Kidney stones can be incredibly painful and accompanied by nausea. Learn more here about how medical marijuana is used to treat kidney stones. What are Kidney Stones? Despite its name, a kidney stone is not made of stone. Also known as nephrolithiasis, kidney stones are hard pebble-like mineral deposits that form in the urine in the kidney. Most cases of nephrolithiasis include kidney stones made of calcium and in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a mol Since kidney stones are also an extremely painful condition, it is worth noting how cannabis can work to ease kidney stone pain.
Medical Marijuana and Kidney Stones: Can Patients Benefit?
Kidney stones (also known as renal calculi or urolithiasis) are masses of minerals and salt that form in your kidneys. They can also sometimes originate in the ureters, bladder, and urethra, reports Healthline (18).
Many patients suffering from kidney stones have reported that medical cannabis use eases their pain and nausea. A 2017 study from the American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology details exactly how medical cannabis can ease kidney diseases, including stones. “The two different types of receptors (CB1 and CB2) that are activated by the pharmacologically active ingredients of cannabis are found in numerous tissues, including the kidneys,” according to the medical journal.
Furthermore, “experimental studies suggest that stimulation of these receptors using pharmacologic agents or their naturally occurring ligands could have both deleterious and beneficial effects on the kidneys, depending on receptor distribution, type of renal insult, or the timing of the activation during acute or chronic states of kidney injury (13).”
Interestingly, a Korean clinical research study on a terpene-combination drug called “RowatinexⓇ” has shown effectiveness at expulsing more kidney stone remnants 4 weeks after shock wave lithotripsy than traditional tamsulosin and analgesic (22). A meta-analysis has supported this as well. This drug is a combination of terpenes including pinene, camphene, borneol, anethole, fenchone and cineol—many of these are found in medical cannabis. However, like cannabinoids and terpenes, Rowatinex also does not currently have FDA approval and requires further studies (23).
Medical marijuana—or medical cannabis—has anecdotally helped many patients suffering from debilitating symptoms and side effects of decreased kidney function. What does research tell us about the role the endocannabinoid system plays in renal function?
The ECS and the Kidneys
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of specialized, fat-based neurotransmitters, which are activated by cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant—such as Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — when they come into contact with the two different types of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) (1). Cannabinoids may also act on other receptors in our body beyond CB1 and CB2 to cause effects. These receptors are found in numerous tissues throughout the body, including the kidneys (13).
The role of the ECS in renal pathology—which deals with diagnosis and characterization of medical diseases of the kidneys—is an emerging area of research. It has been studied primarily in the context of CB receptors. The current research suggests that targeting the ECS may be of diagnostic and therapeutic value (4).
Endocannabinoids, such as anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), are responsible for a variety of processes in our bodies (17). These processes include regulating sleep and pain perception, as well as modulating our immune system to slow down inflammation .
According to a review of recent findings related to CB receptors in the kidneys, “Emerging studies using isolated cells, rodent models, and human studies have identified a critical role for the endocannabinoid system in renal function and disease. Thus, therapeutics that modulate the activity of CB1 and CB2 in renal disease could become clinically relevant (5).”
Further research is needed in this area to reduce the adverse effects of cannabis while advancing its potential beneficial impacts on renal function in various types of kidney diseases (13 ).
Can Cannabinoids Treat Kidney Stones?
Symptoms of kidney stones can include severe pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and blood in your urine. For three of these related symptoms—pain, nausea, and vomiting—there is significant research that suggests medical cannabis can help.
Some medical cannabis users report using the plant to treat the pain, nausea, and vomiting caused by kidney stones. Some patients prefer to use medical cannabis in the place of opioid medications prescribed for the severe pain associated with kidney stones (3 ).
A 2008 report out of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics explored if cannabidiol could treat toxicity in the kidneys experienced by patients on cisplatin chemotherapy. The researchers found that cannabidiol was associated with reduction in inflammation, reduced cell death in the kidneys, and improved renal function in mice. It was also associated with marked improvement of compromised renal function in mice. The authors conclude that, “our results suggest that the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid CBD may be of significant therapeutic benefits against the renal complications of cisplatin chemotherapy by attenuating oxidative/nitrosative stress and cell death (12).”
Medical Cannabis and Chronic Pain Management: Replacing Opioids
Chronic pain prevalence in patients that deal with kidney stones and other renal diseases is well-documented. It is often managed through prescription opioids or acetaminophen prescribed by the patient’s doctor.
