try ginger or coriander if you feel cold after taking any of these herbs.

In a winter cleanse for the kidneys, drink your extra water as tea, or room-temperature filtered water. Again, it is important to note that you should not undertake a cleanse without consulting a health care provider.

Here are some of the books that explain the health and nature outlook of cleansing the kidney at the outset of the winter season:


* Beinfield, H. & Korngold, E. Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine Ballantine, 1991.
* Butt, G. & Bloomfield, F. Harmony Rules: The Chinese Way of Health Through Food. Weiser, 1987.
* Flaws, B. Arisal of the Clear: A Simple Guide to Healthy Eating According to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Blue Poppy Press, 1992.
* Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. Dover, 1931.
* Hoffmann, D. Therapeutic Herbalism. Viridtas Press, 1983.
* Holmes, P. Energetics of Western Herbs
* Kaptchuk, T. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. St.Martin’s, 1984.
* Ni, M. The Tao of Nutrition. College of Tao & TCM, Los Angeles, 1987.
* Tierra, M. Planetary Herbology. Lotus Press, 1988.
* Tsu, Lao. Tao Te Ching. Vintage Books, 1972.
* Willard, T. Wild Rose Scientific Herbal. Wild Rose College of Natural Healing, 1991.

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