Kidney Stones

My own kidney stone and the late Michael Moore's personal stories are below if you are interested but I want to say right away that kidney stones are problems that quickly cross the border from being something you should be trying to fix yourself with natural means to something you should be asking for help with from conventional medicine. If they are too big to pass then they will not be going anywhere without some specialised help!

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On the other hand if we are principally talking about prevention here is my advice in a nutshell.
  1. Don’t get dehydrated, ever. This is really not that hard, unless you are a Bedouin.
  2. Eat a piece of citrus fruit every day or at least every other day.
  3. Eat well, eat lots of vegetables and don’t eat factory processed food.
  4. Keep fit and don’t get too fat
  5. By all means regularly take herbs for the kidneys including such wonders as Marshmallow, Corn Silk, Golden Rod and the great Juniper berry. But if you have a bad stone, and are getting the kind of symptoms from it that are telling you that something is seriously wrong then you will likely need a special procedure to break up the stone so you will have to put your kidney in the hands of modern medicine... in that case, hmmmm, maybe you shouldn’t read any further than this, it's just a couple of guy’s stories after all...

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My kidney stone story:

One summer’s day when I was in my 20’s, totally out of the blue, I experienced an unusual pain that went in and around parts of my low back and low abdomen with strong and increasing frequency. It felt like it would help if I went to the toilet but help me the toilet did not. Pacing around like a caged bear and making low moaning noises didn’t help either but for a while there it was the best I could come up with. Eventually, and with no small resistance to the whole process (I was in my early years of natural medicine practice when this happened and was as typically ‘black and white’, ‘us vs. the evil-pharmacy-corporate’ as many of us are when we are starting out) I drove myself into the after-hours medical centre

I can’t remember much about the doctor I eventually saw, what he said or did, but I do remember him asking me if I felt nauseous at all and I vividly recall how it was only at that very moment that I realised
“Yes! Oh my God, I am feeling incredibly nauseous!”
I’m sure it was only a matter of milliseconds that he got a bucket to me before I emptied the entire contents of my gastro-intestinal tract on the spot.

One thing fairly quickly led to another at that point and I was soon lying in a bed in the emergency department of the hospital preparing for a contrast x-ray of my kidneys after an injection of dye. As an aside I also recall how the bed next to me contained an even younger man who had obviously come off his motorbike very badly. I was quite enjoying the distraction of him laughing and joking with his attendants and it was only when I heard the surgeon telling him how his foot was going to have to be taken off that I understood how high he was on whatever it was that they were giving him....

Anyway I eventually saw some rather dramatic x-rays showing how one of my kidneys was entirely blocked by a significant sized stone. However by that time the spasms and pain had all but passed and so I checked myself out with dire warnings about ‘what might be to come’ ringing around my ears. These same warnings were followed up by a letter a week later again telling me to check into the urology system but by this time the general stupidity of my youth was being bolstered by the copious reading I was doing about all the natural ways of dealing with kidney stones.

Fast forward more than 20 years later and we get to the meat of the story, so to speak.
I followed the kind of prevention advice I have summarised above quite faithfully over those years and I think things might have been much worse much sooner if I hadn’t but I still had occasional bouts of being reminded of that old stone of mine over the time, especially if I got too hot and didn’t keep my fluids up. Pain is a great teacher in such ways.

It was really in the last two years or so of my stone's existence that it made me aware of its presence with increasing urgency. When things were regularly getting to the point of seeing that pink tinge of blood in my urine I knew I could not remain in denial of just how bad this was no longer. The point between making that first appointment and actually stepping into the lithotripsy bus was nearly another year but in I stepped and on went the machine.

In case you don’t know, lithotripsy involves sending about 5 thousand tiny shock waves through your skin and directly into where the stone has been pinpointed to be. The first two thousand little thumps don’t really feel like anything much, the next thousand are more than a little annoying but it is when it gets to the 4th thousand lot of shocks that you really start to understand what Chinese water torture was all about. By the time we get to the 5th thousand we really have to start using analogies to bread-knives and rolling pins to remotely approach how uncomfortable the whole thing becomes.

It is what happened later that gets us to the funny part, assuming that you see humour can just as well be dark as light. The lithotripsy doesn’t vaporise the kidney stone, it just turns it into a ‘bean bag’ full of tiny stones as distinct from one unmoveable boulder. I went home soon after the shock therapy but what happened later that day made that first summer day when it all began look like a picnic in the park.