Both the short term and chronic use of prescription opioids has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality, which presents a clear need for alternative methods for pain relief (21). Access to medical cannabis has been connected with a decrease in opioid prescriptions as well as dose reductions (15) . Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, is a decent alternative to opioids, however, it is easily quite toxic and lethal at doses over 4 grams daily.
The National Academies concluded that substantial evidence exists for the use of cannabis and cannabinoids to treat chronic pain while causing no fatal overdoses (24). Findings suggest that medical cannabis users managing chronic pain with cannabis—as an adjunct of or in place of opioids—may “reduce the personal and social harms associated with addiction, particularly in relation to the growing problematic use of pharmaceutical opiates (7) .”
Historically, cannabis has been recommended for a wide range of ailments including as a spasmolytic— a drug that relieves spasm of smooth muscle— for cases of renal colic, which is a type of pain you get when urinary stones block part of your urinary tract. Renal colic is more often caused by larger kidney stones (20).
Historical documentation of medical cannabis applications also tells us that it was used to facilitate the excretion of small kidney stones in patients (19) . Terpenes like camphene, borneol, and cimeole found in Rowatinex and cannabis also have antispasmodic effects in rodent smooth muscle models. Although cannabis and terpenes could have a therapeutic role in chronic pain management, further clinical trial investigation is needed (22).
Medical Cannabis and Nausea
Considerable evidence demonstrates that manipulation of the ECS regulates nausea and vomiting in humans and animals. Preclinical and clinical research indicates that cannabinioids, including THC and CBD, may be effective clinically for treating both nausea and vomiting (14).
Some studies that have investigated cannabinoids such as THCA have found that this cannabinoid has heightened potential for treating nausea and vomiting. According to one mouse study, THCA proved to be “a more potent alternative to THC in the treatment of nausea and vomiting (25).” More clinical research is needed in this area to fully explore the different cannabinoids and their medical value.
Medical Cannabis and Inflammation
Cannabinoids are potent anti-inflammatory agents, even more potent than Vitamin C or E ( 26 ). In CKD and other kidney diseases, inflammation occurs within kidney tissue and other organs. Pericarditis, a prevalent symptom of CKD and dialysis, is abnormal heart inflammation , and general inflammation is one of the most common conditions targeted with medical cannabis. One of the most popular reports demonstrating that CBD is good for inflammation was published in a 2009 edition of Future Medicinal Chemistry.
“Cannabinoid receptors include CB1, which is predominantly expressed in the brain, and CB2, which is primarily found on the cells of the immune system,” according to the study. “The fact that both CB1 and CB2 receptors have been found on immune cells suggests that cannabinoids play an important role in the regulation of the immune system.” Since inflammation is the body’s response to harm and injury, it would make sense that medical cannabis helps with symptom management of CKD and dialysis (27).
Interestingly, recent studies have shown a mixed protective/deletrious role of cannabinoid receptors in the kidney in response to inflammation and tissue injury (4). Ironically, CB1 receptor activation could make kidney inflammation worse while CB2 receptor activation on immune cells reduces inflammation. It may be best to selectively use a CB1 antagonist and CB2 agonist for kidney-related inflammation according to reviewed studies. Follow up systematic reviews on CBD as an anti inflammatory and antioxidant continue to be published with new findings such as the fact that CBD is a more potent antioxidant than Vitamin C or E (2).
Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of Kidney Stones
When crystal-forming agents, including calcium, oxalate, and uric acid are not diluted enough in the urine, kidney stones develop, reports the Mayo Clinic (8).
There are four types of kidney stones: calcium, struvite, uric acid, and cystine. As noted, passing kidney stones brings on severe pain, especially in the side and in the back (below the ribs). Common symptoms of kidney stones include pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin, a burning sensation while urinating, fever and chills, nausea , and vomiting. Monitor kidney health by staying well-hydrated and being aware of these warning signs.
Larger kidney stones in particular are known for being incredibly painful, with symptoms that may include pain, bleeding, inflammation, or infection. However, these symptoms may not usually develop until the stone has started to move through the urinary tract (9). According to research done by PubMed, “Stone formation is highly prevalent, with rates of up to 14.8% and increasing, and a recurrence rate of up to 50% within the first 5 years of the initial stone episode. Medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and metabolic syndrome are considered risk factors for stone formation, which, in turn, can lead to hypertension, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (6).”
There are other possible causes of kidney stones including dehydration, lack or excess of exercise, obesity, weight loss surgery, or consuming foods high in sodium and sugar (e.g. high fructose corn syrup). Infections and family history of renal disease could be significant for some people (11).
