Our goal for the next few months is to deepen your understanding of the detoxification pathways of the body. Each month we will be presenting in-depth information about one body system and associated detoxification pathway(s) with a free webinar and educational blog. Be sure to catch last month’s Lymphatic System Function blog and watch the webinar recording here.
We're wrapping up our month on the lymphatic system and heading to the urinary system. The two systems are very similar in their function, working with the waters of the body to balance blood pressure while also screening and filtering the blood for waste. In this article we will take a closer look at the urinary system’s anatomy and physiology and meet some of the herbs in Dr Morse formulas that best support this system.
Along with this educational article, we will be offering a free live webinar on the urinary system on Wednesday, May 31st at 1pm PST. Reserve your seat for Insight into the Urinary System: Functions & Protocols today!
Urinary System Organs
The urinary system plays a major role in detoxification as a primary organ of elimination. It works in symphony with the heart, blood, lymph, and adrenal glands to remove waste from the body, balance blood pressure, and maintain nutritional balance. Dr Morse describes kidney anatomy in his book The Detox Miracle Sourcebook:
“The tops of the kidneys are opposite the 12th thoracic vertebra. They weigh approximately 5 ounces (about 141.75 g) each, and are about 4.5 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. Microscopic nephrons make up the structural and functional aspects of the kidneys.
“As in most organs, and especially in glands, you find an outer portion—called the cortex and an inner portion—the medulla. Urine is formed in the nephrons, which are made up of a renal corpuscle and a venal tubule. These look like long pyramids.
“The cortex (outer) portion of the kidney houses most of the small capillary beds that are the filtering tissue between the blood and the nephron. This area is involved in filtration and reabsorption...
“These wastes (urine) travel down this pyramid (nephron tubules) into the inner portion (or medulla), where they enter common ducts called papillary ducts, which empty into the kidney reservoirs (calyces). From here the urine moves down through the ureter to the bladder.”
Other Urinary Anatomy
Ureters: These are the tubes that send all urine produced by the kidneys to the bladder.
Bladder: This is the holding tank for urine.
Urethra: This is the final tube that removes urine from the bladder out of the body.
The urinary tract is not an isolated system. It requires inputs, like blood and hormones, and outputs like lymphatic drainage, to function.
Adrenals: Located atop each kidney, the adrenal glands produce hormones (such as aldosterone) that regulate electrolyte and fluid balance in the body, influencing the function of the urinary system.
Blood capillaries: Supply the kidneys with oxygen and nutrients, while also allowing the removal of waste products and filtration of blood through the glomeruli to form urine.
Lymph capillaries: Drain excess interstitial fluid from the kidneys, aiding in maintaining fluid balance and removing waste products from the urinary system.
Renal Pathophysiology and Herbal Diuretics
Diuretic herbs are known for their ability to increase urine production and promote fluid elimination from the body. The pathophysiology of diuretic herbs involves various mechanisms that affect different parts of the renal system. Let's explore the process step by step:
- Kidney Blood Flow: Diuretic herbs can support renal blood flow by dilating the afferent arteriole, which leads to increased perfusion of the glomerulus. This increased blood flow helps improve the filtration process. Herbs: Juniper berry, Ginkgo, Hawthorn.*
- Glomerular Filtration: Within the kidney, blood is initially filtered through a network of tiny blood vessels called glomeruli. Diuretic herbs can support glomerular filtration in altering the balance of pressure and filtration rates. These herbs support hydrostatic pressure in the glomerular capillaries, promoting the filtration of fluid and solutes. Herbs: Juniper berry, Astragalus root, Rehmannia, Dandelion, Corn silk.*
- Proximal Tubule Reabsorption: After filtration, the fluid enters the proximal tubule, where a significant portion of water and electrolytes are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Diuretic herbs can inhibit the reabsorption of sodium and chloride ions in the proximal tubule, leading to an increased excretion of these electrolytes into the urine. Herbs: Corn silk, Horsetail, Celery seed.*
- Loop of Henle: The loop of Henle plays a crucial role in the concentration of urine. Specific diuretic herbs, known as loop diuretics, primarily support the thick ascending limb of the loop of Henle. They inhibit the sodium-potassium-chloride co-transporter (NKCC2) in this segment, reducing the reabsorption of these ions. By interfering with the reabsorption of sodium, diuretic herbs disrupt the osmotic gradient required for water reabsorption, resulting in increased urine volume. Herbs Garlic, Ginkgo, Nettle, Parsley.*
Dr Morse Herbs & Formulas for Urinary System Health
The primary focus of Dr Morse’s health crusade is to bring the body back online by awakening detoxification tissues and pathways. To this end, all major eliminatory systems need support as they are the key to removing toxic build from the body.
