Alternative and Complementary Treatments for Polycystic Kidney Disease


What is polycystic kidney disease?

Polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, is a genetic disorder that is characterized by clusters of cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the kidneys. As the cysts become larger, they cause the kidneys to swell and eventually lose functionality. They may also spread to the liver or other areas in the body. High blood pressure and kidney failure are known complications of PKD. Some individuals may not realize that they have PKD for many years.

Alternative and complementary treatment

In addition to conventional medical treatments, certain alternative and complementary treatments may be beneficial. It is important to discuss them with a health care professional, as many of these treatments can interact with conventional medication or cause certain conditions to worsen. Alternative and complementary treatment options include herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, yoga, and tai chi.

Herbal Medicine

Consult with a health care professional prior to taking any herbal supplements as certain herbs can cause kidney damage. Herbal medicine that may help with the treatment of PKD includes the following:

  • Triptolide is an herbal medicine that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects in the kidney. It is possible that it may inhibit the development of cysts in the kidneys of mice.
  • Curcumin has been reported to have various health benefits, including anti-proliferation, anti-oxidation, and anti-inflammation. It is possible that curcumin may play a role in the inhibition of cyst development in mice.
  • Ginkgolide B is an herb that is used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-tumor properties. It has shown to slow the growth and formation of cysts in mice.
  • Stevioside and its derivatives have been shown to inhibit cyst formation, growth, and expansion in mice. It is an extract of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant that is used as a sweetener.
  • G. lucidum triterpenoids have shown to slow the development and growth of cysts in mice. It has anti-oxidation, anti-inflammation, anti-liver disorder, and anti-tumor properties.


Acupuncture is performed by an experienced and licensed professional and involves the insertion of fine, thin needles into the skin at specific points of the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is described as a method to balance the flow of energy (chi or qi) via pathways through the body. In the Western world, it is considered an alternative treatment. Acupuncture practitioners believe that the strategic placement of the needles stimulates muscles, nerves, and connective tissues. Many alternative medical professionals believe this stimulation increases natural pain-fighting chemicals and boosts blood flow in the body.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy is a part of complementary and integrative medicine that can help reduce muscle tension, pain, and stress. A trained and certified professional manipulates the soft tissue, which includes muscles, tendons and ligaments, with varying degrees of pressure and movement to increase mobility and reduce pain. It is used for the treatment of many symptoms of PKD and also helps lower blood pressure.

Meditation, yoga, and tai chi

Stress reduction methods can help to decrease high blood pressure. Meditation can quiet the mind, reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, and remove the perception of pain by activating brain areas that process pain. Yoga unites mental disciplines with the physical, allowing for the relaxation of stress and anxiety. It can lessen stress, lower blood pressure, reduce the heart rate, as well as improve fitness and help manage chronic diseases. Tai chi involves low-impact, slow-motion movements to help reduce stress and improve muscle strength, flexibility, and balance.

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