Kirk Patrick writes in Natural News about how herbs for colon and liver health get all the press. Not that those aren’t important, but the kidneys are arguably more critical in Chinese medicine. The Kidneys grasp the Qi from the Lungs, house Essence, strengthens the marrow, bones and brain, and is critical in the production of Blood. Hence, Kidney Health is of utmost importance.
The Author lists five herbs. In order of presentation they are Couch Grass, Green Tea, Java Tea, Rehmannia and Uva Ursi. While Rehmannia (Sheng Di Huang, Chinese Foxglove root) is fourth on his list, he acknowledges it as being the most important in Chinese Medicine.
And Rehmannia is a personal favorite of mine, through it’s formula Liu Wei Di Huang Wan.
A perennial with large sticky leaves and purple flowers, rehmannia is the most important herb for kidney and adrenal health in Chinese medicine (where it is called di huang) . Rehmannia root is used medicinally and it contains phytosterols and antioxidants (including rehmannin), along with iridoid glycosides (including catapol). Rehmannia is primarily used as a kidney tonic and also to detoxify the liver and to treat hepatitis. Rehmannia treats autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. Rehmannia helps treat hair loss, respiratory disorders, menopause and other hormone related disorders. Rehmannia has diuretic properties.
Again I must emphasized that, just as with most Chinese materia medica, Rehmannia is meant to be used in conjunction with other medicinals in formula form. Concentrating on Rehmannia though, let’s examine it’s properties in the Chinese Pharmacological sense.
The confusing thing about Chinese pharmacology for westerners is how herbal properties are classified. They are called “tastes” and each “taste” has different activities in the body. It is the herb’s mechanism of action. A herb’s “nature” is also important – it is how much it stimulates or decreases heat (inflammation?) and cold in the body. It’s “site of action” is mentioned as what meridians it enters. Meridians – you know, those funny lines on acupuncture charts.
Sheng Di Huang is cold in nature. This means it can reduce inflammation. However, too much of it can consume the yang and cause other diseases. One must reiterate the need for using medicinals in balanced formulas.
It’s tastes are bitter and sweet. The bitter aspect means that it drains dampness, among others (hence the diuretic properties) and the sweet flavor means that it nourishes.
The Meridians it enters are the Heart, Kidney and Liver meridians. It’s actions are to nourish yin and generate fluids.
Being indicated for Kidney health, Rehmannia also helps with the outside signs of Kidney deficiency such as tinnitus. Research has shown that it has a protective effect against cisplatin-induced damage of HEI-OC1 auditory cells through scavenging free radicals. (link)
One final shot about the formula liu wei di huang wan – it can be used as treatment for certain presentations of Diabetes Mellitus Type II, since Diabetes is seen in Chinese Medicine as a disease of water metabolism.
Patrick, Kirk. “Top Five Herbs That Promote Kidney Health” Natural News 10 October 2009. 11 October 2009 <http://www.naturalnews.com/027211_herbs_green_tea_health.html>
Yu, Seo, Kim et al. “Protective effect of Rehmannia glutinosa on the cisplatin-induced damage of HEI-OC1 auditory cells through scavenging free radicals” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Vol 107 # 3, 11 October 2006, pp 383-388. Abstract on ScienceDirect, retrieved 11 October 2009 <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T8D-4JN72C3-4&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=819b933cb2e0b4712994e2b5e371a57e>