6 junio, 2024

Kidney: what it is, properties, preparation, effects, contraindications

What is the kidney?

The kidney (Ipomoea pes-caprae) is a perennial vine that grows flush with the sands of the tropical beaches of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. It is one of the more than 1500 species belonging to the Convolvulaceae family. In the Philippines it is known as bagasua and in Brazil as salsa da praia.

Ipomea comes from two Greek words: ips, which means “worm”; and homois, which means “like” or “similar”. Its name comes from the coiled worm shape of the flower bud. It is also known as goat’s foot because of the shape of the leaf similar to the goat’s hooves (in Latin, pes-caprae).

The plant forms a dense mantle that covers the sand. It can be found on roadsides and is very tolerant of salt, high temperatures and wind. It also serves as a soil stabilizer and prevents coastal erosion.

The flowers open in the morning and close in the afternoon on sunny days, they are bell-shaped and a very attractive pink. As for its fruits, they are spongy and open when dry. The four seeds that are inside are dispersed floating and are not affected by the salinity of the sea.

The plant has turned out to be a bioaccumulator of heavy metals such as lead, zinc, arsenic, selenium, chromium and nickel in tsunami-affected areas, as occurred in Thailand in 2004.

The stems are so strong that they are used to make rope, and the charred leaves are used to make a putty to seal the joints of canoes. The cooked leaves and roots are edible; however, they have a laxative effect.

Its popular name, kidney, originates from its use to treat kidney conditions, especially if there is inflammation or pain. In traditional medicine it is used in many countries as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and healing, among other applications.


Kidney grows preferentially on calcareous and quartz-containing soils, as well as on cliffs. The plant rarely inhabits shady locations indoors, where its growth is limited by that of other plants.

Flowering occurs in summer and early fall. On cloudy days, the flowers open for only a short time during the day, with the petals falling off a day after opening.

The main pollinators of ipomoea They are the bees, which are captivated by both the color of the flower and the nectar. The plant also attracts butterflies, moths, ants, and beetles.

Kidney properties

The pharmacological profile of the plant shows multiple therapeutic activities. Among these are its antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antinociceptive, antiarthritic, antihistamine, insulinogenic and hypoglycemic, antifungal properties against Candida albicans and Microsporum audouinni and immunostimulators.

Chemical composition

Ipomoea pes-caprae it has phytochemicals; that is, secondary metabolites that play an important role in the defense of the plant. In addition, these substances exhibit various pharmacological activities. Among the active components are alkaloids, steroids and triterpenes, flavonoids and phenolic tannins.

The extraction of the active principles is carried out with organic solvents that, when penetrating in the vegetable, dissolve the substances that are there.

The chemical compatibility between the solvents and the substances to be extracted define in each case which extract presents the greatest richness in terms of dissolved components. Subsequently, the solvent of the resulting mixture is evaporated and concentrated at low temperature.

For this reason, reference is made frequently to the substances extracted according to the solvent used; that is, the methanolic, ethanolic, aqueous extracts, etc. are mentioned. In traditional medicine, the usual use is the aqueous extract, when preparing the infusion and decoction of the plant.

Contains betulinic acid, a triterpenoid that has a variety of therapeutic properties. The flavonoid composition is similar throughout the plant, but the concentration of isoquercitrin (a type of flavonoid) is higher in the leaves.

Studies have shown a high variability in the proportion of phenolic compounds according to the place of origin of the plant; this condition may be related to the response of the plant to environmental conditions.

This compound is one of the types of metabolite that the plant elaborates for its protection, when it is subjected to stressful conditions.

antioxidant activity

Phenolic compounds in plants are powerful antioxidants. When ingested, they prevent the adverse effects of oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress occurs due to the imbalance between reactive oxygen species —which include free radicals and non-radical species— and the supply of antioxidants to cells.

When the innate defense in the human body is not enough, maintaining an adequate level of antioxidants to combat reactive oxygen species requires the exogenous supply of these substances.

