SOME herbs often hibernate from memory only to pop up in emergencies such as one of my natural health chat group members ran into last week. Her husband, 45, came down with calcium oxalate kidney stones and was finding it difficult to pass urine. This could damage the urine pipe or tube, the urethra, cause an infection there, make urine build up in the bladder, make germs proliferate in the bladder and cause infections there, apart from causing urine back up in the ureters, the pipes which bring urine from the kidneys, infect them and, ultimately if adequate care is not taken, make urine, poisons and germs invade the kidneys, infect and damage them.
Stones occur not only in the urinary system. They arise also in the gall bladder, and are called gall bladder stones. Stones in the gall bladder or in the kidneys or urinary bladder may not be troublesome if they are not bigger than the passages in these organs can tolerate. They are present as grains in many of us, and can grow bigger and more dangerous in certain circumstances. In the urinary system, they can damage the kidneys and cause kidney failure and, by extension, death. In extreme cases in the liver, gall bladder damage and surgical removal of the gall bladder may become necessary. This may lead to “vegetable” existence because bile secretions may no longer be enough or concentrated enough for the functions bile salts are to perform in the digestive system. These include, but are not limited to, the digestion of fats and the excretion of fat-soluble wastes and poisons which may accumulate in the tract and re-absorbed into the bloodstream.
I like to start from the pain this condition can cause…such pain is serious enough to fling some sufferers on the ground, roll them up and down and cause serious vomitting.
THE DOCTORS BOOK OF HOME REMEDIES reports the experience of Major Norman Ellis, a retired officer of the U.S. Air Force who lived in Colorado in Springs. He says:
“I used to think I could bear any kind of pain; I used to have my teeth drilled without anaesthetic, but when I had my kidney stone, I cried.”
About 92 percent of kidney stones are said to be caused by Calcium/Oxalate stones. This means that Calcium salt and oxalic acid, which are supposed to be dissolvable and suspended in solution in the bloodstream are not, and are gradually forming into crystals, some of them as tiny as grains of sand. Someday, these grains will get bigger, cause injury in this organ or block passages, inhibit blood circulation and the movement of other fluid, notably urine. Where they cause a puncture, bleeding may arise, which is why blood is sometimes seen in the urine or picked up in laboratory tests. The punctures created by these stories may become breeding grounds for germs and members of the yeast family, notably candida, which may one day wreak fatal havoc.
It is not enough to take medication to dissolve kidney stones and carry on with subsisting lifestyle as if nothing brought these stones about. With such an attitude, these stones may return with more ferocity sonner than later. As I explained to my group chat friend, the causes of kidney stones should be studied and avoided. Here are some of them…
Some people do not drink enough water everyday, especially in hot weather such as we are wading through in Nigeria at this time before the rain season. Excessive perspiration takes a lot of water out of the bloodstream, making the calculating blood concentrated. Some people will say they drink about three liters of water everyday. But do they know if they hold the water, and if it does not merely run the kidneys? Water is held in three principal reservoirs in the body…inside the cells, around the cells and in the bloodstream. Potassium helps to hold water in the cells, Sodium around the cells. Potassium and Sodium, like Chloride and bicarbonate, are evaporated through the skin in hot weather, leaving inadequate amounts behind in the system, with the implication that the reservoirs cannot thereby hold optimal reserves of water. This suggests that, in hot weather, potassium rich foods such as fruits and vegetables and tubers such as yam, potatoes and cocoyam should be eaten. We all know the dangers of using Sodium chloride (table salt) as the salt-of-choice to hold water in the body. It is refined and dangerous. Already, Monosodium Glutamate, a proprietary glutamate compound, has suffused the diet at home and in restaurants, overloading the system with dangerous Sodium which chases Potassium out of the body and threatens to enter into the cells, destroying the natural order of the body’s fluid and salt landscaping. Rather, natural salt or sea salt, that is unrefined salt, is advocated to be used as a dietary supplement or, as Dr. F. Batmanghelidj suggests, a certain quantum is to be taken with every sixth glass of water drunk in one day. Dr. Batmanghelidj, we should remember, changed the paradigm of medicine in respect of the importance of water intake to health. Hitherto, medicine, always trying to make itself incomprehensible, so as to create a cult or club of professionals whose knowledge is inaccessible to all and sundry, defined water as almost useless in the scheme of things. But Dr. Batmanghelidj broke down the fortress with his two books, YOUR BODY’S MANY CRIES FOR WATER and YOU’RE NOT SICK, YOU’RE ONLY THIRTY and the third he was writing before his death, DEHYDRATION, STRESS AND CANCER.
