Kidney stones according to Chinese Medicine

Kidney stones can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like kidney stones here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here kidney stones is often associated with gallstones, back pain and epigastric pain in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm-in-kidneys-or-gallbladder”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause kidney stones.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of kidney stones we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat kidney stones.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause kidney stones

In Chinese Medicine kidney stones is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

The Gallbladder is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

According to Chinese medicine, gallstones or kidney stones are a form of Phlegm.

In addition to kidney stones, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm-in-kidneys-or-gallbladder include gallstones, back pain and epigastric pain.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm-in-kidneys-or-gallbladder is often treated with Si Ni San, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Si Ni San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Regulates Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Kidney Yang Deficiency causes Internal Cold and weakness.

In addition to kidney stones, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency include cold in the lower extremities, impotence and spermatorrhea.

From a Western Medicine standpoint /tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Irregular Menstruation.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency is often treated with Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Yang".

Read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with kidney stones

Si Ni San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Regulates Liver and Spleen. Eliminates Internal Heat.

Why might Si Ni San help with kidney stones?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm-in-kidneys-or-gallbladder' of which kidney stones is a symptom.

Read more about Si Ni San here

Pai Shi Tang

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Discharge Gallstones. Clear Damp-Heat. Facilitate urination.

Why might Pai Shi Tang help with kidney stones?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm-in-kidneys-or-gallbladder' of which kidney stones is a symptom.

Read more about Pai Shi Tang here

Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Yang. Warms the Kidneys and lower extremities.

Why might Ba Wei Di Huang Wan help with kidney stones?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency' of which kidney stones is a symptom.

Read more about Ba Wei Di Huang Wan here

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Why might You Gui Wan help with kidney stones?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency' of which kidney stones is a symptom.

Read more about You Gui Wan here

Er Xian Tang

Source date: 1950 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin and tonifies Yang of the Kidneys. Clears Empty Heat. Regulates the Directing and Penetrating Vessels.

Why might Er Xian Tang help with kidney stones?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency' of which kidney stones is a symptom.

Read more about Er Xian Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat kidney stones

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with kidney stones?

Because it is a key herb in Si Ni San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder' (a pattern with kidney stones as a symptom)

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

Why might Immature Bitter Orange (Zhi Shi) help with kidney stones?

Because it is a key herb in Si Ni San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder' (a pattern with kidney stones as a symptom)

Immature Bitter Oranges is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter, Pungent and Sour. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Large intestine.

Its main actions are: Regulates the flow of Qi in the Middle Burner and reduces Food Stagnation. Moves Qi downward and helps constipation. Reduces Stagnant Phlegm and lessens distention and pain. For prolapse of organs when used with the appropriate herbs.

Read more about Immature Bitter Oranges here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with kidney stones?

Because it is a key herb in Si Ni San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder' (a pattern with kidney stones as a symptom)

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with kidney stones?

Because it is a key herb in Si Ni San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder' (a pattern with kidney stones as a symptom)

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Baikal Skullcap Root (Huang Qin) help with kidney stones?

Because it is a key herb in Pai Shi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder' (a pattern with kidney stones as a symptom)

Baikal Skullcap Roots is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Lung, the Small intestine and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat and Dampness. Clears Upper Burner Heat, especially of the Lung. Clears Heat and stops reckless movement of Blood. Clears pathogenic Heat which is upsetting the fetus. Cools the Liver, reducing Liver Yang rising syndrome.

Read more about Baikal Skullcap Roots here