5 Reasons Why Palo Azul May Promote Healthy Urinary Tract Function
"Palo azul is soothing for urinary tract irritability"
Over the last few centuries, palo azul tea has gained popularity for promoting healthy urinary tract and kidney function. Palo azul has actually become so popular for kidney health that it's commonly called "kidney wood" or "kidney tea."
Recent studies have found that palo azul exhibited significant anti-bacterial, diuretic, alkalinizing, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Because of these properties, palo azul showed the ability to inhibit bacteria in the urinary tract which are associated with infections and kidney stones.
A 2022 study concluded that "the beneficial effects of E. polystachya (palo azul) have been attributed to its content of bioactive constituents as flavonoids, saponins, and tannins which can inhibit the formation and growth of crystals, reducing the occurrence of urolithiasis." Urolithiasis is the formation of kidney stones.
The researchers explain that "the anti-crystallization property of saponins is due to their ability to act to inhibit crystal–cell interaction, which in turn reduces crystal retention in the urinary tract."
Moreover, a 2002 study found that palo azul “significantly lowered growth rate and nucleation rate of calcium oxalate crystals (kidney stones)” and the researchers concluded that palo azul “showed significant dose dependent protection against urolithiasis (formation of kidney stones).”
A 2004 study also mentions that "eysenhardtia polystachya (palo azul) is used widely in traditional medicine to treat urolithiasis."
A 2009 study showed that “palo azul was active against S. epidermidis, Proteus vulgaris, Enterbacter aerogenes and S. aureus. These are the most frequent causal agents of urinary tract infection.”
A 2022 study explains that "urinary tract infections (UTI) are common ailments, mainly caused by bacteria such as Escherichia coli." A 2018 study even found that palo azul “showed good antimicrobial effects in E. coli.”
Additionally, a 2007 study found that palo azul’s “flavonones have been identified with antibacterial and antifungal activity.” Because of this, recent studies have "evaluated the effect of isoflavones isolated from the bark of palo azul on the growth of urinary crystals confirming the use of the plant in urolithiasis.”
Therefore, the researchers concluded that palo azul is used for “kidney problems, urinary tract pains, kidney calculi, and as a deflamatory.”
A 2022 study explains the biological mechanisms of palo azul’s antimicrobial effects on kidney stones:
“Evidence suggests that their beneficial effects might be associated with litholytic, antispasmodic, and diuretic activities, as well as an inhibitory effect on crystallization, nucleation, and aggregation of crystals (kidney stones). The molecular mechanisms involving these effects could be related to antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
Lytholitic is the technical term for the dissolution of kidney stones or gall stones.
Antispasmodics relax the smooth muscle of the ureters and have been shown to hasten stone passage by five to seven days. They relax the muscles in your ureter, helping you pass the kidney stone more quickly and with less pain.
Crystallization is the formation of crystals in the kidney. This is normal and harmless provided that they are excreted with the urine. The problem is when the crystals stay behind in the kidneys.
Nucleation of stone constituent crystals is a mechanism of stone formation.
Aggregation is another mechanism of stone formation in which there is agglomeration of crystals that form into larger multicomponent particles.
In other words...this study showed palo azul's ability to dissolve kidney stones, inhibit stone formation, and relax the ureter muscles to facilitate the passing of stones.
Many studies have also demonstrated palo azul’s diuretic property. This means that palo azul increases diuresis…also known as urinating.
A 2022 study concluded the following: "Scientific evidence showed the beneficial effects of intervention with E. polystachya (palo azul) against urinary stones. A study showed the antilithiatic and diuretic activity of an extract of this plant in an animal model of urolithasis induced by the implantation of a zinc disc into the urinary bladder. The extract promoted a significant decrease in the weight of stones and increased urine volume."
Antilithiatic is the technical term for preventing the formation of, or relieving the symptoms of kidney stones.
A 2016 study actually found that “the bark of E. polystachya (palo azul) induces an increase on urinary excretion of water and sodium, but with the advantage of a potassium-saving effect.” The researchers concluded that palo azul acts as a “potassium-sparing diuretic and this effect should be viewed as a favorable feature of the extract in regards to electrolyte excretion.”
