A tea to help your kidneys flush

Fluid retention is a condition where fluid accumulates in the spaces between the cells of our body, causing the tissues to swell.  Specific herbs and nutrients may help give symptomatic relief by increasing fluid elimination.  These herbs are often also taken for a few days to stimulate your kidneys as part of a detox program.

The potential causes of fluid retention are numerous and include sluggish lymphatic drainage, heart disease, inflammation and hormonal imbalances, such as during menstruation[1].

For symptomatic relief of fluid retention, increasing fluid consumption (even though this seems contradictory) and drinking specific herbal teas can provide relief.  However, if fluid retention is a recurrent problem, you should speak to your health professional as it may be a symptom of a more serious problem.

Herbs to support daily detoxification processes include:

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves are traditionally used as a diuretic, whilst the root has liver tonic properties[2], however so far no clinical trials have been conducted and animal trials are contradictory.  Dandelion is perfectly suited as a diuretic, as it is naturally high in potassium, thereby preventing potassium depletion[3].

Juniper (Juniperus communis) berries have diuretic, urinary antiseptic and anti-rheumatic actions[1].  Juniper contains numerous volatile oils, which are thought to be responsible for its actions on the urinary system[1].

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) leaves contains tannins and hydroquinones, the natural plant chemicals that give it urinary antiseptic properties[1].  This action makes it useful for urinary tract infections, such as cystitis and urethritis[1].  Its urinary antiseptic properties work best when the urine is alkaline, therefore to neutralise any acids from the cranberries, it can be taken with alkalinising minerals, such as potassium bicarbonate.  It is not recommended in kidney disease.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is traditionally used as a diuretic in Europe.  It contains a number of constituents, including flavonoids[4].  It is also a rich source of the mineral, silica.

Gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum) is used primarily for its diuretic properties that are thought to also help breakdown kidney stones[1].  For this reason the British Herbal Pharmacopeia recommends it for calcium stones (calculus).  It is also believed to have a positive effect on rheumatism, making it useful for arthritis and gout.  The mechanism responsible for this action is its ability to increase kidney excretion of waste products.

Couch grass (Elytrigia repens) rhizome contains mannitol, a sugar alcohol that is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and eliminated unchanged by the kidneys.  This causes a diuretic effect as the mannitol molecules attract water via osmosis, thereby increasing urine volume[1].  The mannitol is also believed to help soothe the urinary mucosal lining[1].  Due to these actions it is recommended for urinary tract infections and urinary calcium deposits (calculi)[5].

Other supportive nutritives

Cranberries contain a variety of phytonutrients, including flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and phenolic acids[6].  The proanthocyanin content of cranberries inhibits bacterial adhesion to the bladder wall, making them exceptionally useful for preventing urinary tract infections[7].  Cranberries have also been shown to have potential anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells[8].

Potassium bicarbonate is a complex of the mineral potassium and the alkalising compound, bicarbonate.  Potassium is essential for the intracellular fluid balance of every cell in the body.  It is essential for heart, nerve and kidney function; maintaining blood pressure and regulating pH in the body[9].  Bicarbonate binds acids in the tissues and allows them to be eliminated by the lungs and kidneys.  Potassium bicarbonate supplementation may also help correct low-grade metabolic acidosis and reduce urinary amino acid excretion[10].


The information contained in this article is based on published nutritional research.  It is in no way designed to diagnose or treat specific medical conditions.  If you are unsure if a diuretic is suitable for you; suffer from any chronic health problem; take prescription medication, develop any health concern, please speak to your health professional.  These herbs should only be taken for short term relief.  If symptoms persist, please see your health professional.


[1] State Government of Victoria. Better Health Channel Fact Sheet – Fluid retention. Last updated: Nov 2007.

http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcArticles.nsf/pages/Fluid_retention. Date accessed: 080908.

[2] Fisher C and Painter G (1996) Materia Medica of Western herbs for the Southern Hemisphere. CRC Press Inc.

[3] Braun L, Cohen M (2005) Herbs and Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide. Elsevier Mosby, Australia.

[4] Graefe E and Veit M (1999) Urinary metabolites of flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acids in humans after application of a crude extract from Equisetum arvense. Phytomedicine; 6(4): 239-246.

[5] Mills S and Bone K (2005) The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Elsevier, Australia.

[6] Seeram N, Adams L, Heber D (2004) Total Cranberry Extract versus Its Phytochemical Constituents: Antiproliferative and Synergistic Effects against Human Tumor Cell Lines. J. Agric. Food Chem.; 52(9): 2512-2517.

[7] Raz R, Chazan B, Dan M (2004) Cranberry Juice and Urinary Tract Infection. Clinical Infectious Diseases; 38: 1413-1419.

[8] Seeram N, Adams L, Heber D (2004) Total Cranberry Extract versus Its Phytochemical Constituents: Antiproliferative and Synergistic Effects against Human Tumor Cell Lines. J. Agric. Food Chem.; 52(9): 2512-2517.

[9] Osiecki H (2000) The Nutrient Bible. Bioconcepts Publishing, Australia.

[10] Frassetto L, Curtis Morris R Jr, Sebastian A (1997) Potassium Bicarbonate Reduces Urinary Nitrogen Excretion in Postmenopausal Women. J. Clin. Endocrinology; 82(1): 254-259.


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