Dealing With Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are hardly more important organs in the body than the kidney, the healthy essence of life itself.

The kidneys are a pair of bean shaped organs on either side of your spine, below your ribs. As the National Kidney Foundation National Kidney Foundation  says, they are like washing machines for blood in the body.  They are each the size of a fist.

How the Kidney Works

Do you know the mechanism of the kidneys? It’s an amazing engineering structure. The kidneys remove wastes from blood, control the body’s fluid balance and keep the right levels of electrolytes. Salt, water, and minerals are filtered. The blood then goes back through the body, the foundation says. The process continues: Waste is turned into urine and then drains through the ureter to the bladder. You could only have 10 percent of your kidneys working and not notice a problem, it adds.

Chronic Kidney Disease.

A healthy kidney means a healthy person. If the kidney is diseased, wastes can build up to high levels and cause sickness. With chronic kidney disease, wastes can build up to dangerous levels, and lead to heart disease and can be fatal. Chronic kidney disease affects as many as 30 million people in the U.S.

People who have consistently high blood pressure that results in hypertension can eventually have chronic kidney disease. That can occur slowly over a period of time.

But chronic kidney disease is preventable, through mostly healthy eating habits and weight control. Early detection can help prevent kidney disease and failure. Once there is kidney failure, a sustaining and normal life could require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Chinese Traditional Medicine and Kidneys

The Traditional Chinese Medicine descriptions of the kidneys embrace their role in the life force, as opposed to simply the organs themselves. The kidneys are associated with the “gate of vitality” and storing and controlling “essence, or jing.

Jing is the essence of qi and the basis for body matter and functional activities.

Main Causes of Kidney Disease

The two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for most of the cases.

Kidney disease can be caused by many factors, including a family history of kidney failure and belonging to a population group with a higher rate of diabetes or high blood pressure, such as African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian, Pacific-Islanders and American Indians.

Impacts of Kidney Disease

Symptoms of kidney disease may not always reveal itself in pain or obvious signs, but there are some. A person may feel less energy or and feel the need to urinate more often, especially at night. Increased fluid retention resulting from kidney disease can lead to swelling in your arms and legs. Other implications could result in fluid in the lungs, or a sudden rise in potassium levels in the body, known as hyperkalemia, which could impair the heart’s ability to function. Unfortunately signs and symptoms may not appear until irreversible damage has occurred.

Taking Steps to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

One of the most important things a person can do to prevent kidney disease is to maintain a healthy weight and not smoke. Also, people should check how many pain relievers they take. Too many pain relievers can lead to kidney damage.

Chinese medicine and the kidneys

Over many years, Chinese medicine formulas have been used in the treatment of chronic kidney disease, although in many instances the actual impacts are unknown because of the lack of clinical trials to demonstrate their efficacy are limited.

Chinese medicine formulas used for kidney disease are wrapped around several principles, including treating patients with chronic kidney disease, through “replenishing vital energy and nourishing the blood, clearing heat, eliminating dampness and coordinating Yin and Yang in the body, according to the Journal of the International Society of Nephrology.

It adds: “These descriptions may seem strange to Western practitioners, but in traditional Chinese medicine they have a distinct purpose to provide therapies that regain the relatively harmonious condition of the body, that is to restore homeostasis by regulating and adjusting any unbalanced elements.”

Among the many herbs that have been studied for treatment of chronic kidney disease the journal says, are:

Astragalus.  The medicinal herb Astragalus is from the root of the Leguminosae plant, and described as one of the “ruler drugs” in formulas, or dedoctions in treatment of chronic kidney disease. It contains more than 60 components including polysaccharides, saponins, flavonoids, amino acids and others. Astragalus has been used traditionally alone or with another Chinese herb, Angelica sinensis, for treatment in chronic kidney disease.

Rhubarb. It is derived from the root of the Rheum palmatum L plant and includes more than 20 types of anthraquinones. The strong cathartic actions of rhubarb are thought to increase the excretion of waste products, including nitrogenous waste accumulated in patients with renal failure, through the intestines. Study results show “active ingredients in rhubarb have multiple mechanisms of action that could improve (chronic kidney disease).”

Cordyceps sinensis is a fungus that old Chinese textbooks have said has been used to treat patients suffering from urinary disturbances, with symptoms similar to chronic kidney disease, for thousands of years. Studies show that treatment of patients results in improved kidney function although the papers were flawed, with lack of follow-up reports.

Herb Combinations.

Saireito, a combination of herbs including Radix bupleuri, has been used in China and Japan for treatment of kidney diseases. Radix bupleuri has been used for inflammation and other ailments and is also called Chaihu in Chinese. Saireito suppresses inflammatory symptoms. Saireito is a combination of 12 herbs, which draws concerns about interactions, the study says.

Improving Muscle Atrophy

One of the more serious complications of chronic kidney disease is muscle atrophy. Studies have shown that a Chinese herbal formula, Jian-Pi-Yi-Shen decoction, improves muscle atrophy associated with anemia for chronic kidney disease, said researchers in the Scientific Reports.

Jian-Pi-Yi-Shen is a Chinese herbal formula that has been prescribed for chronic kidney disease associated-anemia, the study said. Jian-Pi-Yi-Shen is composed of eight medicinal herbs, including Astragali Radix and Salviae Miltiorrhizae Radix et Rhizoma (Dan shen),  roots and rhizomes of the red sage plant, according to Health News.

Ways to Measure Kidney Function

A testing known as glomerular filtration rate is considered the best way to measure levels of kidney function that would determine the level of kidney disease. Physicians can calculate that through a variety of factors, including age, race and gender.

Ultrasounds, a CT scan or kidney biopsy also can help someone detect kidney disease, and the earlier the better to stop its progression.


Yang, F, Dong, X, et al. Radix Bupleuri: A Review of Traditional Uses, Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, and Toxicology. 2017. Biomed Research International. Doi: 10.1155/2017/7597596.

Zhong, Y, Deng, Y et al. Therapeutic use of traditional Chinese herbal medications for chronic kidney diseases. Journal of the International Society of Nephrology. 2013. 84(6): 1108-1118. Published online 2013 July 17 doi: 10.1038/ki.2013.276.

Wang, D, Chen, J, et al. A Chinese herbal formula, Jian-Pi-Yi-Shen decoction, improves muscle atrophy via regulating mitochondrial quality control process in 5/6 nephroectomised rats. 2017.  7: 9253, published online 2017 Aug. 2 doi 10:1038/s41598-017-10027-4.

Gobe, Glena and Shen, K. Chinese herbal medicines and chronic kidney disease: a positive outcome in a large patient stuy in Taiwan. Kidney International. 2015.  De. 2015 Vol. 88, Issue 6, pages 1223-1226.

Robert Doane. TCM and Chronic Kidney Disease (March 7, 2017). Retrieved from

Zhang H, Lin Z, et al. (Oct 22, 2014) Retrieved from: Cochrane.

Yang, F, Dong, X, et al. Radix Bupleuri: A Review of Traditional Uses, Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, and Toxicology. 2017. Biomed Research International. Doi: 10.1155/2017/7597596.

DongtaoWang, Jianping Chen, et al. A Chinese herbal formula, Jian-Pi-Yi-Shen decoction, improves muscle atrophy via regulating mitochondrial quality control process in 5/6 nephrectomised rats. Retrieved from Scientific Reports.

Michelle Simmons. Jian-Pi-Yi-Shen, a Chinese herbal docoction, found to promote kidney health. Aug. 3, 2018. Retried from Health News.
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