Interestingly, since palo azul is a potassium-sparing diuretic, this essentially means that it helps to flush out toxins without electrolyte loss during urination because it spares potassium...as opposed to aquaretic diuretics like coffee and green tea.
Several sources also mention that palo azul's alkalinizing property is beneficial for urinary tract health because it may help to dissolve kidney stones, which are acidic.
A book about botanical medicine mentions the following: "If prone to acidic, overly concentrated urine, associated kidney stones and urinary tract sediment then Kidneywood (palo azul) will be of use. Because of the plant's alkalinizing nature, acidic precipitants dissolve back into the urine, thereby reducing pain and urinary tract irritability associated with lithic deposits. Kidney wood is soothing to kidney and urinary tract irritability."
A 2007 study on palo azul and other herbal plants "showed that calcium oxalate stones might not be formed when the urine pH is alkaline."
Moreover, a 2022 study which also analyzed palo azul and herbal plants, explains why acidic urine can promote kidney stone formation:
"The urinary pH promotes excessive concentrations of many compounds such as calcium, oxalates, phosphates, uric acids, urates, struvite, amino acids, and purines, which, subsequently, results in supersaturation and crystallization. Calcium oxalate (CaOx) is the most common component of urinary stones; it represents up to 80% of analyzed stones."
A 2011 study also mentions that "for prevention of calcium oxalate, cystine, and uric acid stones, urine should be alkalinized by eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables or drinking alkaline mineral waters."
A 2013 study which corroborates these findings, suggests that "ingestion of vegetables high in organic anion content, such as citrate and malate, should be associated with higher urine pH and fewer stones because the amino acid cystine is soluble in more alkaline urine."
4. Antioxidant & Anti-inflammatory
Recent studies have shown that oxidative stress and inflammation can negatively impact kidney stone formation, and dozens of studies have demonstrated palo azul's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
A 2021 study mentions that “palo azul is used in traditional medicine for the treatment of kidney diseases, bladder infections and diabetes mellitus.”
The researchers also found several phytochemicals in palo azul such as “flavones, isoflavones, flavanones, phenolic compounds, chalcones, dihydrochalcones” which have been linked to its health benefits, highlighting “diuretic, antidiabetic, antiglycation, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial potential.”
“Phyto” means “plant”, and phytochemicals are micronutrients produced by plants to fight off infections, oxidative stress and inflammation. These include flavonoids and polyphenols, and numerous studies have shown that palo azul is rich in phytochemicals.
A 2022 study even mentions that several types of phytochemicals have been found in palo azul, including “polyphenols, flavonoids, phytosterols, saponins, alkaloids, and terpenoids, which could be effective in preventing the process of stone formation.”
A 2022 study explains why antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are key for preventing kidney stones:
"Among the molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of urinary stones are inflammation and oxidative damage caused by oxidative stress (OS). During OS, there is an increase in the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and a decreased antioxidant system. It is known that inflammation and OS facilitate crystal adhesion to renal tubular cells and crystal formation, promoting kidney stone development. Excessive levels of ROS are important for cellular signaling, including the activation of pro-inflammatory genes expression and impaired endothelial function."
In other words...antioxidants may be beneficial for preventing kidney stones because they help to inhibit inflammation, oxidative stress and ROS, which are associated with stone formation.
Fortunately for us palo azul lovers, a 2021 study found that palo azul tea "can reduce the oxidative stress caused by the imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) because of its free radical scavenging activity."
Finally, the researchers conclude that "flavonoids promote an inhibitory effect on urinary stone formation by their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which interfere with the process of epithelial cell damage induced by CaOx crystals and exert inhibitory effects on the inflammation."
In conclusion, palo azul may help to promote urinary tract health because it's anti-bacterial, antimicrobial, alkalinizing, diuretic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and it's rich in flavonoids. Because of these properties, studies showed that palo azul may help to dissolve kidney stones, inhibit stone formation, inhibit bacteria in the urinary tract, and relax the ureter muscles to facilitate the passing of stones.
If you're reading this... I've felt your pain and believe me, you've got little to lose and a lot to gain by trying palo azul tea, even if it just slightly eases your pain.
it will thank you!
* Palo azul is commonly referred to by its scientific name: Eysenhardtia polystachya / E. polystachya / E.P - Cyclolepis genistoides / C. genistoides - kidney wood - palo dulce