Treatment for kidney stones varies greatly. Smaller kidney stones may be treated by drinking water and taking pain relievers, while more surgery is sometimes needed to remove larger kidney stones. Other treatments for kidney stones may include diuretic medications like tamsulosin, tunnel surgery, and lithotripsy, which uses sound waves to break up calcium masses, all of which are “tailored according to the type of stone,” reports Healthline (18 ) . Infections from kidney stones can be serious and may require IV antibiotics or even hospitalization.
Note: Veriheal does not intend to give this as professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose, or prescribe treatment based on the information provided on this page. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.
Natural Remedies for Kidney Stones
Despite its name, a kidney stone is not made of stone. Also known as nephrolithiasis, kidney stones are hard pebble-like mineral deposits that form in the urine in the kidney. Most cases of nephrolithiasis include kidney stones made of calcium and in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a molecule found naturally in plant-based foods and is also produced by our liver. Kidney stones are often the result of dehydration, high-oxalate foods, obesity, and bowel conditions.
Kidney stones often travel through the entire urinary tract before coming out in the urine. Kidney stones do not cause any permanent damage but can be extremely painful when passed.
How Do You Know if You Have Kidney Stones?
The most common symptom associated with kidney stones involves sharp pain below the ribs that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin. However, kidney stones may not cause any symptoms until they move around within the urinary tract. Hence, kidney stones often go undiagnosed before they reach the narrow tube connecting the kidney and bladder.
In addition to abdominal pain, urine can also help determine if kidney stones are present in your system. Pink or red urine and foul-smelling urine are clear signs that mineral stones may have formed in your kidney. A persistent need to urinate and pain when urinating are also symptoms of kidney stones.
Natural Remedies for Kidney Stones That Actually Work
Treatments for kidney stones vary per individual case depending on the size and type of the stone, severity of symptoms, and how long you have been suffering from symptoms. The most severe cases involving larger stones and unbearable pain often need medical intervention. However, in most cases, people just wait for the stone to pass while taking analgesic medications to minimize the pain. Those suffering from mild symptoms can also choose to use home remedies and treatments like natural herbs for kidney stones.
Herbal Remedies for Kidney Stones
Herbs for kidney stones are among the most common and effective home treatments since they provide an all-natural alternative that is cheap, healthy, and effective. The most popular herbs for kidney stones include plants that are used in everyday foods, such as:
- Wheatgrass:Thanks to the compounds and antioxidants in it, a daily glass of wheatgrass juice can increase urine production while reducing the number of minerals and salts in the urinary tract.
- Celery:Like wheatgrass, celery stalks and seeds can help regulate urine production. Add celery seeds to meals for a tasty way to help improve urinary functions.
- Basil:Basil is rich in acetic acid which is known to help dissolve kidney stones naturally. Basil also helps stabilize uric acid levels, making it one of the best herbs to prevent kidney stones.
Hemp Oil and Kidney Stones
Though not as familiar as the herbs listed above, hemp is also used as a natural treatment for kidney stones thanks to Hemp, the non-psychoactive medicinal compound found in cannabis. Hemp has potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties which help mitigate pain related to a number of conditions. When it comes to kidney stones, Hemp oil and other Hemp products can help reduce inflammation and pain in the urinary tract.
Does Drinking Water Prevent Kidney Stones?
Perhaps the easiest way to prevent kidney stones is staying hydrated. You can do this by drinking the equivalent of eight glasses of water per day. Water helps facilitate the passage of stones through the urinary tract and can slow the formation of deposits in the kidney.
Does Beer Prevent Kidney Stones?
Some search results online claim beer and Coke can help prevent the formation of deposits; however, there is not enough evidence to prove these actually work. Beer and soda can be detrimental to our health, so it is better to stay away from these.
How to Prevent Kidney Stones on Topamax
Medications containing topiramate (brand name Topamax®) are commonly used to treat and prevent seizures and headaches. Unfortunately, topiramate can accelerate the formation of stones in the kidneys which is why it is crucial that you drink plenty of water when taking the medication.
Kidney Stones and Cannabis
While there hasn’t been much research looking at cannabis as a treatment for kidney stones, anecdotal reports from patients and research on other conditions suggests that cannabis may be able to help. We know that cannabis can help with pain, a main symptom of
In addition, alterations in endocannabinoid system activity occur in kidney dysfunction, and this has led some researchers to suggest modulating the endocannabinoid system could be a treatment for kidney disease.
Unfortunately without more research, it is difficult to say whether cannabis can help beyond pain relief.
