Love your kidneys

My herb class is awesome. Today I’m writing about how amazing your kidneys are. You know, I took biology (and loved it) but everything was so factual – brain stuff, missing the heart. I love the herbalist approach to health and the body so much more!

Did you know, for instance, that most of the liquid you take in isn’t eliminated by the kidneys (hard to believe for those of us on long rides that need to find the next rest stop after drinking a big bunch of water or tea!)? The liquid you take in is filtered by your kidneys and some of it (3-6 pints, daily) is used to eliminate toxins (your pee). The rest of it is absorbed back into your system along with the substances your kidneys know to keep (like sodium, potassium, etc.). Smart little fellas.

What other functions do the kidneys perform?

  1. They help maintain the proper PH balance
  2. They help regulate blood pressure (via the hormone Renin that they produce)

And lastly – and this is why I love herbalism – they help regulate our emotional state. I mean, what doctor is going to tell you that?

If you retain water (yin excess), you can experience symptoms of PMS. Women often retain water just prior to their period. I never knew that! Did you know that? This explains a LOT!

If you are dehydrated (yang excess) you can become angry / hot tempered.

My studies also mention a headache as a symptom of too much water, but I personally know that you can get a headache from becoming dehydrated. So maybe a headache is basically a symptom of kidney imbalance.

I will be writing up materia medica for the kidneys. You’ll find them tagged with urinary.

Symptoms of Kidney Imbalance

Kidneys are pretty sturdy organs, but if you notice any of these symptoms, you might want to consider nurturing them with some herbs:

  • Dark, puffy circles under your eyes or water retention in other areas of the body
  • Depression / blues
  • Headache
  • Allergies
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Tenderness in the lower back, where your kidneys sit
  • Itchy or irritated ears / eyes
  • Skin rashes
  • Insomnia

Restoring Kidney Imbalance

Like any health issue, there are some universal things you can do to help bring your kidneys back into balance. These include:

  • Adequate Rest
  • Good nutrition
  • Drink lots of water / herbal teas

In addition, particular to the kidneys:

  • Sit up straight so you don’t put pressure on them (slumping = no good. Actually, sitting too long = no good, as well)
  • Drink cranberry juice
  • Take a kidney tonic (made out of combinations of herbs good for the kidneys)
  • Find techniques to deal with stress (kidneys react to stress)
  • Avoid caffeine, alchohol, and drugs (which all tax the kidneys)

If you find you do have a kidney imbalance – especially if you have a few of the symptoms listed above – see an herbalist, who can formulate specific tonics based on your condition and can recommend other supportive behaviors.


Please note that the information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat health issues. Its intent is to inform people on how to prevent disease. If you are dealing with a health issue or on medication, you should not add herbal treatments without discussing them with your doctor.

Toxic-free living

fruits&veggies

For about a decade, I have been trying to figure out how to live a toxic-free life. This is not completely achievable in our current society, but there are a lot of things an individual can do. Here is a list of some of what I do. It’s taken quite awhile to get here, so I thought I’d share.

#1 I EAT A MOSTLY VEGAN DIET

It’s good for me, it’s good for the planet, it’s extremely good for all the animals. I do eat local honey, though. Sometimes when I’m in a situation when my own food isn’t available, it turns into a vegetarian diet.

I make my own nut milk.

I make a health shake most mornings to get a lot of nutrients in one meal. It includes hemp/nut/chia seeds, detoxing spirulina/wild blueberries/dulse, magnesium-rich cocao powder, almond milk, fresh greens, and frozen banana and other fruit. Sometimes I add other things, but that’s the base.

I make fresh juice.

I also eat gluten-free. 

#2 I GROW MY OWN FOOD

I still get a lot from the grocery store, especially things like bananas, avocado, and citrus fruits, which don’t grow in my climate. But I trust the food I grow because I use no pesticides or chemical fertilizers. I also buy from local food growers if they grow organically (not necessarily certified, because that is too much hassle for a small farmer, plus government involvement in food is why I grow my own). I do look for the organic certification when in stores.

I dehydrate/dry and freeze herbs and produce and make herbal tinctures from plants on my property and in nearby wild places.