For this reason, the Kidneys & Bladder formulas were created to support the proper functioning, filtration and metabolic waste removal of the urinary system. Other eliminatory organs need support as well, as it is the orchestrated efforts of all eliminatory systems that allow for the proper removal of waste. Therefore, Dr Morse recommends pairing Kidneys & Bladder formulas with GI Renew formulas to support digestive function and Lymphatic System formulas to support the health of the lymphatic system.
The Third Kidney
Many holistic healers throughout time have employed what Dr Morse refers to as the 3rd kidney when supporting kidney function. It is believed that when the kidneys are overtaxed, sweat can serve to reduce pressure within the system and take some of the load off the kidneys. There is also a connection made amongst many traditional healers that the skin is an eliminatory pathway. When the gut and kidneys are compromised, toxins will leave the body via the skin.
Urea, which is defined as the chief nitrogenous end-product of the metabolic breakdown of proteins in all mammals, is found in both urine and sweat glands.
“Some studies report very high urea concentrations in sweat, up to 50x that of serum, and suggest that this is evidence for a selective transport mechanism across the sweat gland, especially in patients with kidney damage, to clear the blood of high urea concentrations.”
The Liver/Skin formula is recommended to support the health function of this 3rd kidney, as strengthening this eliminatory pathway can be helpful for modulating pressure and promoting excess waste removal when the kidneys are compromised. We’ll discuss how to support this 3rd kidney with alterative and diaphoretic herbs in the kidney therapeutics section below.
The Kidney Adrenal Connection
The adrenal glands rest on top of the: “ad” for near, and “renal” for kidney. The kidney adrenal connection involves the production and release of aldosterone from the adrenal glands, which acts on the kidneys to regulate electrolyte and fluid balance. This connection is essential for maintaining proper blood pressure and electrolyte levels in the body. For this reason, it is always suggested to pair your Kidneys & Bladder formulas with Adrenal Support.
If you are an alumnus of the International School of the Healing Arts, and/or subscribe to Dr Morse’s YouTube channel, you are probably familiar with his lectures on the importance of cloudy urine. In Dr Morse’s book The Detox Miracle Sourcebook, he states that the urine should be cloudy as “Urine consists of many by-products of metabolism, like ureas, ammonia, hydrogen ions, creatinine, chemical toxins, medications, synthetic vitamins, and minerals, etc.”
Urine should not be clear as that is an indication that waste is not being filtered properly in the lymph and kidneys. Cloudy urine and sediment are desired to demonstrate that the kidneys are doing their job of filtering and eliminating. This can be traced back to lymphatic function as lack of proper lymph filtration and elimination can lead to impaired function of the kidneys and beyond. Fasting and a combination of Lymphatic Systems and Kidneys & Bladder formulas will support the proper filtration of wastes.
Primary Herbs: Diuretics
Juniper berry is an amazing urinary system ally which is why Dr Morse added juniper berry to every Kidneys & Bladder formula. It is a well-known diuretic and alterative, bringing nutrients to this eliminatory system to stimulate the function of the kidneys and the flow of urine. Small amounts of juniper berry support circulation and glomerular filtration in the kidneys, and the high volatile oil content helps to keep a balanced bacterial microbiome. Juniper berry is also a prominent herb in our Adrenal Support formula.*
Corn silk is a lovely option for supporting the urinary tract. The silky hairs of immature corn stalks are best, but the silk off any ear of corn will do! The saponin content helps to stimulate the flow of urine making corn silk a popular natural diuretic. The allantoin content gives it a demulcency that supports the softening and moistening of the epithelial cell lining of the urinary tract. Corn silk also contains tannins, meaning that it supports the tightening and toning of lax tissue throughout the system. Corn silk is found in Kidneys & Bladder 1, Kidneys & Bladder 3 and Kidney Tea.*
Stinging Nettle is a tasty diuretic herb that likes to grow near moving water; an indication of how it supports movement of the waters in the body. This mineral rich herb is high in potassium, which is an essential mineral for kidney health and fluid balance in the body. The sting of nettle is due to fine needles made of silica that inject a chemical mixture of formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) and 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin). This silica supports the strengthening of the lining of the urinary tract. Try nettle tincture on its own or in the urinary supportive formula Kidneys & Bladder 1.*
Parsley leaf and root is employed in Kidneys & Bladder 4 and Kidney Tea for its strong diuretic action. It is traditionally used to support the flushing of the kidney and helps keep the kidneys and bladder free flowing. It also helps to calm spasms in the smooth muscle of the kidneys and bladder.*
Hydrangea is a common landscaping plant that is native to north, central, and south America and is said to have been used by the Cherokee Nation for supporting the free flow of urine. Its diuretic action is supportive to the system with both acute and chronic discomforts. It is the wild growing Hydrangea arborescens that is used for these purposes, not the landscaped varieties. Hydrangea root is found in Kidneys & Bladder 1, 2 & 4.
