There is little evidence that suggests cannabis negatively impacts kidney health or cause kidney stones. However, it could provide benefits for kidneys. 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
Can Weed Cause Kidney Stones?
There is currently little evidence to suggest that weed can cause kidney stones, or negatively affect kidney health in general, in healthy people. Cannabis could actually relieve the pain and nausea often experienced with kidney stones and assist with facilitating the exertion of the kidney stones through the urine. Medical cannabis could also help treat inflammation associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD).
How Kidney Stones Form
Kidney stones are hard, pebble-like deposits made of various minerals and salts. They form in the kidneys when you have high levels of certain materials in your urine. Kidney stones often bring severe pain, nausea and vomiting.
Anybody can develop kidney stones. However, some factors increase the risk. Some underlying conditions associated with kidney stones include having a blocked urinary tract, chronic bowel inflammation, cystic kidney diseases, gout and obesity (due to diet). Certain medications like diuretics and calcium antacids also increase the risk. Lastly, genetics can also play a role.
- Calcium stones are the most common type, developing when calcium becomes trapped in the kidneys instead of being excreted through the urine.
- Uric acid stones typically occur after long-term consumption of food containing too much uric acid.
- Struvite stones usually occur after a urinary tract infection.
- Cystine stones develop when an amino acid called cysteine enters the urine, which often occurs due to a genetic disorder called cystinuria.
Traditional Treatments for Kidney Stones
Very small kidney stones may pass through the urinary tract without any treatment painlessly. But this is not the case for many kidney stones.
Most traditional treatments for kidney stones rely on some form of surgery. Shock wave lithotripsy breaks kidney stones into tiny pieces to pass through the urinary tract. A cystoscopy involves an examination of the stone through the urethra or bladder before surgical removal. Similarly, a ureteroscopy involves an examination through the uterus and kidneys before the kidney stone is removed surgically. Finally, percutaneous nephrolithotomy removes large kidney stones by inserting a tube in your back.
How Marijuana Interacts with the Kidneys
Like many organs in the body, cannabinoid receptors are present in the kidneys. Therefore, cannabis can impact kidney health and influence several kidney functional processes, such as renal blood flow, the rate of blood flow in the kidney (glomerular filtration rate), thickening of the tissue (fibrosis), the presence of protein in the urine, and functioning of the renal tubules.
Stimulation of the endocannabinoid receptors can have a negative or positive effect on the kidneys.
It is thought that cannabis has medicinal benefits for treating the symptoms of chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease by manipulating the endocannabinoid system.
It is promising that the activation of one of the endocannabinoid receptor types leads to anti-inflammatory effects in the kidney. A study in mice showed this as a therapeutic target for reducing renal inflammation.
On the other hand, the distribution, type and timing of activation of the receptors are essential considerations , and if those factors are dysfunctional, the endocannabinoid system is more likely to have negative effects on kidney health.
Fortunately, cannabis does not seem to affect the functioning of the kidneys in healthy people. In particular, there has been no evidence of CBD having adverse effects on the kidneys. Despite this, it is recommended that people with chronic kidney disease should still be monitored if using it, and the cannabis should not be smoked. CBD also has immunosuppressive properties, meaning that it can interact with medications given to kidney transplant patients.
Some studies in young adults have found an association between greater marijuana exposure and worse glomerular filtration rate after 10 years. This association may be stronger amongst those who already have kidney disease. Some researchers believe that this could lower kidney function or result in toxicity over time. However, the research in this area remains limited.
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The Connection Between Cannabis and Kidney Stones
There are limited human-based studies that directly connect cannabis to causing and/or treating kidney stones. Currently, no studies or research suggest that cannabis can cause kidney stones.
Historically, cannabis has been used to facilitate the excretion of small kidney stones. Additionally, even if cannabis doesn’t directly help treat kidney stones, it will likely provide indirect benefits. This is owing to the well-known analgesic (painkilling) and muscle relaxant properties of cannabis, which exert their action through the endocannabinoid system.
Since people with kidney stones experience pain, muscle spasms, and nausea, cannabis could help manage these effects. Additionally, renal colic (a type of pain that occurs if the kidney stones block the urinary tract) can also be alleviated with painkillers and anti-inflammatories, again suggesting the potential of medical cannabis to treat these symptoms.
The Bottom Line
For most healthy young people, weed has not been shown to cause kidney stones. However, further research and human-based clinical trials need to be conducted before coming to a conclusion.
Rather than causing kidney stones, some research has shown that weed may help treat them. This is due to cannabis’s well-known effects of painkilling, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is weed good for kidney stones?
There has not been much research conducted to discover whether weed can be used to treat kidney stones directly. However, there is robust evidence that weed can be used to manage pain for various reasons and conditions and that weed has the potential to support the healthy functioning of the kidneys.
It’s believed that weed helps manage the pain of having a kidney stone, which could help manage the pain usually experienced with kidney stones. In particular, weed could help manage or reduce the extreme pain felt when a kidney stone passes through the urinary tract.
What is the effect of marijuana on the kidneys?
Marijuana affects the kidneys because the cannabinoid receptors that partly make up the endocannabinoid system exist throughout the kidneys.
For most healthy individuals, marijuana use does not harm the kidneys. In fact, the stimulation of the receptors by cannabinoids in cannabis could have several medicinal benefits. This includes, but is not limited to, reducing pain and muscle spasms, renal colic, and inflammation.
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.