Chronic kidney disease is defined as kidney damage or a decreased kidney glomerular filtration rate of less than 60, for 3 months or more, irrespective of the cause. This results in a progressive decline in kidney function, resulting in accumulation of toxic waste products, excess water and salts, increased blood pressure, anemia and many other complex symptoms. Chronic renal failure is divided into Stages I – V, out of which the first three stages are asymptomatic, and usually discovered incidentally, while doing routine blood tests.
The management of chronic renal failure consists of treatment of the underlying cause if possible, aggressive treatment of high blood pressure and other symptoms, liquid and diet control, cessation of smoking, and finally, with end-stage disease, resorting to dialysis or a kidney transplant.
The Ayurvedic treatment of chronic renal failure is based on three principles: (i) treating the damaged kidneys (ii) treating the body tissues (dhatus) which make up the kidneys and (iii) treating the known cause.
The damage done to the kidneys can be repaired using medicines like Punarnavadi Guggulu, Gokshuradi Guggulu, Gomutra Haritaki, Chandraprabha Vati and Punarnavadi Qadha (decoction). Herbal medicines useful in this condition are: Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), Gokshur (Tribulus terrestris), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Daruharidra (Berberis aristata) and Patol (Tricosanthe dioica).
According to Ayurveda, the kidneys are made up of the “Rakta” and “Meda” dhatus. Treating these two dhatus is also an effective way to treat the kidneys. Medicines used are: Patol, Saariva, Patha (Cissampelos pareira), Musta (Cyperus rotundus), Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), Chirayta (Swertia chirata), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Chandan (Santalum album) and Shunthi (Zinziber officinalis).
Lastly, the known cause of chronic renal failure is treated using medicines which also act upon the kidneys. Vascular (related to the blood vessels) diseases like renal artery stenosis and inflammation of the artery walls(vasculitis) can be treated using medicines like Arogya Vardhini, Tapyadi Loha, Mahamanjishthadi Qadha, Kamdudha Vati, Manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia), Bhrungraj (Eclipta alba), Saariva, Kutki and Sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina). Primary glomerular diseases like membranous nephropathy and glomerlonephritis can be treated using Punarnava, Gokshur, Saariva and Manjishtha. Secondary glomerular disease resulting from diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis etc. can be treated accordingly, using the medicines appropriate for those diseases. Similarly, suitable Ayurvedic medicines can be given for other causes like polycystic kidneys, prostate enlargement and neurogenic bladder.
The advantage of using Ayurvedic medicines in chronic renal failure is that in most patients, the kidney damage can be either partly or fully reversed, the frequency of dialysis can be reduced, and the increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases can be significantly reduced. Thus, Ayurvedic medicines have the potential for an important therapeutic contribution in all the stages of this condition.
For patients with chronic renal failure intending to take Ayurvedic treatment (or for that matter, any alternative treatment), the following points should be kept in mind: (i) all patients should be under the regular supervision and treatment of a qualified and experienced Urologist (ii) Ayurvedic medicines should be taken in the form of additional treatment, and should not replace other, regular treatment or dialysis and (iii) the attending Urologist should be informed of the decision to start Ayurvedic treatment.