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The Importance of Healthy Kidneys

If organs could win a popularity contest, it seems like our liver and gut would be winners. They tend to get a lot of love from the press and the blogs of healthcare providers.

It’s more likely than not that you’ve heard about detoxifying the liver and the importance of a diverse microbiome. In fact, one of the most popular trends in the health and wellness sphere, especially after the holidays and into springtime, is cleansing. In this arena, the gut and liver are key players. (R, R, R)  Yet, what many people and general practitioners pay little attention to is the health of our kidneys, and they are just as vital.

According to The National Kidney Foundation:

The kidneys are powerful chemical factories that perform the following functions:

  • The removal of waste products and drugs from the body, assisting with detoxification
  • Balancing our body’s fluids, pH, and electrolytes
  • Releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • Producing an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • Controlling the production of red blood cells

Shining Light on the Overlooked Vital Organ: Our Kidneys

As you can see, the kidneys are essential for overall health. In fact, there is an intricate interconnection between their functioning and the most common chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.

Unfortunately, there is very little knowledge in integrative medicine on how to support kidney health safely and effectively, this includes in regard to essential oils. Beyond natural diuretics, which only address one aspect of urinary health and fluid balance, many doctors are unfamiliar with how to holistically treat renal patients. In fact, few have been trained to decipher the early signs of kidney disease, much less address it.

Thankfully, this is shifting. It’s thanks to our latest guest on the Essential Oil Revolution, Dr. Jenna Henderson.

Dr. Henderson is a holistic renal specialist, naturopathic doctor, lecturer, author, educator, and the go-to physician expert on all things related to kidney health. She is a leading authority on kidney disease and a sought-after international speaker on the use of safe, alternative, and integrative medicine for renal patients.

Being a kidney patient herself, Dr. Henderson has firsthand experience of the struggles and tribulations that one can go through to receive optimal, integrative kidney care in mainstream medicine. After struggling with chronic kidney disease and experiencing the benefits of naturally supporting her health on 20 years on dialysis, her mission in life was fueled. Today, Dr. Henderson has an unrelenting desire to share her discoveries and effective solutions with fellow patients as a naturopathic physician specialist. As a result, she is the owner and founder of Holistic Kidney, one of the only integrative telemedicine practices focusing specifically on the unique needs of renal patients.

During the show, Dr. Henderson graciously shares her hard-earned knowledge with us on all things related to our kidneys and how to support them using a holistic approach. We also highlight the use of essential oils for aiding these misunderstood and overlooked vital organs. Finally, we discuss the cautions we need to be aware of when someone has chronic kidney disease.

Below is an overview of what we discussed but be sure to listen to the full interview here.

What You Will Learn:

