Saturday, 25 March 2017

Herbal remedies for urinary stones used in India and China: A review

Volume 203, 5 May 2017, Pages 55–68


Ethanopharmacological relevance

The process of formation or appearance of a urinary stone anywhere in the renal tract is known as urolithiasis. It is a longstanding health problem, known to exist since early age of civilization. Records about symptoms, signs and treatment strategies of urinary stones diseases are found in the several ancient texts of traditional medicines such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Siddha and Unani. In Ayurveda, urolithiasis has been considered as one of the eight most troublesome diseases. Ayurvedic management and cure of urinary stone involves herbal formulas, alkaline liquids and surgical procedures. Whereas, TCM recommends polyherbal drugs, acupuncture and mexibustion for treatment of the urinary stones. Among these therapies, herbal remedies are in practice till today for the treatment and cure urinary stone diseases.

Materials and methods

A comprehensive review of the scientific literature about pathophysiology of urinary stones and antiurolithiatic plants was undertaken using the following bibliographic databases: MEDLINE/PubMed, Scopus, Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar. The search was conducted from publications from all years until Dec., 2015 by combination of the search terms and Boolean operators; ‘urinary stone’ OR ‘kidney stone’ AND ‘plant’ OR ‘medicine’ OR ‘antiurolithiatic plants’. Outputs were restricted to those completed studies only published in English. In this review, literatures about plants which are used as diuretic and/or in treatment urinary tract infections have not also been considered. The Plant List and Royal Botanical Garden, Kew databases were used to authenticate botanical names of plants. Books and monographs published in English were used to collect information about historical records of antiurolithiatic plants.


Recent pharmacological interventions accredited ancient antiurolithiatic claims to several plants and their formulations. The majority of antiurolithiatic plants were found to either dissolve the stones or inhibit the process of urinary stone formation. Plants such as Phyllanthus niruri L. and Elymus repens (L.) Gould, as well as herbal products including ‘Wu-Ling-San’ formula, ‘Cystone’ and ‘Herbmed’ have been proved their utility as promising antiurolithiatic medicines in the different phases of clinical trials. In addition, some of the isolated phytochemicals such as berberine, lupeol, khelin, visnagin, 7-hydroxy-2′,4′,5′-trimethoxyisoflavone and 7-hydroxy-4′-methoxyisoflavone were reported to have potent antiurolithiatic activity.


In ancient medicinal texts, antiurolithiatic potential has been ascribed to several plants and their formulations. Present scientific studies provide scientific evidences for few of these claims however, they are insufficient to establish many of these plants and herbal formulations as therapeutic remedies for the treatment and management of urinary stones. Conversely, findings of pre-clinical and clinical studies about some plants and herbal formulations are promising, which underlines the utility of herbal remedies as alternative medicines for the treatment and management of urinary stones in the future.

Graphical abstract

Image for unlabelled figure


  • b.w., body weight;
  • CT, computerized tomography;
  • ESWL, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy;
  • GAG, glycosaminoglycans;
  • i.p., intraperitoneal;
  • PCNL, percutaneous nephrolithotomy;
  • TCM, traditional Chinese medicine;
  • URS, ureteroscopy


  • Alternative medicine;
  • Ayurveda;
  • Chinese medicine;
  • Homeopathy;
  • Plant remedies;
  • Shiddha;
  • Urinary stone;
  • Urolithiasis;
  • Unani