Secondary Herbs: Tonics, Alteratives, Diaphoretics, Demulcents & Immunostimulants
Cordyceps are a fascinating fungal remedy. It is a parasite mushroom that sprouts out of the head of the infected ghost moth larva (caterpillar). It is added to Kidneys & Bladder 1, Kidneys & Bladder 3 and Kidney Tea for its action as a kidney tonic. Traditional Chinese Medicine use of this fungus is to support deficient yin and yang of the kidneys.
“In Chinese medicine, the kidneys store the jing (life essence) and controls not only fluid metabolism...but also healthy sexual functioning, bone health and hearing (Winston & Maimes; Adaptogens).”
Burdock is an alterative root that is traditionally used to support the healthy function of the liver and digestive tract. Helpful for clearing the liver-to-skin eliminatory channel, burdock is a secondary therapeutic to urinary system health as the healthy elimination of water and urea from the sweat glands can support healthy blood pressure and take some of the load of water and waste removal off compromised kidneys. Find burdock root in Liver/Skin tincture and Heal All Caps.
Goldenrod is a marsh loving perennial that can grow from hip to head height and diffuses a pleasant odor from the leaves and small yellow panicle blooms. Goldenrod is traditionally used as a diaphoretic, meaning that it promotes sweating. Included in Kidneys & Bladder 1, Kidneys & Bladder 3 and Kidney Tea, the diaphoretic action of this herb supports healthy blood pressure and promotes the eliminatory action of the 3rd kidney, the skin.*
Marshmallow root is high in mucilaginous polysaccharides. These molecules are extremely hydrophilic (water loving), swelling as they encounter water, resulting in a thickening, hydrating effect. This makes marshmallow root great for delivering hydration directly to the tissues of the urinary tract, helping to sooth, rejuvenate, and calm irritated tissue. Marshmallow root is formulated into GI Renew #1, Kidney Tea, Kidneys & Bladder 1 and Kidneys & Bladder 2.*
Uva Ursi and its cousin madrone are commonly used by traditional herbalists to support the healthy bacterial microbiome of the urinary tract, especially when it has fallen out of balance. It has both astringent and demulcent characteristics, making it a great urinary system tonic for modulating tissue hydration and function. Uva ursi is in Kidneys & Bladder 1, Kidneys & Bladder 4 and Kidney Tea.*
Diet & Kidney Health
In the Standard American Diet (SAD), food lacks balanced nutrition and the primary source for minerals is table salt. This means that most folks in America are getting sodium chloride in excess but that’s about it! The trouble is, the kidneys can try as they might to find balance but once the scale is tipped, excess sodium remains in circulation. Going by the general rule “water follows salt,” when you eat food rich in sodium, the sodium enters the bloodstream and pulls water out from the cells into the bloodstream. More fluid in your blood leads to increased blood pressure.
Kidney Supportive Diet
- If you haven't yet, now is the time to switch out your table salt for sea salt.
- Consider fasting to reset a healthy mineral complex in the body using fruits, vegetables and teas. We have many helpful pdfs to guide you in proper food combining, food acidity and fasting protocols.
- Hop on the Dr Morse detox train and purchase the [Ultimate Detox Kit], which pairs fasting protocols with Dr Morse formulas to support the detoxification of the entire system.
Want to know more, and get your questions on urinary system answered live? Remember to sign up for our upcoming webinar Insight into the Urinary System: Function & Protocols.