In the human’s body kidneys perform several important functions: they process blood to remove waste products and extra water from it (combining that into urine), control blood pressure and help producing red blood cells. After the blood processing, however, the waste products may stay in the kidney forming kidney stones.
The stones vary in size and while small ones may just pass out of the body without any damage, the larger ones (2-3 millimeters) get stuck in the bladder, or the urethra and cause the obstruction. This kind of stone can block the flow of urine and cause pain. Kidney stones are also called calculi and the related medical condition when the patient suffers from the calculi in kidneys is called nephrolithiasis.
The stones also differ in the type of substance they are made of. The most common type is a calcium stone that stays in the kidney in a combination known as calcium oxalate. A struvite stone is compiled of the mineral magnesium and the waste product ammonia; it may be formed after an infection in the urinary tract. A uric acid stone is formed from urine with an excessive amount of acid that may be caused by the large amounts of meat consumption. Cystine stones are made of building blocks that make up muscles, nerves, and other parts of the body; this kind of disease is usually inherited.
In many cases kidney stones do not cause any symptoms. But if a stone moves in the urinary tract and blocks the flow of urine, it results in an immediate sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area where kidney is located. This pain may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, and get spread further to the groin. When the body tries to push out the stone, blood appears in the urine, making it pink. Frequent need of urination and burning sensation are the symptoms of the stone moving closer o the bladder. If the kidney stone causes an infection, fever and chills usually appear. This should be the sign to immediately seek for medical attention.
The major reason of kidney stones’ appearance is an excess volume of stone-forming substances in urine (calcium, oxalate, phosphate, uric acid, and the amino acid cystine). The increased risk of the kidney stones is connected to a non-sufficient fluid intake and the consequent dehydration, obstruction of the urine flow, and the infection of urinary tract. Kidney stones are more often developed within men, and according to the research, they affect people with the white skin type more often than people with black skin. This condition is also likely to be genetically inherited. Gout, hypercalciuria, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to the formation of kidney stones, too.
Kidney stones treatment options include drug therapies, surgical procedures and alternative methods. When the stone is moving through the system, the pain medication is needed in the first place. The drugs that prevent the stones formation include those that raise urinary pH (potassium citrate), dissolve calcium stones and decrease bowel absorption (hydrochlorothiazide and cellulose sodium phosphate). Surgical procedures are decided on when the severe pain do not respond to medications, or for the patients with serious bleeding, nausea, persistent fever and significant urinary obstruction. One more option is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, the procedure used to shatter stones under 2 cm with the help of shock waves.
Herbs and herbal combinations are prescribed both for the prophylactics and treatment of the kidney stones. They are used for various conditions, including acute pain relief and as long-term tonic for the urinary tract.
Bearberry has been for long used in herbal medicine to handle the urinary tract conditions. It acts as diuretic and antiseptic. Good diuretic action is also provided by the birch leaves. Drinking birch leaves tea reduces albumin content in urine.
Khella (Ammi visnagi) is used specifically for the treatment of kidney stones. This herb’s chemicals work as a calcium channel blocker-type antispasmodic helping to relax ureters tissue. In this way small stones are passed through the passages easier.
Horsetail (as well as parsley, dill, fennel, alfalfa, and dandelion) is rich in magnesium which acts against the formation of kidney stones of calcium oxalate. Drinking one tbsp. of this herb’s juice supplies the body with the daily dose of this mineral.
Gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum ) has a speaking name: it was given to this herb for its ability to act against gravels and stones in the kidneys.
For its sedative effects, seven barks (Hydrangea aborescens ) is also a well known herb for urinary conditions; it has been used for kidney stones to relieve pain and relax muscles of the urinary system.
Make sure to consult the herbalist before choosing any herb for use.