Oxidative stress damages all components of the cell, including DNA. However, reactive oxygen species can be used by the immune system to attack and destroy pathogenic microorganisms.

Among the exogenous causes that promote oxidative imbalance there are multiple diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, HIV infection, cancer, different types of hepatitis, chronic renal failure, asthma and cardiovascular diseases, among others.

Factors linked to lifestyle also cause it, such as stress, excessive exposure to the sun, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, pollution, smoking, etc. The balance between the production of free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological functioning.

It is important to underline that the antioxidant potential of the plant was more pronounced in the methanolic and aqueous extracts.

Gastrointestinal disorders

the seeds of Ipomoea pes-caprae They constitute a remedy against constipation: they relieve colic and abdominal pain. The preparation of the leaves is used for digestive disorders and is used for the treatment of bleeding hemorrhoids, proctitis and prolapse of the rectum.

Calms vomiting, flatulence and dyspepsia; In addition, it has the property of inhibiting contractions due to the presence of acetylcholine, bradykinin and barium chloride.

inflammatory diseases

Phenols have anti-inflammatory properties. The crude extract contains eugenol and 4-vinyl-guaiacol, compounds that have an inhibitory effect on the synthesis in vitro of prostaglandins, substances that regulate the allergic inflammatory response.

Traditionally it is used to treat jellyfish stings; according to the results of studies in vitroits action neutralizes the toxicity of the poison.

Ipomoea pes-caprae It has been shown to have the same antagonistic effectiveness towards the jellyfish toxin as some commercial drug preparations.

Stimulates the immune system

The immunostimulating activity of kidneyin in extracts in human mononuclear cells has been observed. in vitroand has promising action in the field of immunotherapy.

Moderate anticancer activity

The hexane-soluble extract of the aerial parts of the plant contains lipophilic glycosides with weak cytotoxic activity against a number of cancer cell lines.

The role of betulinic acid as a selective inhibitor of human melanoma has been reported. In addition, phenolic compounds also possess anticancer properties.

Other uses

The whole plant is used in medicinal baths, to relieve arthritis and rheumatism. The roots have diuretic properties and are used to treat bladder problems, difficult, slow and painful urination, and incomplete expulsion of urine.

It is also used to relieve fluid retention in the different cavities of the body. The seeds are used in the treatment of gonorrhea, syphilis, and parasitic infections.

The alcoholic extract has antinociceptive action; Among the compounds that explain this effect are glochidone, betulinic acid, and isoquercitin. Betulinic acid has antiretroviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

How is it prepared?

The decoction of the roots is used against colic and fevers.
The decoction of the leaves is used to relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and also to clean and disinfect wounds and ulcers.
A poultice is formed with the leaves, which is applied to facilitate the removal of sea urchin spines and accelerate the maturation of abscesses.
Eating the young leaf buds accelerates labor.
In Indonesia, the sap of the young leaves is boiled with coconut oil for ulcers and pain.
The infusion of the plant with oxidized iron is used to treat menorrhagia.
The juice of the leaves is administered orally as a diuretic to treat edema, and the same juice is applied to the affected parts. It is placed externally to cure hemorrhoids.

Side effects and contraindications

There are no known side effects in humans. The different extracts (ethanolic-aqueous, ethanolic, aqueous and petroleum ether) that have been prepared with the aerial parts of the plant were evaluated in cats and dogs and did not show any toxicity.

Among the contraindications of this plant, the fact that it should not be used during pregnancy or when its existence is suspected stands out, since there is not enough scientific evidence to ensure the absence of undesirable effects.

When the extract was administered orally and subcutaneously in pregnant cats, no reaction was observed. However, there are no conclusive studies in humans.

Its consumption should also be avoided if anticoagulant therapy is followed; Furthermore, the plant should not be used for medicinal purposes if there is suspicion that it comes from soils contaminated by the presence of toxic metals.

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