How cannabis affects kidney stones
There isn’t much research looking at how cannabis impacts kidney stones, but there is some science suggesting that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in kidney function and homeostasis . In addition, numerous studies have demonstrated ways in which alterations to the endocannabinoid system are linked to kidney damage and disease. This has led some researchers to suggest that modulating the endocannabinoid system could be a strategy for treating kidney disease and injury.
In particular, researchers found that the primary receptors in the endocannabinoid system, CB1 and CB2 are present in a variety of cells in the kidney, and both activating or inhibiting them can shift kidney function in significant ways — sometimes benefiting and sometimes harming the kidneys.
Since kidney stones are also an extremely painful condition, it is worth noting how cannabis can work to ease kidney stone pain.
Regulating pain sensation is one of the primary functions of the endocannabinoid system, and it does so by stimulating CB1 and CB2 receptors. When CB1 receptors are activated they reduce pain signals, lessening our perception of pain. Stimulating CB1 receptors can even modify the emotional pain component, reducing our emotional response to pain.
Stimulating CB2 receptors can also help with pain by regulating the activity of the central nervous system’s immune cells. Studies looking at CB2 activation show reduced markers for both inflammatory pain and nociceptive pain (pain related to damage to the body).
Research on kidney stones or related pain and cannabis
When it comes to treating kidney stones with cannabis, the research is scarce. No clinical studies have been done looking at cannabis as a potential treatment for kidney stones specifically, despite anecdotal reports from patients that cannabis can help with the kidney stone pain and replace more dangerous painkillers like opiates.
Still, one 2019 study reviewed the previous literature on cannabis and chronic kidney disease (a condition that can cause kidney stones) and found that patients treated with cannabinoids were 43-300% more likely to report a reduction in chronic pain when compared to the group using a placebo. Still, they didn’t find evidence that using cannabinoids could help with other aspects of chronic kidney disease.
Given the link between altered endocannabinoid system activity and kidney dysfunction, some have also worried that cannabis use could lead to additional kidney damage. One study took on this question, looking at the link between kidney function and cannabis use in healthy young adults . The researchers found that cannabis use was not associated with change in kidney function over time. This suggests that cannabis use isn’t a risk factor for the kidney in healthy young adults.
We can also look at the research on cannabis and pain. While no work has been done on kidney stone pain in particular, there is a fair bit of data suggesting that cannabis is helpful for pain relief. In fact, surveys of cannabis patients reveal that pain is the most common reason for using cannabis — with some studies reporting up to 97% of cannabis patients do so for pain. Other surveys have found that 81% of patients report that cannabis can even outperform opiates when it comes to pain relief.
In addition to these patient reports, more rigorous studies have been conducted to investigate whether cannabis can relieve pain. A 2017 meta-review on the cannabis literature , from the National Academies of Science and Engineering reported that there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults, and tends to produce a moderate level of relief.
A 2017 review of the evidence from Harvard University also found “modest” evidence from clinical trials that cannabis can help with pain relief. The study also found evidence that cannabis could help patients reduce the amount of opioids taken when both were used together. Still, both reviews recommended more research to better understand how to use cannabis effectively to produce pain relief without negative side effects.
CBD and kidney stones
Like with cannabis in general, there isn’t much research on using CBD for kidney stones, but there is evidence that it can help with pain. In fact, it can even help augment THC’s pain relieving properties. One study found that using THC and CBD together produced improved pain relieving abilities when compared to either one alone.
CBD can also help on its own. Studies suggest that CBD when interacts with our endocannabinoid system, it can reduce pain signals and our perception of pain. In fact, the World Health Organization even conducted a full review on the previous medical literature on CBD, and found that the research supports the claim that CBD helps with pain relief. They also found CBD to be safe, non-addictive and without any known negative side effects. This means CBD could be a great alternative to cannabis for those who are sensitive to cannabis’ side effects.
Potential side effects of cannabis use
While cannabis may be helpful for the pain from kidney stones, it can also come with some side effects that have led researchers to caution patients with kidney issues, in particular. For one thing, cannabis can cause temporary cognitive impairment, which could be a risk factor for those on dialysis, particularly those driving to dialysis centers. Cannabis can also cause anxiety and paranoia, respiratory issues like chronic bronchitis, or cardiovascular issues like temporarily increased heart rate and blood pressure. Patients with orthostatic hypotension (common for those with chronic kidney disease) could see problems using cannabis because of these cardiac effects.
In addition, heavy cannabis users on hemodialysis may experience symptoms of cannabis withdrawal such as nervousness, irritability, restlessness, twitch, nausea, stomach pain, increased appetite, and muscle pain. And in rare cases, patients may have cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome — a condition where cannabis use causes cyclical vomiting, which may result in kidney injury.