In recent years, an increasing percentage of people from industrialized countries have been using complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). This, combined with numerous warnings regarding the potential toxicity of these therapies, suggests the need for practitioners to keep abreast of the reported incidence of renal toxicity caused by the ingestion of medicinal herbs. The goal of the present two-part series, on the toxic or beneficial effects of medicinal herbs on renal health, is to provide practitioners with a summary of the most recent information as well as the means by which evidence for benefit or toxicity has been found. In this first article, we explore in vivo evidence of toxicity. Included are nephrotoxicity from aristolochic acid and other components within herbs, herb--drug interactions resulting in adverse renal effects, and renal toxicity from contaminants within the extracts. The review aims to provide a guide to encourage future toxicity studies and rigorous clinical trials.