Home Remedies for Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can form anywhere along the urinary tract, generally for two reasons: because your urine becomes too saturated with salts (primarily calcium salts) that result in stones, or because your kidneys don’t make enough of substances like citrate that prevent stones.
Citrate normally attaches to calcium, escorting the calcium out of your body through your urine. About 80 percent of stones are composed of calcium; the remainder are composed of uric acid, cystine, or, rarely, struvite (a compound made of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate that forms in the presence of infection).
These five steps will help with the pain of a kidney stone.
- Take 1,000 milligrams of Tylenol and 220 milligrams of naproxen (Aleve).
- Drink 1 quart of water as quickly as you can. Drink another quart over the next 12 hours.
- Take 1/2 teaspoon valerian tincture (a liquid) and 1/2 teaspoon cramp bark tincture (both available in natural food stores) in a small amount of warm water every one to two hours.
- Apply a heating pad or hot compress to the sore area. For even better results, spread castor oil mixed with 10 drops of ginger, peppermint, or juniper oil where it hurts, cover with cotton or wool flannel, then apply a heating pad. You can also soak in a very warm bath to which you’ve added 1 cup Epsom salt and up to 10 drops of ginger, juniper, or peppermint oil.
- If you still have pain, take any other pain medication your doctor has given you. It may also be time to head to the hospital for intravenous fluids and injected pain medication.
Way It Works
The pain relievers should take the edge off the pain. The point of drinking lots of large volumes of liquid is to increase your urine output, which will hopefully wash small stones out of the kidney. The valerian and cramp bark tinctures help ease cramps and abdominal pain, as do the heating pad and the oils.
Herbs and Supplements
You may be able to find prepared tea bags of these herbs in natural food stores. Skip these if you’re pregnant.
Gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum) is traditionally used to relax the muscles around the ureter and ease the passage of stones. Put 1 gram chopped root in 8 ounces boiling water. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and drink one cup several times a day during an acute attack.
Parsley leaf and root tea. Parsley helps increase urine output. It also increases blood flow to the kidney and the rate at which the kidney filters substances, leaving fewer substances around that can turn into stones. Steep 2 grams finely chopped dried parsley root in 5 ounces boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink up to one cup three times a day.
Potassium citrate (Urocit-K, Polycitra-K). Taking potassium citrate for four to six months makes your urine more acidic, which can dissolve small stones and help prevent others. Take 20 to 30 milliequivalents, or mEq, a day. You can either buy this at the health food store as a potassium-magnesium citrate supplement, or your doctor can prescribe it. Don’t take if you are also taking potassium-sparing diuretics.
Lithotripsy. This sound wave therapy is often used to break up stones into sandlike granules so they’re easier to pass.
Surgery. Sometimes the doctor will use forceps to pull a stone through a small incision in the skin, or remove stones in the ureter via a flexible scope inserted through the urethra.
Drink more fluids. You need to drink at least 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of fluid a day to dilute your urine to discourage stone formation. If your tap water has a high mineral content (i.e., you have hard water), drink bottled water or filter the tap water. Some of the liquid can be in the form of diluted juices, especially cranberry juice, lemonade, orange juice, or weak tea, all of which help make your urine more acidic. If you can find it, try black currant juice. Stay away from grapefruit juice, however; there’s some evidence it might increase your risk of stones. And stop drinking sodas. The phosphoric acid in carbonated drinks can increase your risk of stones.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. They’re a great source of a nutrient called phytate, and one major study from Harvard found that the more phytate in women’s diets, the fewer kidney stones they developed. However, avoid foods high in oxalates such as spinach and other dark greens, rhubarb, and beets.
Consume more dietary calcium. It sounds counterintuitive, but the more calcium you eat, the less oxalic acid you absorb from food and the less likely you are to develop stones.
Limit salt and sugar, which increase the amount of oxalic acid your body absorbs.
Sip a glass of wine a day. One study found it could cut the risk of stones by 59 percent.
Get 10 to 15 grams of wheat bran (about 1/2 ounce) a day. It decreases the risk of additional stones in people who have already had a calcium oxalate stone.
Lose weight. Being overweight significantly increases your risk of stones.
Supplement with magnesium. Take 300 milligrams a day in one or two doses. If it doesn’t make your stool loose, consider increasing the dose to 600 milligrams per day. Magnesium keeps more calcium in your body and less in your urine.
Ask about prescription drugs. Your doctor may prescribe a diuretic such as hydrochloro-thiazide, which reduces the rate at which you lose calcium in your urine, or allopurinol, which can decrease uric acid formation.