  1. An Introduction and overview of kidney functions (1 min)
  2. Dr. Jenna Henderson’s Bio (2 min)
  3. Dr. Henderson’s journey relating to her own diagnosis of chronic kidney disease: (5 min)
    • Initially Dr. Henderson noticed swelling of her ankles and thought nothing of it, but things progressed. She was first diagnosed with minimal change nephrotic syndrome. After treatment, however, nothing got better.
    • She later went to a specialist and was diagnosed with something much more serious, FGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis). Trying to find effective treatment, Dr. Henderson participated in a study for a certain medication for FGS. Still, nothing improved.
    • Dr. Henderson then sought alternative medicine support. She found a Traditional Oriental Medicine Practitioner who was able to prolong her kidney function before supporting her going on dialysis.
    • On dialysis, Dr. Henderson started using supplements and herbs to address her symptoms. When she told her nephrologist, he agreed they could be helpful, but admitted he wasn’t schooled enough on them to inform his patients. It was then that she realized she wanted to learn how to integrate conventional and natural approaches for renal patients.
    • Dr. Henderson attended Naturopathic School and wrote her thesis on herbal medicine and organ transplants. Today she works exclusively with renal patients.
  4. What is dialysis? (11.30 min)
    • Renal replacement therapy (dialysis) is done when the kidneys can no longer function to remove waste from the body.
    • Dialysis is a method of removing uremic wastes, either done via hemodialysis (through the blood) or parenteral (through the abdomen).
    • Dialysis can take up to five hours, three times a week at a facility. It can also be done at home for shorter time spans five times a week.
    • There are natural things to do to make it an easier and less intense process. Dr. Henderson uses exercise, supplements, diet, and lifestyle for her own kidney health while on dialysis.
  5. The kidneys’ capacities to heal: (16.30 min)
    • The kidneys’ capacity to heal is limited once damage is done.
  6. The number one reason that people go into kidney failure that is not a “kidney disease”: (17 min)
    • Diabetes is the main cause of going into kidney failure, so regulating blood sugar is paramount for kidney health.
  7. The second leading cause of kidney failure that is not a “kidney disease”: (18 min)
    • Heart disease also harms the renal system. High blood pressure strains the kidneys and damages the microvasculature within them.
    • It is important for the patient and the practitioner to realize that once out-of-control blood pressure is brought under control, there may be a sudden elevation of creatinine in the blood. This illustrates that once pressure is removed, the damage that the organs were undergoing becomes more evident. (Higher pressure caused more filtration, but damaged the kidneys simultaneously.)
    • It is also essential to not have one’s blood pressure go too low. Low blood pressure does not provide the necessary pressure to create the proper filtration gradient for the kidneys to function.
  8. Why we should consider heart health when we think about the kidneys: (21.30 min)
    • Secondary heart disease is the number one cause of mortality in kidney patients.
    • Hypertension is the second leading cause of kidney failure, as mentioned above.
  9. Some common kidney disorders Dr. Henderson works with: (21.45 min)
    • Nephrotic syndrome and its sub-types, including IgS, Minimal Change, Lupus, and FGS. This is related to inflammation of the kidneys. Symptoms include edema and frothy urine from the presence of protein.
    • Other conditions Dr. Henderson specializes in include polycystic kidney disease, renal cell carcinoma, recurrent kidney infections, kidney stones, and coping with kidney failure.
  10. The staging of kidney disease: (23.30 min)
    • Staging is based on EGFR (Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rates) and creatinine (a waste product of muscle breakdown) levels in the blood. Note: Healthcare providers measure eGFR in milliliters of cleansed blood per minute per body surface (a measurement that reads mL/min/1.73m2). It represents a percentage of kidney function.
    • EGFR is based on age, creatinine, gender, and race. It decreases with age.
    • An EGFR value over 60 is normal, under 15 is diagnostic of stage five kidney disease. Dialysis usually begins when EGFR is at 5.
    • The high end of normal for creatinine in the blood is 1.3 mg/dL, there is a concern at levels at or over 2 mg/dL. Diaylsis usually starts when it is over 5.0 – 6.0 mg/dL.
  11. The reason chronic kidney disease is a “silent killer”: (26 min)
    • Fatigue is the first sign of kidney disease, but it can be subtle and attributed to many other things.
    • One must monitor kidney numbers in labs, which can be done yearly with a basic blood panel.
    • Cystatin C, vs. creatinine, should be used for athletes, the frail, and elderly, as this is not based on muscle mass.
  12. Where to start if your numbers on labs indicate a kidney issue: (29.30 min)
    • First check for dehydration.
    • After assessing for dehydration, review other lab values that would indicate if the kidneys are compromised. These include signs of renal anemia, acidosis, and high potassium.
    • Next, consider someone’s history to look for the cause, such as blood sugar issues or hypertension.
  13. At what age our kidney cells begin to break down: (31 min)
    • We are born with about 1M nephrons. As we grow in childhood, our kidneys grow with us. This slows down as we age.
    • Around 18 years old, our nephrons begin to break down and we lose about 1% of nephron mass with each passing year of life.
    • Kidneys can compensate for damage for a long time by using hyperfiltration, so high creatinine numbers can appear seemingly suddenly. However, it’s important to realize the process of deterioration was likely occurring for a long time.
  14. Some common symptoms that could indicate kidney compromise: (33 min)
    • Pitting edema, insomnia, and fatigue (related to uremic buildup, anemia, and protein in the urine) can indicate compromised kidneys.
    • Usually pain is absent, except for with kidney stones, polycystic kidneys, and infections. Flank pain is more likely musculoskeletal.
  15. The difference between iron-deficiency anemia and renal anemia: (35 min)
    • Kidneys stimulate red blood cell (RBC) formation with erythropoietin (EPO), this hormone declines in kidney failure, lowering RBC. This differs from low RBC from a nutrient deficiency.
  16. How to support the kidneys for someone who has diabetes using diet, herbs, supplements, and essential oils: (37 min)
    • First clean up the diet from processed foods.
    • Herbs and supplements such as curcumin, berberine, and chromium can be helpful.
    • Wild rice, okra, chickpeas, and red cabbage can also be added to the diet for optimizing blood sugar levels.
    • Essential oils for blood sugar balance include cinnamon, rosemary, and fennel.
  17. Why you should be mindful of using diuretics for kidney disease: (40 min)
    • Diuretics stimulate the kidneys. At late-stage kidney disease this can be harmful, as the body is already making dilute urine.
  18. The use of diet modifications, herbs, supplements, and essential oils to support the kidneys of someone with high blood pressure: (41.30 min)
    • Be sure that salt intake is not too high. Celery can be added to the diet to help with optimal blood pressure.
    • Herbs such as hibiscus and nutrients such as magnesium can be helpful for this condition. Rauwolfia is a strong herb that can be used under supervision to assist with managing hypertension.
    • Essential oils to support healthy blood pressure include lavender and ylang ylang oils.
  19.  The healing power of laughter, a sense of humor, and music for the kidneys: (44.30 min)
    • Laughter eases stress, enhances immune function, decreases inflammation, and impacts cellular expression.
    • One study showed that the best predictor of survival for those on kidney dialysis was a sense of humor.
    • Music also helps relieve stress and the most impactful music is from our teens and formative years.
  20.  The different types of kidney stones and natural support for them, including essential oils: (47 min)
    • There are two major types of kidney stones: oxalate acid and uric acid. Oxalates are only found in plants. Uric acid is higher in animal proteins, high fructose corn syrup, and alcohol.
    • For oxalate stones, probiotics, melatonin, and the essential oils of frankincense and peppermint can be helpful.
    • For uric acid stones, celery, cherries, green tea, and cinnamon essential oil can be beneficial.
    • Overall, the essential oils of lemon, orange, helichrysum, peppermint, and lavender may be supportive in addressing symptoms related to kidney stones.
  21. Why dairy should not be demonized for kidney disease: (50 min)
    • Diary does not increase uric acid.
    • Raw dairy contains EPO, it can be helpful for renal anemia in late-stage kidney disease. (Note: please be careful of sources and quality control.)
    • Kefir can benefit bone health.
  22. How urinary tract infections impact the kidney, how often you should urinate normally, and what essential oils may be supportive: (55 min)
    • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can get severe and impact the kidney.
    • Green tea, oregano and grapefruit oils can support kidneys that are infected.
    • Hygiene is especially important to avoid UTIs, such as using personal wipes after a bowel movement.
    • One should drink plenty of water to avoid UTIs and flush out the ureters.
    • Berries can help with urinary pH which is disrupted by microorganisms. Red berries can help with acidifying the urine, dark berries can be alkalinizing. (Urinary pH should be about 6.5.)
    • D-mannose can be a decoy sugar, which may help with yeast growth.
    • Essential oils can be used alongside antibiotics to decrease resistance and assist with microbiome balance.
  23. Can myrrh oil be helpful for kidneys? (1 hr. 1 min)
  24. Can you use essential oils in late-stage kidney disease? (1 hr. 2 min)
    • Studies show lavender and rosemary oil have been used successfully for managing symptoms in dialysis patients. Inhalation or diluted, topical applications are best.
  25. Closing questions and Dr. Henderson’s favorite essential oils. (1 hr. 4 min)

