Turning to herbs for kidney stone support.
Nick writes that he has recurrent kidney stones and is experimenting with herbs as a way to potentially help his situation. He seemed to have good results with the following combination in pill form: Butea superba, Tribulus terrestris extract, L-arginine nitrate, Vitis vinifera, L-Citruline, Muira puama, maca root, long jack, Avena sativa extract, long pepper extract; and wanted to know our thoughts.
Thanks, Nick, for your question on kidney stones. Unfortunately, there are a number of types of kidney stones (see chart below) and I don’t know what your type is, nor can I say for certain which ingredient is the most active in your mix. But here is what I can tell you. First some general information, and then herbal information.
Types of Kidney Stones
Name of stone Approximate incidence
Calcium oxalate 70 percent of all stones
Calcium phosphate 10 percent of all stones
Uric acid 5-10 percent of all stones
Struvite 10 percent of all stones
Cystine Less than 1 percent of all stones
(University of Wisconsin (www.UWhealth.org))
Demographics. Those of European descent tend to have a much higher incidence of kidney stones, and men are twice as likely as women to suffer from them. Also, if kidney stones run in your family, there is a greater chance that you will get them.
Medications. In general, the following medications taken for long-term use can contribute to kidney stone formation, and extra water should always be taken:
- protease inhibitors
- Make sure that you are drinking enough good water; this will help flush the kidneys.
- Avoid the whites (flour, sugar, white table salt (sea salt is a better alternative).
- Both lemon and pomegranate juices have been shown to inhibit formation of kidney stones. General recommendation is about 3 ounces per day.
- Avoidance of apple, grapefruit juice and cranberry juice all which may, in certain instances, increase the body’s production of oxalates.
- Avoid all sodas and caffeine.
- Increase fiber intake.
- Animal protein evidence is conflicting in diets but when in doubt, eat less.
University of Wisconsin, Department of Urology’s myth busters on kidney stones:
MYTH 1: Kick Calcium to the Curb
“This is a big myth-buster here,” says Kristina Penniston, PhD, registered dietician and researcher in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Urology. “Sometimes we actually need to increase a person’s calcium intake. People that form calcium stones will say, ‘Whaaaat? I’ve been told to avoid dairy all my life!’ To that I say, ‘Yeah, and you’ve continued to form stones, right?!’ “
Many people fear calcium because they hear stones are made of calcium, but the truth of the matter is if your calcium intake is too low, you’re at risk for over-absorbing oxalate, a common compound we eat in many foods. Over-absorbing oxalate can lead to extra oxalate in your urine and that can lead to calcium oxalate stones.
MYTH 2: Axe the Oxalate!
In some people who form calcium oxalate stones, if there’s no other reason (there usually are other reasons!) for that stone formation, then it might be time to try to reduce oxalate intake. After making sure calcium intake is appropriate, then a lower intake of a couple of the most oxalate-rich foods might be recommended. But here’s the caveat, says Penniston: “The foods that are highest in oxalate are also high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, and phytate. These are actually stone inhibitors. Moreover, studies show that when you reduce oxalate, you reduce your fiber intake. That can lead to constipation and other bowel issues. In general, we’re trying to help people eat a healthy, balanced diet.”
Other forms to help with stones: hot sitz baths.
Supplements shown to help or reduce stone formation:
· Apple cider vinegar
· Potassium citrate (balances out a diet with too much salt)
· Vitamin K3
Herbs/plants. Here is an alphabetical list of plants that have been used, both traditionally and today, to treat different aspects of kidney stones. After that, I will give you what I have used clinically. A great place to go to see how herbs for the kidneys were used historically is https://botanical.com/, A Modern Herbal by Maude Grieve.
Aesculus hippocastanum: Horsechestnut seeds for intense or throbbing pain associated with kidney stones.
Agathosma betulina: Buchu leaf is/was used as a diuretic.
Althea officinalis: Marshmallow root, very mucous-like so it was used to soothe hot irritation and/or pain in the urinary tract.
Arctostaphylos uva ursi: Uva ursi, Zea mays: corn silk, Serenoa repens saw palmetto is/was used in combination to reduce stones.
Chanca piedra: stone breaker, used to prevent formation, decrease size, and help pass stones.
Crataeva nurvula: Varuna bark was used to reduce calcium excretion in the urine and increase magnesium and sodium excretion.
Desmodium styracifolium: Beggar lice was used to reduce the amount of calcium excreted in the urine.
Elytrigia repens: Couch grass, dog grass is soothing to the urinary tract.
Equisetum arvense: Horsetail was used to enhance the passing of urinary calculi.
Eupatorium purpureum: Gravel root, joe-pye weed was used to reduce stones and as a diuretic.
Hydrangea macrophylla: Hydrangea root is/was used as a urinary analgesic.
Piper methysticum: kava for urinary tract/kidney pain.
Parietaria officinalis: Pellitory-of-the-wall, in the nettle family—heals geno-urinary tract.
Solidago, spp.: Golden rod-urinary antiseptic, diuretic, increase passage of calculi (often combined with parsley piert (,Aphanes arvensis), or pellitory-of-the-wall.
Tribulus terrestris: Tribulus. used to help prevent formation of kidney stones.
Trigonella foenum-graecum: Fenugreek seed was used to reduce risk of stone formation and slowed the progression of stones.
Urtica dioica: The seed was used as a trophorestorative.
I have found the following herbs to be quite helpful in reducing kidney stones in combination with the above diet recommendations. This is NOT to say that other herbs are not as effective, but rather I have not used them. Also, anything that is anti-inflammatory is great to use (turmeric, pepper, ginger) as well as a demulcent, as an adjuvant.
General formula: hydrangea root, uva ursi, stone breaker, dandelion leaf, parsley and goldenrod. If there is pain, I add kava to the tea: 5 grams of herb in tea form at least once a day.
One Earth Herbal Sourcebook, Alan Tillotson
Weiss Herbal Medicine, Weiss
The Physio-Medical Dispensatory, Cook
A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs, Kerry Bone
British Herbal Pharmacopoeia
University of Wisconsin Health website (www.uwhealth.org)
Jayne Tamburello has a master’s degree in Herbal Medicine from Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) and is the founder of Invibe Herbal, your one stop shop for healthy, organic herbal tea blends. Please visit our website at: www.invibeherbal.com. Jayne is also a licensed nutritionist (LDN), a certified nutritionist (CNS) and a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild, RH(AHG). She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.