Your kidneys play an essential role in your health. The major function of the kidneys is to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body. These waste products and excess fluid are removed through the urine.
The kidneys are also part of your urinary tract and are the home of your adrenal glands. In this article, we’ll go over what your kidneys do, where the adrenal glands come in, and, of course, the best herbs for kidney health and urinary tract function.* Because, as you’ll see, these blood-filtering organs play a big part in your overall health.
Your Kidneys: Where They Are and What They Do
Your kidneys are bean-shaped urinary tract organs located on both sides of your back, below your ribs. You have two kidneys, one on each side, and they both perform the same functions. Simply put, their main function is to filter blood and make urine.
Healthy kidneys that are functioning well filter about one half-cup of blood every minute — that’s around 150 quarts per day. As your kidneys filter your blood, they remove waste products and any extra fluid.1 All of this filtering happens in tiny units called nephrons.
The kidneys’ job is critically important. In addition to what we just mentioned, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:
“Your kidneys also remove acid that is produced by the cells of your body and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals — such as sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium — in your blood.”1
As you can imagine, all of this is imperative for your whole body to function at 100%. And your kidneys would be lost without the rest of the urinary tract. Let’s take a look at the other parts of this important system.
The Urinary Tract
The urinary tract is made up of four components: the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. We’ve already gone over the kidneys, so let’s talk about the other parts.
The urine that your kidneys produce from filtering blood arrives at your bladder via two tubes called ureters. The bladder is the waiting room of the urinary tract — it’s where your urine is held until it’s expelled when you go to the bathroom.
And, finally, the urethra is the tube that carries the urine from the bladder to be expelled outside of your body.
The Adrenal Glands
While they are not technically part of the urinary tract, your adrenal glands sit on top of each of your kidneys and are worth discussing. These are small but mighty glands.
As John Hopkins medical notes, “The role of the adrenal glands in your body is to release certain hormones directly into the bloodstream. Many of these hormones have to do with how the body responds to stress.”2
If stress response sounds important, it’s because it is. Adrenal support is essential for healthy stress management, but your adrenals also work directly with your kidneys.
Aldosterone, one of the hormones that the adrenals release, communicates directly with the kidneys to regulate blood pH.2
To support your wellness routine, below is a list of the best herbs for kidney health, which includes herbs for overall urinary tract health and optimal adrenal function.*
Best Herbs for Kidney Health and Adrenal Function*
This evergreen shrub, also known as Bearberry, Sandberry, and other names, has been used to promote urinary tract health for centuries.*
Penn State Medical Center notes that it “has been used medicinally since the 2nd century. Native Americans used it as a remedy for urinary tract infections. In fact, until the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, uva ursi was a common treatment for bladder-related infections.”3
While bears like to eat the berries (hence the name Bearberry), only the leaves are used for supplements. Uva Ursi contains arbutin to help maintain a healthy microbial balance within the urinary system and allantoin, which has a soothing effect.*
Finally, it’s important to note that Uva Ursi can be used to support urinary tract health, but it should not be used long-term or by women who are pregnant or nursing.* In fact, we recommend limiting the use of this herb to a maximum of two weeks length of time.
Usnea is a lichen, which is an organism formed by fungus and algae.4 It looks a bit like Spanish Moss and grows especially well in the moist, cool forests of the Pacific Northwest.
It has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its ability to “clear heat, move damp, and resolve toxicity.”* Usnea contains Usnic Acid, a chemical that is often included as an active ingredient or preservative in creams, powders, toothpaste, mouthwash, and more.
As an herbal supplement, this lichen is used to promote excretion within the kidneys and the urinary tract.*
This supports a healthy immune response in the respiratory tract and mucous membranes, healthy urinary system function, and maintains a healthy microbial balance within the urinary system.*
For optimal urinary tract support, we’ve included both Usnea and Uva Ursi in Gaia Herbs Usnea Uva Ursi Supreme.* As a liquid extract, this formula is easily digestible and absorbs faster into your body, so you can continue to go with ease and with normal frequency.*
Usnea Uva Ursi Supreme is also made with Echinacea and Feverfew to create a powerful formula. And the Echinacea we use in this herbal supplement is grown on our 350-acre Certified Organic Farm located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.
We believe the quality of our plants starts with the soil and are proud to say that our farm has been Certified Organic through Oregon Tilth since 1997.
To support kidney health, adults should take 40-60 drops of the extract in a small amount of water.* You can do this three or four times daily between meals. However, we do not recommend using this herbal supplement for longer than 10 to 14 days and more than five times per year.
The American Cranberry (one species of Cranberry) is native to the Northeastern United States. It was a common food source for Native American tribes and was also traditionally used as a blood purifier among the Iroquois tribe, and this particular use is well documented throughout early American history.
Cranberry is perhaps the most well-known plant for urinary tract health, and for good reason.*
It is high in antioxidants, particularly in a compound called proanthocyanidins, which is also known as "PACs". The PACs are potent antioxidants and research has also suggested that PACs may help maintain normal bacterial levels in the urinary tract and support overall urinary health.*
In addition, Cranberries are rich in vitamin C, providing immune system support.*
For kidney and urinary support without the bitterness or extra sugar of cranberry juice, try Gaia Herbs Cranberry Concentrate.* Adults should take one Liquid Phyto-Caps® twice a day between meals.
Herbs for Adrenal Support
We can’t finish the discussion about herbs for kidney health without mentioning the adrenal glands again.*
Whether it’s a challenging season of life or simply day-to-day stressors and busyness, most of us are often under some type of stress. Your adrenal glands play a part in your body’s response to that stress and also influence immune health, sleep patterns, and mood.
When they work overtime, you may experience something called adrenal fatigue. This can leave you with low energy levels, a weaker immune system, and an inability to adapt to stress.
Taking adaptogenic herbs is one of the best ways to care for your adrenal glands and combat stress.* Here are five of our favorite herbs for adrenal fatigue:
Count on it to help support healthy adrenal function, sustain healthy energy, and maintain well-being.* To help balance your body, take two capsules in the morning, plus two in the afternoon if you need additional support.
If you prefer to drink your adaptogens for energy support, simply add one teaspoon of Everyday Adaptogen™ powder to water, a smoothie, dairy or non-dairy milk, or any other beverage of your choice.*
With no added fillers, flavors, or sweeteners, this combination of mushrooms and an energizing blend of herbs supports the health of physically active people as well as those that are simply feeling fatigued and looking for an energy lift.*
Natural Support for Kidney Health
Your kidneys do a lot of work every day to keep your blood balanced and filtered. They also form an important part of your urinary tract and are intricately connected with your adrenal glands.
Support comprehensive urinary tract health with the herbs for kidneys that we mentioned in this article: Uva Ursi, Usnea, Cranberry, as well as adaptogenic herbs for adrenal health.*
Allow your body to put these herbs to use by taking Gaia Herbs Usnea Uva Ursi Supreme or Cranberry Concentrate for urinary tract health and Adrenal Health Daily Support to show some love to your hard-working adrenal glands.* Your whole body will feel better for it.
1 Your Kidneys & How They Work. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
2 Adrenal Glands. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
4 About Lichens. Us Forest Service.