What to Know About Kidney Cleanses

Do they help? Are they safe? How do they work?

A kidney cleanse is a food, product, or process that is said to help remove toxins from the kidneys and prevent kidney stones. Although cleanses may have some health benefits, no scientific evidence supports the idea that eating certain foods and taking specific vitamins improves kidney health. Instead, you may wish to take other sensible steps before or even in place of a cleanse.

A slice of lemon and a flower in some tea
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This article will explain what a kidney cleanse is and what it is purported to do.

What Is a Kidney Cleanse?

Proponents say a kidney cleanse—typically a food, specialized diet, or product—can help detoxify the kidneys. The idea is to promote healthy kidneys and prevent kidney stones. Kidney cleanses are also touted to help keep blood pressure in check, improve how the urinary tract and bladder function, boost immunity, and clear toxins from the body.

In general, kidneys don't require any special "cleaning." Your kidneys should function just fine if you drink enough water and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Males should drink 13 cups of water each day, and females should drink 9. Most adults should eat 2 1/2 to 3 cups of fruits and vegetables, though this varies by age and sex.

A poor diet, exposure to toxins, and chronic stress can impair kidney health. In this case, a kidney cleanse may appeal to you.


Click Play to Learn How to Do a Natural Kidney Cleanse

This video has been medically reviewed by Meredith Bull, ND.

But proceed carefully. A kidney cleanse might offer some health benefits, not necessarily related to the kidneys at all. You may even swear that you "feel better." There is no scientific evidence, however, that a cleanse improves kidney health or prevents kidney stones and infection.

Proceed Carefully

Loading up on fruits, vegetables, and vitamins certainly can't hurt you. But will it improve your kidney health? The jury is still out.

Role of the Kidneys

The kidneys are bean shaped organs located under the rib cage in your lower back. Their job is to clear waste from your body. Every day, your kidneys remove about 2 quarts of excess water and waste products from about 200 quarts of blood.

Kidneys also release three important hormones: erythropoietin (which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells), renin (which regulates blood pressure), and calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D). Calcitriol also helps maintain calcium for bones and chemical balance in the body.

Kidney stones can develop when your urine contains a lot of substances that can form crystals, such as calcium, uric acid, and oxalate. This is one of the problems that a kidney cleanse is purported to address. 

Herbal Kidney Cleanse

Talk to your healthcare provider before taking herbs to cleanse your kidneys, especially if you have kidney stones or other urinary tract problems. A dietitian can also give you information about how these herbs might affect your health.

Herbal kidney cleanses are typically given as a tea consumed two or three times a day. Often, they are recommended in addition to a food-based kidney cleanse.

Some herbal ingredients that are claimed to cleanse the kidneys include:

  • Dandelion tea, red clover, goldenrod, juniper, marshmallow root, burdock root, and nettles. These herbs may act as diuretics, which helps flush out the kidneys and remove excess waste.
  • Turmeric. This herb is thought to reduce urea, prevent inflammation in the kidneys, and help expel waste. 
  • Parsley contains antioxidants, which are thought to reduce inflammation in the kidneys. 

Foods for Kidney Cleanse

Food-based kidney cleanses differ in what you eat and for how long. In general, however, these cleanses direct you to eat a restricted diet of only certain foods for a few days. These diets may consist of juices, smoothies, or a list of specific foods. Again, you should consult your healthcare provider or a dietitian to make sure it is safe for you to follow one of these cleanses.

Some kidney cleanses emphasize:

  • Grapes. These fruits contain a compound called resveratrol, which is believed to reduce inflammation in the kidneys.
  • Beet juice is thought to improve blood flow to the kidneys.
  • Watermelon and lemon juice. Fruits that contain citric acid are believed to help prevent kidney stones. Citric acid binds to calcium, which prevents the growth of calcium crystals.
  • Cranberry juice. There is limited evidence that cranberries may help prevent urinary tract infections.
  • Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are thought to prevent the accumulation of uric acid, one of the compounds that cause kidney stones.
  • Ginger. Proponents believe ginger can dissolve kidney stones and prevent them from forming.

