Nephrotoxicity of alternative medicine practice

Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2012 May;19(3):129-41. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2012.04.005.


The use of alternative medicine is highly prevalent around the world; in many areas, this is so because of lack of access to, or trust in, Western medicine, and also because they are considered "natural" and therefore safe. The kidney is an organ vulnerable to toxic insults by virtue of its anatomy and function. Reports of nephrotoxicity associated with alternative medicine use encompass all forms of renal dysfunction, ranging from electrolyte abnormalities and proteinuria to acute and CKD, renal failure, and death. In countries where intensive care and dialysis support are not available, mortality is high. Mechanisms of alternative medicine-associated kidney injury include direct nephrotoxicity, which may be augmented by underlying predisposing conditions such as dehydration; contamination, or adulteration of remedies; inappropriate use or preparation of a remedy; or interactions with other medications. The use of alternative medicines is underreported to clinicians. Because many patients strongly believe in the powers of alternative medicines, it is important that alternative medicines not be demonized as a whole, but that their use and consequences be closely observed and reported to build a more comprehensive understanding of their impact in our clinical practice and to foster research on the potential harm or, in some cases, possible benefits.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / chemically induced*
  • Age Factors
  • Complementary Therapies / adverse effects*
  • Drug Contamination
  • Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / chemically induced*
  • Medicine, Traditional / adverse effects*
  • Plant Preparations / adverse effects*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / chemically induced*
  • Sex Factors


  • Plant Preparations