A modern thinking about dehydration and kidney stones formation is that, as a solvent, there is not enough water to dilute the urine, thereby breaking the clumping of those salts which form stones. Often, do we not see our urine deeply coloured, indicating dehydration? Some doctors suggest that we drink between eight and 12 glasses of water everyday. Another problem we encounter when we do this, however, is that we may be loading more Calcium into our bodies, if the water is hard, since the bottling company does not follow international convention and state on the bottle the mineral composition of the water it is giving us to drink.
Many people consume cheap Calcium in the name of the economy. Most cheap calcium supplements are not readily absorbed, are deposited in organs rather than in bones and teeth or float about, forming stones in the right circumstances. People diagnosed with Calcium oxalate stones should reduce their Calcium intake, irrespective of the sources. The sources of Calcium to watch out for include, but are not limited to, Butter, milk and other dairy products such as cheese, egg. As for Calcium Oxalate stones, the two culprit are Calcium and Oxalate. Some of the rich sources in the diet are Green peppers, Spinach, Beans, Chocolate, tea, Beets, Celery, Grapes, Pear, Okra, Rhubarb, Hibiscus.
Many health authorities suggest several home remedies which may help the sufferer from Calcium/oxalate kidney stones avoid the surgeon’s knife. Among these are…Lemon juice, Pomegranate juice, Wheatgrass, Horsetail, Dandelion root juice, Kidney beans broth, Apple cider vinegar, Basil leaves, Celery juice, Asparagus, Chanka piedra, Urva ursi and Magnesium.
When I said earlier that some herbs were fond of hibernating from memory, I had HORSETAIL in mind. Herb in the treatment of kidney stones and other ailments was sold to my generation of herbalists by that illustrious great Austrian herbalist now of blessed memory, MARIA TREBEN, in her unforgettable book, HELP THROUGH GOD’S PHARMACY, a good family companion. Maria Treben says:
In popular medicine, Horsetail was much esteemed in old times, especially for its blood-staunching effects abd its success in kidney and bladder trouble. But with time, its values were forgotten. It was none other than our great and popular herbalist ABBE KNEIPP who put the Horsetail back to its important place. He declares it as ‘uniquely irreplaceable and valuable’ for bleeding, splitting of blood, bladder and kidney disorders, gravel and stones. ‘For old troubles’, he says, ‘foul wounds, even cancer-like growths and ulcerated legs, Horsetail is of great value. It clears up and burns away everything bad, so to speak. Often, the moist warm plant is placed into moist cloths and applied to the affected part. The Swiss Abbe Kneipp says that all people from a certain age on should drink a cup of Horsetail tea everyday all year round and all pain caused by rheumatism, gout and nerves would disappear and every person would have a healthy old age. He tells of an 86 years old man who was relieved from stones which had caused him a lot of pain, by Horsetail steam bath and who still lived for many years.
“For gravel and stones in the kidneys and bladder, Horsetail sitz baths are taken and at the same time warm Horsetail tea is sipped. The urine is held back and finally emptied under pressure. This way, most stones would pass. On the strength of this suggestion, I have received letters which confirm the above: through this treatment the kidney stones were passed, the persons concerned are well and without any pain. In cases where other diuretic means failed, Horsetail helped, as for example in accumulation of water in the Pericardium, pleura, or kidney disorders, after scarlet fever and other bad infections diseases with water retention. It is an excellent remedy, internally and externally, for the whole kidney and bladder system.”
