Caring For The Urinary Tract
The urinary system is an elaborate system of filtration that performs the vital task of producing and excreting urine. In so doing it cleanses the body of waste products and toxins and helps to maintain a constant internal environment by governing the water and chemical composition and the acid-alkali balance of the body. The Chinese consider that the kidneys are the seat of vital energy, known as kidney Jing, which promotes longevity and immunity. The urinary tract can fall prey to some of the ills of modern living in its eliminative work. Solvents, paint, synthetic fragrances and colours, preservatives and nitrogen waste from a high protein diet have to be passed out of the body via urine and all impose a strain on the kidneys and can contribute to urinary problems. To look after their kidneys, children need to be encouraged to drink plenty each day to assist the kidneys in their cleansing work, to flush through toxins and waste products of metabolism and to prevent them from causing irritation of the urinary tract along the way.
There are many herbs that exert their action on the urinary system and these can be used preventatively and therapeutically Marshmallow (Althea off.), corn silk (Zea mays), comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale) and oats (Avena sativa) all have a demulcent action in the urinary tract. Many of the aromatic herbs that are popular as herbal teas are rich in volatile oils that not only have antimicrobial properties, but also have diuretic action. Thus drinking chamomile, mint, lemon balm, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), rosemary or thyme tea or adding them regularly to diet can work as preventative medicine in the urinary system. Cranberries and bilberries / blueberries are also valuable, helping to prevent pathogenic bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract and in this way helping to prevent infection. During any kind of infection or inflammatory process, the use of diuretic herbs to increase the flow of urine can help the body to throw off accumulated toxins and debris produced in the system from the immune system’s fight against infection and inflammation. Such herbs include celery seed (Apium graveolens), cleavers (Galium aparine), dandelion leaf, corn silk (Zea mays), couch grass (Agropyron repens) and uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi).
Apana Vata is the main seat of Vata in the body and governs the function of the urinary system. Anything that disturbs Vata can contribute to an interruption of the urinary tract’s excretory function and cause pain and is largely responsible for problems such as an irritable bladder and bed wetting in children. When urinary tract infections develop and symptoms present such as pain and burning when passing water, Pitta has also become involved.
According to Ayurveda the kidneys are weakened (and Vata disturbed) by drinking too much or too little water, drinking excessively cold and iced liquids, cold weather, too much change and travelling, excessive thinking or worry, overuse of antibiotics and not heeding the urge to urinate. Fear and fright damage the kidneys on a psychological level. The kidneys are particularly delicate in sensitive or traumatized children (i.e. Vata disturbances). If toxins accumulate in the body, they can lodge themselves in the kidneys and urinary tract, especially if the kidneys are weakened by the above factors, and cause problems such as dysuria and urinary tract infections.
The most popular Ayurvedic remedy for tonifying and strengthening the kidneys is shilajit, a special mineral pitch exuded by various rocks in India. It improves kidney and bladder function, and is said to have antimicrobial properties, to strengthen the nervous system, and help dissolve stones. It can be used for all doshas and is an important strengthening and rejuvenative herb. It is used particularly for dysuria, oedema and urinary tract infections.
Other popular remedies for the bladder are gokshura (Tribulis terrestris) which is often used with Triphala, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa). Ashwagandha regulates Apana Vata and makes a valuable adjunct to treatment.