The additional benefit of growing my own food is it connects me back to the land. We need that connection for our personal well-being.

#3 I MAKE OR BUY HEALTHY BEAUTY PRODUCTS

Your skin is your biggest organ. You don’t want to slather it with chemicals, which it will absorb into your body. Here are some of the things I do:

I rarely use makeup, except for mascara (blond eyelashes). When I do wear makeup, it’s Bare Minerals.

I make my own toothpaste. It’s actually a tooth powder, and my dental hygienist, not knowing that I had switched, said my teeth looked great.

I use a salt crystal for deodorant and finish it with a home-made dusting powder,. (My powder contains cornstarch, baking soda, bentonite clay, lavender and lemongrass Essential Oils.)

For shampooing, I use J.R. Liggett’s shampoo bar and an Apple Cider vinegar rinse. I love what it does to my hair, it costs less money, and it’s healthy!

I don’t use nail polish/remover. Ugh. Hate the smell, hate the idea. You can use a buffer to give your nails a shine.

I only put on sunscreen if I am going to be long enough in the sun to get a burn. Otherwise I work around being in the sun for too long (I have fair skin and freckles.) And I buy my sunscreen from a health-food store.

I wash my face with Dr. Bronner‘s soap diluted with water in a soap dispenser. I’ve started to moisturize with coconut oil.

You can find healthier beauty options, including sunscreen, at the EWG Skin Deep site.

#4 I MAKE OR BUY ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CLEANING PRODUCTS

I make a homemade laundry detergent.

I make my own citrus vinegar cleaner by filling a half gallon mason jar with orange (or lemon, or lime) peels and pouring in white vinegar and letting it sit in a dark spot for 6 weeks. That makes a concentrate. I dilute it with water for a spray cleaner.

Baking soda makes a good sink/tub scrub. Spraying the vinegar on top gives it extra cleaning power.

I buy Seventh Generation or other healthy products for the things I haven’t started making on my own – for example, liquid dish soap and dishwashing detergent.

#5 I COMPOST AND RECYCLE

Keeping our environment clean helps reduce the toxicity. I am trying to do better in this area, but it’s really a challenge.

Composting our food scraps (or giving them to the chickens) gives us nutrient-rich soil amendments for our garden.

Reusable shopping bags cuts down on plastic bags. (And when I forget or don’t have them with me, I save the plastic bags for lining my wastebaskets.)

A refillable glass water bottle (you can use steel, too, but the taste of the water isn’t as pure) cuts down on plastics – both for ingesting and disposing.

#6 I TRY TO GET DAILY EXERCISE

I’m working on this one. A daily sweat will release toxins from your body. My favorite forms of exercise are hiking, snowshoeing, and yoga. Most of them aren’t high sweating activities. But I can get a moderate sweat going.


I hope this list will help to inspire you. You can do it! Just take one step at a time.

Love your liver

Do you know how utterly important your liver is? I knew you couldn’t live without your liver, but I didn’t really know what it did until I learned about it in my herbal class.

It does so much!

The liver is the master detoxifier for your body. It cleanses your blood from both environmental toxins – and we have so many of them these days – and metabolic waste, which are the byproducts of all the processes in your body.

It also produces chemicals that help your blood clot, produces bile needed to digest fat, metabolizes and stores vitamins and minerals, and so much more.

A liver in imbalance is not so great for your body, as you can probably imagine. Like anything, it’s better to take care of your liver up front than have to remedy problems. Especially once those problems get acute.

Things like allergies, skin disorders (including acne), auto-immune disorders, digestive issues, endometriosis, hormone disorders, and so much more can all be tied back to the liver being out of whack.

Really, disease – or “dis-ease” – is all about your body being out of whack. You need healthy cells. Your body can do the rest. It is your job to give your body what it needs. And all the things needed for a healthy liver are needed for a healthy body.

So lets learn how to love your body….