Maria Treben often prescribed Horsetail Sitz baths for kidney stones and other kidney troubles. For a sitz bath, the bath tub is filled with large quantum of a prescribed herb and the tub filled with enough hot water to immerse the bather up to the kidney area when seated. In Nigeria, such an amount of herb would be expensive if easy to source. And, in any case, many people do not have bath tubs at home. For those who have, Horsetail tinctures may be used for sitz baths or homeopathic tinctures may be taken orally. I have heard of a creative adaptation in which a tincture or the essential oil of horsetail suspended in olive oil is used as massage and Hot water bottle is applied on the kidney area to further drive in the remedy.
Some doctors believe that too much Vitamin C intake, say anything beyond three or four grammes (3,000mg-4,000mg) everyday may increase to rate of oxalate production in predisposed person and induce formation of calcium oxalate stone. Too much vitamin C, it is said, therefore, can cause calcium-oxalate stones to form. But other schools of thought challenge this view. At the forefront are the disciples of Dr. Linus Pauling, who won the Nobel Prize two times for his studies on Vitamin C which suggest some people, such as HIV or cancer sufferers, may even need up to 12,000mg everyday. He died at over 100years. Scientists like him point at Magnesium deficiency and minerals deficiency as the reason Calcium is not properly deposited in the bones and is found in wrong formations, such as Calcium/Oxalate stones.
Calcium and Magnesium combine at the rate of about ratio 2:1 in bone matrix. Therefore if there is a Magnesium deficiency, free Calcium will exist which may find other “marriage” partners, this time oxalic acid, in Calcium/Oxalate stones. To the credit of Magnesium it is said to stimulate the production of CALCITONIN, a hormone of the parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland in the neck region. Calcitonin, sometime called thyrocalcitonin, helps to remove excess Calcium from the bloodstream and put it back into the bones. There are many ways in which the bones lose Calcium to the bloodstream. One way is through a process called CATABOLISM. The body is perennially involved in break-ups (catabolism) and build-ups or up building (anabolism). Osteoclast cells break down bones, releasing their Calcium into the bloodstream. Magnesium helps the production of thyrocalcitonin, which inhibits the activities of Osteoclast cells, thereby keeping Calcium in the bones. Secondly, Magnesium has been found to prevent the kidneys from reabsorbing Calcium thereby reducing Calcium levels in the bloodstream. In the use of Magnesium to prevent or to treat Calcium Oxalate stones in the kidneys, the right kinds of Magnesium pay off in the end, even if they are more expensive. Magnesium citrate is a sure bet. Even then, there are many grades of this, depending on proprietary formulations. Citrate is known to bind with oxalate crystals and prevents them from binding to Calcium. The timing of the consumption of Magnesium would appear to be critical to its abilities to decrease Calcium-Oxalate stone formation. In some studies, people who took Magnesium along with oxalate-rich foods had less stone formation because the Magnesium dragged the oxalate out through the intestine and stool by combining with it. Since many people in Nigeria regularly consume pumpkin leave (ugwu) and may not seem to develop kidney stones, this may offer an explanation for the paradox. I believe it is because these people consume a lot of crayfish in the pumpkin leaf vegetable diet. Crayfish offers Calcium. I believe even the oxalate in okra is “detonated” by the calcium (that slimy stuff) in okra. Some studies have actually shown that low Calcium intake may predispose people to a high Calcium-oxalate stone risk. This would be because, in terms of the timing of dietary intake of Calcium and Oxalic acid, there is not enough Calcium in the meal or diet to combine with oxalate and drag it out of the body through the stool. Therefore, it would appear there is need to consume Calcium, Magnesium and Oxalate in the diet at the same time if Oxalic acid is not to pose a danger in the kidneys. A study of 78,000 women with no kidney stone disease found that they consumed a high amount of dietary Calcium supplement. Lower risks of Calcium oxalate stone was found, also, in a study of 98,000 younger women who took Calcium supplements.
