There are two soft little organs, called the kidneys, set in your upper lumbar area, behind the abdominal cavity, protected by the ribcage and back muscles. Our kidneys are often overlooked, and yet the kidneys perform several vital functions, without which we would not last very long. Purifying over a ton of blood daily, they are organs of dynamic homeostasis and primary regulators of fluid content. As the ‘master chemists’, they eliminate proper amounts of urea, ammonia, phosphates, and oxalates, while at the same time retaining proper amounts of sodium and potassium. They maintain appropriate acid-alkali balance and water levels. Renin is the enzyme produced by the kidneys that interacts to maintain healthy blood pressure.
These are the basics, "Kidneys 101" which you will find in any orthodox anatomy text. And there’s so much more! Did you think the kidneys play a part in regulating our emotions as well? Considering they are organs of water, it makes sense that these tender little beans are sensitive to our watery emotions, quick to react, and hold on to feelings of grief, fear, and loneliness. Thus, having too cool a yin balance in the body speaks of too much water, and hence a ‘weepy’ disposition. The opposite, naturally, holds true as well; Too little water makes for a hot yang balance with a parched angry disposition. Wouldn’t it be nice strike a balance in the middle? Well, a bit of care and awareness makes for happy kidneys and balanced emotions.
Signs of stressed out kidneys:
· Dark, puffy circles under the eyes
· Premenstrual water retention leading to mood swings, headaches, and general depressive state
· Tenderness in lower back near kidneys
· Allergies and hay fever
· High or low blood pressure – having to do with renin production and regulation
· Ear and eye irritation
· Restlessness and insomnia
· Skin rashes
· Chronic kidney imbalance will of course lead to more complicated conditions like cystitis (bladder infections), incontinence, and kidney stones – none too pleasant if you’ve ever dealt with them!
Now, lest you begin to panic looking at that list, keep in mind that you would need to display several of these symptoms together to indicate stagnated and overtaxed kidneys. But as a general rule, the more stress in your body (physically and emotionally) the harder they have to work! …and certainly deserve some support and nourishment. Best place to start is pretty simple -- plenty of fluids! Plenty means 2+ quarts of water, herbal tea, and non-sugared diluted cranberry juice. Plenty does not include energy drinks, caffeinated teas, or sweetened juice cocktails.
· Temporarily avoid burdening substances like coffee, alcohol, drug/additive substances, and rich foods – means less for the kidneys for filter and gives them a rest.
· Keep the watery little critters warm! (will discuss at meeting).
· Getting the blood moving with non-depleting physical activity is essential.
· Unsweetened cranberry juice daily is an old classic, but still works!
· Be aware of your emotions
· Drink daily herbal kidney tonics -- Cornsilk, Pipsissewa, Marshmallow, Chickweed, and Cleavers are all worthy of mention for safe frequent use… but DANDELION is hands down king of tonic diuretics.
Diuretic herbs increase the flow of urine, and more generally refer to herbs that benefit the tone and resilience of the urinary system.
Family – Compositae
Habitat and Growing Conditions -- everywhere!
Harvesting -- roots June-Aug, leaves anytime, flowers freshly blossomed
Parts used -- root, leaf, flower
Medicinal Actions -- diuretic, cholagogue, anti-rheumatic, laxative, tonic
This tenacious sunny little lion will no doubt make you smile once you know it’s virtues. Herbalists have been singing Dandelion’s praises for generations. While the root is prized as a digestive bitter and hepatic (stimulating and supporting liver function), the leaves are one of our safest and most effective diuretics. It boasts of a high mineral and vitamin content (specifically calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A and C). Thus, while synthetic diuretics will artificially stimulate kidney function at the dangerous cost of depleting the body of vital potassium and hence aggravating any cardio-vascular complications present, Dandelion will provide a nourishing diuretic function.
Pick your choice of consumption – there’s no lack of variety!
1. Dandelion tea – 2-3tsp/cup freshly boiled water, steep 15min covered, drink 3cups/day
2. Salad – young leaves picked in the spring make for excellent salad especially dressed with lemon and pepper
3. Marinated Greens – perfect for older leaves that tend to get bitter as they mature
o Steam leaves thoroughly and cover completely with marinade: equal part virgin olive oil and vinegar, flavored with honey, garlic, thyme and pepper
o Marinade overnight, and enjoy. (Will be bringing sample dish for all to try for January DMPS meeting!! Hope to see you there :)
4. Dandelion Wine – great recipe for spring once we start seeing the little yellow lions popping up in lawns and fields (curtesy of Rosemary Gladstar)
o 4 pints dandelion flowers
o 1 gallon water
o 2 large oranges
o 1 large lemon
o 2 ounces raisins
o 2 Tbs yeast
o 3 Tbs fructose or raw sugar
§ Add flowers to water in large pot and bring to boil
§ Add the rinds of oranges and lemon. Then add sugar and boil for 1hr
§ Strain. Cool until tepid. Add yeast
§ Next day, add juice of the lemon and two oranges along with raisins
§ Bottle and place in a warm shaded area
§ When fermentation has ceased (about 1 month) cork loosely
Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar
The Science and Art of Herbology by Rosemary Gladstar
The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra
Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman
A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve
Compiled by: Olga Sievers
16 January 2018, Denver CO
*Please remember: This article is intended to provide educational information for the reader on the covered subject. It is not intended to take the place of personalized medical counseling, diagnosis, and treatment from a trained professional.