1. Eat an alkalizing diet.

The first line of defense – actually, it’s more offense – is eating food that nourishes you. An alkaline diet is good for your body. Eat more vegetables! Especially leafy green ones. Eat less dairy and fatty foods and meat. Ditch the processed foods with chemicals and other man-made junk in them. They are not food. I repeat, they are NOT food. Even if they have the word “all natural” on the label. Don’t be fooled. Eat whole grains, seeds and nuts. Basically, eat what is found in nature. And one of the best things you can do for your body is to ditch sugar. Sugar weakens your immune system.  Switch over to maple syrup, honey, and dates to sweeten things but don’t use too much of those, either. Eat fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Along with eating real food, eat both cooked and raw food. Part of the remedy for liver deficiency is eating more “warm,” cooked food. Part of the remedy for liver excess is eating more “cool,” raw food. So, to keep your liver in balance, eat both! Makes sense, doesn’t it?

One thing I’ve started doing that is good for your liver is adding lemon juice to water and drinking that first thing in the morning. You could also add a good apple cider vinegar (organic, please) but I think the lemon tastes better.  Seems counterintuitive, but this helps to alkalize your blood, among other great things. The water should be room temperature or warm.

2. Drink a daily tonic

Another good thing to do for your liver/body, is to find a good herbalist and have them make you up a custom tonic. But, short of that, you can click on the tag on this blog that says “alterative” and pick one of those herbs as a tonic. A tonic is something you drink on a regular basis. For me, I have a large patch of nettle, and nettle is a great herb for the liver. In season I can pick it fresh and make nettle iced tea – very refreshing, and to me it tastes like the earth and reminds me that I’m connected to it. I also pick some to dry so that I can do an overnight infusion to drink the next day during the winter months. A lot of herbs for the liver are roots, which need to be taken either as a tincture or decocted (which means boiling them in water for about 15 minutes) to extract the medicine from them. For some plants, that means growing them for a few years first. But, never fear. There is a plant that grows everywhere that you can use. It is the noble dandelion! I’m all about easy and this plant is free for the taking. What more could you ask for?

A lot of alterative herbs are strong and bitter. Bitters are actually good for you but we’ve lost our taste for them as we’ve sweetened up everything we eat. So it’s easier to take those as a tincture added to water to dilute the bitterness. Dandelions are one of the bitter ones. So much so that you can even roast and grind the roots as a coffee substitute!

3. Do an occasional cleanse

Another good thing to do once in awhile is a detox. I like to think of it more as a cleanse. If you search for detox or cleanse there are all sorts available, even one I did a few years ago that I’ll never do again because it was way too intense. I prefer a juice cleanse, which you can ease into by cleaning up your diet for a few days – see above – cutting out ALL sugar and animal products (dairy, meat, eggs) and caffeine, then juicing (via a juicer or a place that sells real juices – not the kind you get in the juice aisle) for a few days – then doing a simple, clean diet for a day or two after you finish juicing to ease your body back into whole foods. By the way, if you live near a juice bar, a lot of them offer cleansing programs.

Okay, that’s the food stuff. But there are a few more things you can do to give your body the love that it needs….

4. Move your body

Move it! Yes, that falls in the exercise category, but find an activity you like so it’s not a chore. For me that is hiking and it has the added benefit of getting me outdoors in the the fresh air. Which is the next piece of advice.

5. Get back to nature

Get outside! Breathe fresh air (not car fumes, so if you are in the city, find a park or something to walk/exercise in.) Take off your shoes and put your feet in the grass or dirt. If you are able to, start a garden. You can even do this on a balcony or back deck. Growing your food connects you back to food the way it was meant to be.

6. Rest and destress

Get enough rest! Your body uses sleep time to repair itself.

De-stress! Exercise, outdoors time, and rest can help with that. So can meditation – which is just taking time to be still.

7. Limit your exposure to toxins.

Grow your own food or get it from a reliable source that doesn’t use pesticides. And / or buy organic. And you can make a lot of your own cleaning products and chose natural, simple bath / beauty products (your skin absorbs what you put on it). Do this and your liver doesn’t have to work so hard to detox.

You can do it!

Let this year be the year that you decide to love your liver, and thus, your body. You can do it! And then you can be an example for others. The resulting ripple of health can change our planet.


Please note that the information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat health issues. Its intent is to inform people on how to prevent disease. If you are dealing with a health issue or on medication, you should not add herbal treatments without discussing them with your doctor.