As stated earlier there are many recepies from Mother Nature that should be kept in the herbal first aid box at home. Some of them are…
Lemon juice contains citrate, which, as stated earlier, help to prevent kidney stones from forming by binding to Oxalate. A lemon may be frozen and grated, peel, rind and fruit sac, and diluted with warm water and sipped throughout the day.
The Yoruba’s of South-western Nigeria call it Efrinrin. The Igbos call it Nchianwu. The Efiks call it Ntong. The juice contains acetic acid. This acid helps to break down kidney stones and reduce pain. It is good for lowing uric acid levels and for preventing stomach and intestine spasms. The lowering of uric acid levels may help to prevent the risk of kidney stone formation. Grandma must have been guided to use it in her cooking!
Apple Cider Vinegar
An all-rounder for healthy scalp, hair, eyes, nail, skin and digestion among the benefits ascribed to it by old herbalist CYRIL SCOTT, Apple cider vinegar (ACV) offers citric acid for the dissolution of kidney stones. It acidifies the stomach for healthy digestion and alkalizes the blood and urine.
Alkaline forming this juice is a detoxifier of the blood. It helps to clear away toxins which may pave way for kidney stone formation. Salty but rich in Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 and Vitamin C, Potassium, Folic acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorus, Sodium and amino acids, it aids kidney function and breaks kidney stones. It supports the breaking of gall bladder stones as well.
I prefer the use of the root to the leaves. The root stimulates bile production in the liver, eliminate waste and toxins, improve digestion and urinary output. A traditional kidney herb, Dandelion is potassium-rich as is, arguably, Nature’s leading diuretic and kidney cleanser. It is a better diuretic than pharmaceutical diuretics because it gives the body Potassium whereas some of those other ones leach potassium from the body.
We belittle this herb and others like it with a mere mention as a kidney cleanser and urinary flow enhancer which promotes the passage of stones. This column has featured more of its characteristics in www.olufemikusa.com.
Kidney bean broth
When beans are cooked, the broth should be strained and drunk throughout the day. It is reported to improve urinary and kidney health, dissolve and flush out stones. Red kidney bean pod as tea or food supplement goes beyond this to even cut high blood sugar and cholesterol and heal respiratory ailments.
Another great herb well saluted in www.olufemikusa.com, it improves urine production, is anti-inflammatory, supports kidney function, dissolves uric acid, pulls fluid digestion especially around the heart.
Now becoming popular as a heart saver because it cleans out the coronary arteries, its antioxidant and astringent properties are said to combat kidney stones and make them easily expellable. Pomegranate seed powder tea, for example, reduces acidity of urine, and this makes it harder for stoned to form in the kidneys.
Mr. Kevin Ejiofor, former director-general of radio Nigeria, will remember this as a herb he liked to combine with Stinging Nettle for his mother’s arthritis with great results. It is said to have existed for more than 100million years. Carbone dated puts this back to the Age of the Dinosaurs. Sought after as a tea since the beginning of civilisation, horsetail helps urinary infections and health and in the management and expulsion of kidney stones.
I would commit a sin against this gift of Mother Nature if I leave it out of this report. About 20years ago, I kept a small library of this herb and its functions. It is found useful as an anti-malerial, in male virility, in the treatment of hypertension and diabetes and in stone crushing, among other benefits. In fact, the name Chanka Piedra is an Asian name for this plant which means “Stone crusher”. It crushes both gall bladder and kidney stones. Indian and Brazillian researchers shot into the lead of studies world-wide in the 1960s when this plant came to limelight again. So far, there must be about 1,000 studies into its health benefits. These studies find Chanka Piedra to be an anti-inflammatory substance in the kidneys, and as an hepaprotective. It has been found to be the most effective non-toxic natural medicine for Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). It has proven track records as well in the treatment of HIV, herpes, asthma, bacterial and viral infections, colic and bronchitis, colds and flus, among many health challenges. Ladies and gentlemen, Chanka Piedra grows abundantly in Nigeria during the rain season. Hold your breath…it is a perennial pant the Yoruba’s call Ehinbisowo or Ehin Olube.