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10 Herbs That Aren’t Friendly to Your Kidneys & Liver

Herbs and spices have been used for ages in homeopathy. Their purported health benefits are considered useful in healing a wide range of health maladies. Medicinal herbs have actions and properties that help the body fight pathogens and recover from illnesses. Dietary supplements are often used to promote good health and well-being or help with weight loss problems.

With their potent actions, many of these herbs underwent thorough research and developed into food supplements. Numerous studies were conducted on medicinal herbs using the same standards as conventional medicines but it does not cover all. Over time, some of them were accepted as herbal remedies for certain health issues. Their market and uses grew dramatically and many people began consuming herbal supplements and vitamins along with prescription drugs.

However, there are potential dangers when conventional and alternative medicines are used together. Most of them interact with the drugs that either boost or cancel their effect. Other herbs can cause bleeding problems, elevated blood pressure and other adverse side effects.

Although labeled natural products, plants possess potent properties even when used alone. Depending on the method of preparation, their effect and strength vary. The kidneys and liver are the two organs most affected by excessive and improper intake of herbal medicines.

How Herbs Affect the Kidneys and Liver

Plant alkaloids and compounds can cause kidney and liver toxicity, especially when the herb is taken in unusual doses. Medicines, both prescribed and homeopathic, are mostly filtered in the kidneys. Oxalates or crystals found in herbs and spices can bind with calcium and create kidney stones. The complex compounds of some herbs are known to cause nephrotoxicity or chronic kidney damage. Herbal treatments also worsen the condition of patients with existing renal problems.

Severe toxicity also affects the liver and causes hepatotoxicity. Like the kidneys, the liver is also a filter that clears out chemicals, alcohol and drugs from the blood. The toxic chemicals in some herbs can cause inflammation and eventually damage the liver. Herbal medicine toxicity is the second most common drug-induced liver injury (DILI). It is prevalent in individuals using herbal dietary supplements for body-building and weight loss.

Herbs That Are Not Good for Kidneys and Liver

Aloe Vera
10 Herbs That Are Not Friendly To Your Kidney And Liver- Aloe Vera

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is a globally popular herb with a long tradition of medicinal use. It is valued in modern medicine for promoting hair and skin health and wound healing. It has widespread use in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries.

Despite its promising health benefits, aloe vera is not advisable for patients with renal and liver diseases. It disrupts the electrolyte balance and interacts with diuretic pills. The latex in Aloe can also lead to serious kidney disease. Likewise, its overconsumption and prolonged intake can affect liver function, blood flow and tissue elasticity.

Cascara Sagrada

Cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana) is a shrub whose dried bark was commonly used in some OTC laxatives. It was previously approved by the US FDA as an OTC drug for constipation, but this approval was revoked in 2002 due to a lack of evidence. Cascara sagrada is now available as a dietary supplement, but not as a pharmaceutical.

It is known as the “holy bark” with its unique compound anthraquinones that stimulates bowel movements. It is taken as an infusion to treat constipation and prevent the formation of gallstones.

Anthraquinones are potent compounds that irritate the colon and trigger a bowel movement. But, taking cascara for more than two weeks is harmful to the kidneys and liver. It interacts with medication and other herbs and causes loss of electrolytes. The herb also has a carcinogenic effect increasing the likelihood of developing cancer.

10 Herbs That Are Not Friendly To Your Kidney And Liver- Turmeeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant from the ginger family known as the root that can cure all health issues including idiopathic conditions. It is highly valued for its active nutrient curcumin which possesses a range of active medicinal properties. Turmeric can treat almost all health problems internally and externally. It is claimed to be effective against inflammations and for promoting overall health.

Curcumin is high in oxalates that bind to calcium, increasing the risk of kidney stones. Thus, excessive intake of the spice increases the predisposition to kidney stones. Likewise, turmeric supplements may also harm the liver in prolonged consumption. The problem with turmeric is that it is fat-soluble, meaning it does not dissolve in water but in fat. It gets absorbed in the bloodstream and processed by the liver. People with genetic liver dysfunction may fail to metabolize curcumin and additives and the liver processes it into a toxic form.

10 Herbs That Are Not Friendly To Your Kidney And Liver- Wormwood

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is an herbaceous plant often used as an ingredient in the alcoholic beverage absinthe. It is a bitter herb traditionally used for treating digestive disorders, fever and intestinal parasites. The plant receives mixed opinions as an herbal medicine since it is a hallucinogen and a potential poison due to its thujone content.

The FDA still has restrictions on the thujone content of wormwood teas and supplements to be legal. More than its hallucinogenic properties, wormwood is also a potential risk for kidneys and liver. It is toxic for the kidneys to process, thereby increasing the risk of renal failure. Thujone is also toxic for the liver cells and worsens the condition in people with liver disorders.