I was convinced that the bean bag had got stuck somewhere it shouldn’t as I couldn’t pee let alone hold down so much as a glass of water, regardless of much I tried to drink. I went through a series of increasingly bizarre phone calls trying to contact someone in the correct department before I gave up and took a taxi back in to the hospital. The taxi driver could not have taken a more circuitous route but will not soon forget the large moaning male mammal that filled a plastic bag in a way you really don't want your passenger to be doing on the long ride in.

The emergency department cottoned on to what was going on fairly quickly but the wheels of bureaucracy move at their own pace. Each time the curtain was pulled and I was sure my deliverance was at hand it was just another person working for administration checking they had the right details for billing...

Finally a nurse arrived, a male nurse I might add, (which has always been the most confusing part of the whole thing for me). A harried doctor also then soon came and went in less than a minute but left the nurse with the business of injecting me with a large amount of morphine and also (gulp!) pushing a catheter up me to help me pass whatever heinous piece of human shrapnel it was that was presumably blocking the pipes.

Now for the love of all that is holy and good in this world would you not think that any feeling human being, let alone a fellow male, would have given the morphine first and the catheter second? I mainly recall a feeling of sheer disbelief that this, this unspeakably wrong way to put things up instead of out, was happening to me before, rather than after, the morphine!

In any case sadly there was no blockage. The expected flood of blissful relief never eventuated. The specialist that finally came in some hours later explained to me that the reason I was not passing any urine was the same reason that I was vomiting up everything I was drinking. I was getting levels of pain that were severe enough to stop my body from being able to absorb water or anything else.

The next week was actually one of the deepest learning periods of my life. At first I was scared because that much pain was frankly terrifying. Consequently I took all the pain killers on offer, at least at the beginning. But the pain and tension just kept on coming and I just felt increasingly clouded and confused. I got to the end of the third day and was at one of the lowest points I have ever been in my life.

It was during that third night that I got a moment of clarity which was something to the effect that I have done a lot of inner work in my life that might just be of some use to me here and now in my hour of need.

From that point I didn’t take any more pain-killers and instead went ‘into’ the pain. It’s always hard to explain this, usually when I do this with my own patients they are in pain right at that moment and it all makes a lot more sense in person. In any case it was a huge relief to have my head clear of all the drugs so I could concentrate on the pain and what it was that my body was a) trying to tell me and b) trying to do.

I did finally pass that ‘bean bag’ some of it in little bits and pieces, most of it in one pretty frightful but deeply relieving ‘plug’.

I think we can significantly reduce the risk of a stone re-developing but I know the odds are still stacked against me for having a recurrence one day so these days I am extra careful to prevent dehydration and to generally be as healthy as I can without getting neurotic about it...


The main cause of kidney stones is, by far, simply not drinking enough water!

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Michael Moore's story:

I would also like to share a story from Michael Moore that he himself shared a few years ago. Michael has since passed on so I can’t ask his permission to do this but I’m pretty sure he wouldn't mind, he was a sharing kind of guy. 

Michael Moore was a truly great American herbalist and he has had a strong influence on my own professional development so in that sense I consider him a mentor but I never had the chance to meet him in person. He hated flying anywhere and I’ve never charged enough to afford that kind of trip.

This is Michael Moore’s story, in answer to a query about how to deal with kidney stones “Lobelia tincture to stop the expelling cramps and relax the ureters...anywhere from 15 drops to as much as 60 drops, repeated every hour or two until either sleep occurs or the stone is residing in the bladder and the flank pain or clonic aching has stopped.

Follow up with lots of medium hot marshmallow, mallow, hollyhock, globemallow...i.e. malvaceae tea, drunk while in a rather hot but not scalding bath...at least an hour, preferably two.  The stone(s) should pass in copious urine. If it doesn't, or there is substantial reddening of the urine from blood or a fever begins, get thee to an ER.

It helps to know whether you are making alkaline (calcium/phosphorus) stones or acid (uric/huppuric acid) stones for future prevention.

 I followed this regimen 9 times over 20 years (including 2 episodes with hematuria) and passed them all.  The tenth time, last summer, gave me urecemia, septicemia, and acute kidney failure and almost killed me. I got too complacent and didn't evaluate the long-term damage all those stones had done to one of my kidneys....es la vida"


Althaea officinalis (Marshmallow leaf & Root)

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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