Natural Kidney Stone Treatment
Kidney stones are hard deposits that form inside the kidneys. Composed of minerals and salts, stones can affect any part of the urinary tract, from your kidneys to your bladder.
There are four different types of kidney stones.
The vast majority—up to 80 percent—are calcium stones. They form when calcium combines with oxalate, a natural chemical found in foods like rhubarb, chocolate, spinach, beet greens, almonds, cashews, and peanuts, to name just a few.
Some kidney stones are uric—they form when your urine is too acidic, which allows minerals to crystallize and stick together.
Struvite stones are the result of urinary tract infections. When the bacteria create ammonia, the ammonia can combine with other elements, like calcium, and create solid bodies.
And the rarest type of stone is cystine—caused by a genetic disorder that triggers the body’s natural cystine to leak from the kidney into urine.
At first, a kidney stone may not cause symptoms. But as it passes into the ureter (the tube that connects the kidney and bladder), it may trigger symptoms, which include:
- Severe pain below the ribs or pain that radiates in the lower abdomen
- Pain with urination or the persistent need to urinate
- Urine that is pink, red, or brown; cloudy; or foul smelling
- Nausea and vomiting
Anyone who has ever passed a kidney stone can tell you: It’s no fun. In fact, it can be downright excruciating. But the stones usually cause no permanent damage.
Fortunately, there are a number of effective, natural, noninvasive treatments that can help break up kidney stones, and even help prevent them from forming in the first place.
Crushing Kidney Stones
If you have a kidney stone, the most important thing you can do is drink water…and lots of it. Water helps pass the stone and also dilutes any imbalances in your urine. So, if you’re too acidic, water can reduce that acidity and get your pH back to normal levels.
Magnesium is also important. That may seem counter-intuitive because magnesium is a component in some stones. But magnesium also happens to interfere with the formation of stones by keeping oxalate from binding to calcium.
Finally, take chanca piedra (Phyllanthus niruri), an Amazonian herb that has long been the number one weapon in Ayurvedic medicine to combat kidney stones.
In a published clinical review of existing studies, researchers found that Phyllanthus niruri interferes with many stages of stone formation, reducing the formation of crystals, modifying their structure and composition, and changing the way the crystals interact within the body. These effects may come courtesy of the herb’s ability to relax the ureters, which helps to eliminate urinary acidity as well as elements that promote the formation of crystals, such as calcium.
Even better, the study noted no adverse kidney, cardiovascular, neurological, or toxic effects. In conclusion, the researchers noted that the studies they reviewed “suggest a preventive effect of Phyllanthus niruri in stone formation or elimination…”
There are many products on the market that contain Phyllanthus niruri. The general dosage requirement for dissolving kidney stones is 2-4 grams daily. Once dissolved, continue on a 2 gram maintenance dose for up to three months at a time. (Note, this herb may lower blood sugar and decrease blood clotting, so if you’re taking supplements or medications to manage diabetes or thin your blood, discuss its use with your doctor. It may not be appropriate for you.)
Finally, it’s important to note that not all kidney stones will pass naturally. If you are blocked and can’t go to the bathroom, you need to see a doctor. The last thing you want is a kidney filling up with urine, beyond capacity. In these cases, surgery may be necessary.
Kidney Stone Prevention
The bad news is, once you have a kidney stone, there’s a 50–75 percent likelihood of developing another one, unless you take measures to prevent it.
Now the good news: The same solutions discussed earlier to treat existing stones also happen to work well in preventing new ones from forming.
Magnesium is an inexpensive and readily available mineral that should be part of every kidney stone sufferer’s daily regimen. In one study of 45,619 men, researchers found that those with the highest magnesium intake had a 29 percent lower risk of developing kidney stones. A good daily dosage is 400-500 mg a day. Note, magnesium can sometimes cause loose stools or diarrhea, so start with a half-dose twice daily and work your way up to a full dose once a day.
You can also take Phyllanthus niruri long-term for prevention, and make sure to drink lots (and lots) of water.
Finally, you should alter your diet a bit. Nothing drastic—but cut down on animal proteins such as red meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. These types of proteins increase the acidity of your urine. A high-protein diet also decreases citrate, a chemical in urine that helps prevent stones.
You also want to avoid too much sodium, as it increases the amount of calcium in your urine and makes conditions favorable for new stones. Current guidelines suggest daily intake should be around 2,300 mg, but if sodium was a contributing factor to your past kidney stones, reduce your intake even lower.
Other stone-forming foods to avoid include beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, and nuts, which are rich in oxalate. And sodas are high in phosphate, another contributor to kidney stones.
If you have a history of calcium kidney stones, cut down on foods high in calcium, like spinach. Again, you don’t have to be drastic, but if it makes up too large a portion of your diet, the increased calcium could lead to problems. The timeless advice applies—everything in moderation.
Finally, add some green tea to your diet. A recent study out of China found that green tea drinkers had a lower risk of kidney stones than never/former drinkers. Interestingly, the effect was stronger in men, but women still saw benefit.
If you’ve ever had kidney stones, you know you don’t want to experience them ever again. But by following these simple steps, you’ll crush kidney stones—now, and in the future.
- Boim MA, Heilberg IP, Schor N. Phyllanthus niruri as a promishing alternative treatment for nephrolithiasis. Int Braz J Urol. 2010 Nov-Dec;36(6):657-64. Last accessed Feb. 20, 2019.
- Taylor EN, Stampfer MJ, Curhan GC. Dietary factors and the risk of incident kidney stones in men: new insights after 14 years of follow-up. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2004 Dec;15(12):3225-32. Last accessed Feb. 20, 2019.
- Shu X, et al. Green tea intake and risk of incident kidney stones: Prospective cohort studies in middle-aged and elderly Chinese individuals. Int J Urol. 2019 Feb,26(2):241-6. Last accessed Feb. 20, 2019.
Last Updated: April 25, 2020
Originally Published: June 24, 2016