Black Cohosh
10 Herbs That Are Not Friendly To Your Kidney And Liver- Black Cohosh

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is a valued plant for treating female reproductive problems. It is a good herbal treatment for menstrual problems, menopause, ovarian cysts, fibroids and endometriosis. It is also used to prevent miscarriage and promote estrogenic balance. Black cohosh is also effective against osteoporosis and arthritis.

However, the compounds found in black cohosh can cause adverse effects. It is associated with diseases in the breast and uterus as well as increases the possibility of liver damage. Taking black cohosh increases the susceptibility to autoimmune hepatitis, fatty liver and liver necrosis. Its effect on the kidneys and its excretion is unknown so patients with renal failure should take it with caution.

10 Herbs That Are Not Friendly To Your Kidney And Liver- Horsetail

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is an ancient plant from the prehistoric era that still lives today. For a thousand years, horsetail has also been widely used in many forms as an herbal remedy. It is especially beneficial for supporting bone health and promoting wound healing. Horsetail is also used as a diuretic that flushes out excess body fluid. So, how is a diuretic harmful to the kidneys?

Kidney disease patients are not advised to take horsetail since it has the possibility of increasing the potassium to a dangerous level. It also interacts with diuretics to get rid of extra fluid which could dehydrate the body and damage the kidneys. Liver damage may also happen when horsetail extract is not properly manufactured which destroys its thiamine content.

10 Herbs That Are Not Friendly To Your Kidney And Liver- Licorice

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is an adaptogenic root that enhances the effect of other herbs when taken concomitantly. This sweet root is used in several health issues like the common cold, acid reflux and skin problems. It is also used for maintaining a normal body mass index. But, do not mistake licorice root for licorice candy since the latter contains anise and is not a true licorice root.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, licorice is used as liver protection in patients undergoing therapy. Contrarywise, the herb is harmful to individuals with existing liver diseases like liver cirrhosis. Even in small doses, licorice can interfere with liver medications and worsen the condition. It also interacts with diuretics in people with kidney diseases and causes the buildup of potassium in the body.

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10 Herbs That Are Not Friendly To Your Kidney And Liver- Stinging Nettle

A stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a weed covered with tiny hairs that can cause painful welts when in contact with the skin. But for many years, it was used as an herbal remedy for many health problems. Despite its stinging hairs, nettle is an effective remedy against allergies, hay fever and hives. It is also valued for its action in the prostate cells as well as a trophorestorative herb for the kidneys. Nettle leaves are also used as a detox drink for the liver.

But while it prevents damage to healthy kidneys, nettle worsens existing kidney problems. Thus, it is not an ideal herbal medication for severe kidney failure, fluid retention and patients on dialysis. Mature nettle leaves are also high in oxalate which can irritate the kidneys. It is likewise harmful to liver disease patients since a malfunctioning liver cannot effectively cleanse the toxins and compounds in the nettle.

10 Herbs That Are Not Friendly To Your Kidney And Liver- Comfrey

Comfrey species are toxic but Symphytum officinale is considered the least noxious and used in medicinal preparations. It is an almost “cure-all” herb where every plant part is utilized for a wide variety of illnesses. It is widely used for treating wounds and inflammations and is claimed to mend fractures and stupor blood loss.

But, oral ingestion of comfrey is prohibited because of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids present in it. It can cause severe liver damage and cancer. Even fetuses can get affected by it when consumed by pregnant moms. People with kidney and vascular disease are also not advised to consume comfrey. Its toxic substances are so potent that they get absorbed into the skin. Comfrey’s topical use is allowed only for a short period.

Ephedra sinica

Ephedra (Ephedra sinica) of Ma huang is a controversial herb. Its consumption was linked to many cases of stroke, heart arrhythmia and death. It is a highly potent herb that can induce mental problems and cause addiction. Ephedra teas are still available in regulated form and herbal prescription remedies in Chinese medicine. However, the FDA banned dietary supplements that contain ephedra and its substances.

The active substances in ephedra can trigger adverse side effects when taken with other herbs and medications. Its substance ephedrine can cause kidney stones and can also cause hepatotoxicity or liver injury.


Herbs contain natural substances that are highly effective in treating many illnesses. But being natural does not exempt it from having adverse side effects like synthetic drugs. Their ingredients vary in potency depending on their form and preparations. Without proper regulation, its strength and purity are compromised which may result in excessive intake.

Although natural, herbal plants are not harmless. They can interact with other medicines and worsen your condition. It also puts a toll on the kidneys and liver. These organs function as the body’s filters for the toxins and substances from the herbs taken.

The best way of consuming herbal remedies is to consult a doctor who can determine their possible reactions and effectiveness. Some of the botanical products have met the standards of the FDA and are safe for consumption. However, the FDA provides that manufacturers display supplement facts on the label and the appropriate amount to be used.