Vitamins for Kidney Cleanse

Some proponents recommend incorporating the following vitamins and minerals into a kidney cleanse. In many cases, a kidney cleanse will involve dietary restrictions along with vitamin supplementation.

  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Magnesium

Possible Concerns

Talk with your healthcare provider if you want to take a truly natural approach to improve your kidney health. Or consider consulting a qualified integrative healthcare professional.

While kidney cleanse proponents may have good intentions, their ideas are not supported by scientific data.

And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require manufacturers who make kidney cleansing products to prove that their methods are safe and effective.

This stance is consistent with how the FDA treats supplements; it doesn't regulate them, either.

These realities should make it obvious: Consumers must be careful about the products they consume based on the labels they read.

Pregnant or nursing women, children, and people with kidney disease should not undertake a kidney cleanse. Talk with your primary care provider before you take a kidney supplement or undergo a kidney cleanse.

Caring for Your Kidneys

Some methods to improve kidney health are supported by science. You may wish to consider them before trying a kidney cleanse:

  • Avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Maintain normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Keep your cholesterol under control.
  • Drink enough water and other fluids.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

Although there is no evidence that a kidney cleanse can help prevent kidney stones, you may reduce your risk by drinking enough fluids and cutting back on sodium.

People with a history of kidney stones may want to avoid foods rich in oxalic acid, such as chocolate, okra, sweet potatoes, sesame seeds, greens, nuts, and spinach.

Avoid Rich Foods

One of the easiest steps you can take to prevent kidney stones is to avoid rich foods.

Some research shows that a high intake of calcium through foods may decrease the risk of developing kidney stones, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Ironically, taking calcium in supplement form may do just the opposite: It could increase the risk.


The goal of a kidney cleanse is to detoxify the kidneys to promote healthy kidneys and prevent kidney stones. Herbs, vitamins and healthy foods often are part of the regimen.

In the end, a kidney cleanse won't hurt you, but there's no evidence that they improve kidney health, either.

General good-for-your-health measures like drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet, and managing your blood pressure are the best ways to keep your kidneys functioning well.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a kidney cleanse harm your kidneys?

    In rare instances, a cleanse that included a large amount of oxalates could cause kidney damage. Leafy greens, legumes, and other vegetables that are extremely beneficial to your health can lead to a condition known as oxalate nephropathy if you have certain underlying issues and you consume more than your body can process. Oxalate nephropathy may be treated, but in some cases, it can lead to end-stage renal disease.

  • How do I get rid of kidney stones naturally?

    If a stone is small, you may be able to pass it without needing any special treatment. Drink plenty of water and take acetaminophen to help manage the pain while your body passes the stone. Acetic acid (which is found in apple cider vinegar) and citrate (found in lemon juice concentrate) have been shown to help prevent kidney stones, but these natural remedies may not help with stones that are already formed. 

  • What is the best drink to flush your kidneys?

    Water is the best thing to drink for healthy kidneys. It’s usually recommended that adults drink eight glasses of water per day. That amount can vary, though, based on your age, health, and physical activity. Especially if you have kidney disease, talk to your healthcare provider about how much water you should take in each day.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Preventing chronic kidney disease.

  3. National Kidney Foundation. Kidney stone diet plan and prevention.

  4. Sorensen MD. Calcium intake and urinary stone diseaseTransl Androl Urol. 2014;3(3):235-240. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2223-4683.2014.06.05

  5. Makkapati S, D’Agati VD, Balsam L. “Green smoothie cleanse” causing acute oxalate nephropathy. American Journal of Kidney Diseases. 2018;71(2):281-286. doi:10.1053/j.ajkd.2017.08.002

  6. Zhu W, Liu Y, Lan Y, et al. Dietary vinegar prevents kidney stone recurrence via epigenetic regulations. EBioMedicine. 2019;45:231-250. doi:10.1016/j.ebiom.2019.06.004

  7. National Kidney Foundation. 6 Tips To Be “Water Wise” for Healthy Kidneys.

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.