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Links to Learn More About Dr. Jenna Henderson, ND and Her Offerings:


Selected Peer-Reviewed Articles by Dr. Henderson, ND:


References on Essential Oils for Kidney Health:


Additional Resources from the Show:


Links to Learn More About My Offerings and Education on Essential Oils:

Bio of Dr. Jenna Henderson, ND:

Dr. Jenna Henderson, ND is an esteemed holistic renal specialist, naturopathic doctor, lecturer, author, and educator. She is a leading authority on kidney disease and a sought-after international speaker on the use of safe, alternative, and integrative medicine for renal patients. Dr. Henderson earned her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine and her bachelor’s degree from the University of CT.  She is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the American Botanical Council.

Being a kidney patient herself, Dr. Henderson has firsthand experience of the struggles and tribulations that one can go through to receive optimal integrative care in mainstream medicine, including 20 years on dialysis. Her mission to find solutions for her own health morphed into an unrelenting desire to share her discoveries and effective solutions with fellow patients by becoming a naturopathic physician specialist. As a result, Dr. Henderson has lectured extensively across the US at prestigious conferences and has provided medical and educational information to various audiences, including naturopathic doctors, kidney patients, and kidney professionals. She is also a contributor to several integrative peer-reviewed publications including NDNR, The Townsend Letter, and The Natural Medicine Journal. Dr. Henderson has authored educational posts for consumers and practitioners as well. These include writing for Renadyl, a supplement formulated to promote natural kidney health, and the Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine (FAIM). She has also been featured in various podcasts, print, and online media sources and co-hosted the radio show “Improve Your Kidney Health.”

Dr. Henderson is the owner and founder of Holistic Kidney, one of the only integrative telemedicine practices focusing specifically on the unique needs of renal patients. There, she provides integrative, personalized, and evidence-based care plans that are appropriate for her patient’s individual needs and their stage of kidney function. Dr. Henderson consults with patients with a wide variety of kidney conditions and at all stages of kidney disease. This includes those with diabetes, high blood pressure, newly diagnosed with kidney disease, on dialysis, or who have a kidney transplant. She helps patients stay off dialysis for as long as possible, improve their energy and sleep, and protect their heart and bones from the long-term damage brought about by kidney disease. Dr. Henderson also works with transplant patients to help them cope with the side effects of immunosuppressive therapy in a holistic and integrative fashion.

Dr. Henderson currently offers telemedicine to patients on six continents. She is not only brilliant on all topics integrative, natural, and kidney health, but a true leader in integrative kidney support and a brave, fierce, and dedicated pioneer who is bridging the gap between conventional nephrology and natural therapies. She is an emphatic, compassionate resource who is helping patients at all stages of kidney disease achieve optimum health. Her book, The Holistic Kidney Guide to Natural Therapies for All Types of Kidney Disease, is on track to be published this summer. You can find her at https://holistic-kidney.com.



  • https://blog.insidetracker.com/cleansing-and-detox-diets-new-ideas-on-a-popular-trend
  • https://drjockers.com/cleansing/
  • https://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/howkidneyswrk
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/21593-estimated-glomerular-filtration-rate-egfr

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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.

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