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The title “10 Herbs That Aren’t Friendly to Your Kidneys & Liver” seems to announce information about bad herbs. However, most of the comments and warnings in this article are meant to warn poeple who already have a liver or renal condition. Perhaps, the title should reflect this ?

Hi Jean-Pierre,

Thank you so much for your feedback, I promise we will put it to good use for future articles.

Many blessings and good health!

This title and the click bait nature discredits your other work. These are herbs to be wary of if problems already exist; they are not avoid at all cost herbs which is what your title implies.

Hi Michelle,

Thank you for your valuable feedback. We’re sorry to hear you’re disappointed with this article. We promise we will put your feedback to good use.

Many blessings and good health!

Thank you for this information. Is there any amount of black cohosh that’s safe? Very disappointing as it is a life saver for menopause!

I just love you so much Nicole – I bought the book years ago for me & my 97yr young mom. We both refer to it regularly. I love all the additional information you provide. All your research re: mixing with medications is so valuable. There is longevity in my family women lived 102 -104 – (great + grand) now my mom. So we ALL want her here as long as possible. She’s sharp, zoom, texts, still drives (under scrutiny), and cooks every day. Your book and research make me think that she must’ve received some of this information -in her family line as well. Thank you so much for giving us references for a better way of health.

Hi Juliette,

Thank you so much for sharing this story with us! It’s heartwarming to hear that our articles have been helping you and your mom.

Many blessings and good health!

Just a couple of days ago there was an article about “cascara” from coffee berry and how it’s a super antioxidant. Is this the same herb you’re referring to in this article. Confused.

Hi Joan,

Cascara Sagrada is not the same as cascara from coffee berry (which is the hull of the berry). Some consider Cascara Sagrada to be a subgenus of the Buckthorn genus, Rhamnus. This species is more commonly known as Rhamnus purshiana, but it is also known by the common name Cascara sagrada, which means sacred bark in Spanish.

Many blessings and good health!

Most doctors know nothing about herbs. Your pharmacist knows about contraindications.

I appreciate your article. In today’s world it is important to list warnings
that may only affects a few. Individuals are different and can react differently !
One of my loved ones took Valerian root and had a concerning reaction. After a short stay in a hospital-pre COVID he was in good condition. We all should take care with herbs and
Allopathic drugs- even those we have taken for years! “Allergies” can develop
even after many years of use. I have seen this effect in both my wife and myself.
This could be from advanced years – we are both over 70. I do listen to allopathic
doctors and then I consider my choices. In our younger years, after a doctor gave us
medical advice about a young child that did not “fit” that child’s body, we found better
doctors that really searched for answers that had positive effects for our family’s health.
Thanks again for your research and sharing. We are all searching for information
that may be useful for ourselves and others. The only wisdom I can offer is from my Mother-in-law who was born in 1910 (her grandfather was a doctor that had served as a doctor in the Civil War assisted in her birth). She worshiped Jehovah God as a Christian
and said, “Listen to your body!” She required no daily medications and had a clear mind
to the age of 100 years and passed from this world at 101 years old.

Hi David,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share this story with us, and for your kind words.

Many blessings and good health to you and your family!

Thank you for the information. Everyone should understand that just because it is “natural” doesn’t mean it can’t harm you. Listen to what your body is telling you and learn all that you can about something before you use it.

Hi Daurice,

Thank you so much for your kind comment! We really appreciate it.

Many blessings and good health!

What can I use for Fibromyalgia? For some reason I found out I have this illness. My doctor said I had Arthritis. I apparently do not.

Hi Linda,

Thank you for your question. The article below might be of some help to you:

Many blessings and good health!

Although most of the points made here are very good. I find definitive attitudes towards the effects, and or results of taking these herbs without back up documentation is disturbing. I.e. comfrey. The documentation is questionable at best. Area on the side of safety is always wise. However, to make a definitive statement that is poisonous or toxic is just simply responsible.

Hi Shawn,

Thank you for taking the time to leave us feedback! We really appreciate it and we will put it to good use.

Many blessings and good health!

Can I ask, (since you mention that liquorice roots not the same as liquorice lollies). As a kid, we used to be able to buy sticks of a woody, fibrous material that was sold as “Spanish wood” or “Spanish root). Its flavour was sweet and like liquorice sweets and is was great for flossing. Would that have been liquorice root do you think?

What are the author’s ( ann marie) credentials/ schooling in regard a to herbal medicine?
People, this is not information from Nicole. While herbs are far from “harmless”, I think the danger in regards to some of the herbs is exaggerated. The info is also to simplified, without documentation. And ask your doctor about herbs? are you serious?

Last edited 14 days ago by Marion

Hi Marion,

Thank you for taking the time to leave us feedback on this article! We really appreciate it and we promise we’ll put it to good use for future articles.

Many blessings and good health!

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