When Romie B’s husband Joey got kidney stones for the second time, she recognized the symptoms right away. "It hit him hard: severe pain, chills, vomiting, and of course, trouble urinating," says Romie, who lives in Akron, Ohio. "The doctor said to drink a lot of water and cranberry juice for kidney stones until they pass."
Romie herself had kidney stones in the past. She knew that before the stones pass, they can be painful — maybe the most uncomfortable thing most people feel in their lifetime, barring childbirth.
"Hopefully, as much as it hurts for Joey to pass the stones, he passes them sooner rather than later. I’m making sure he is drinking cranberry juice." So what does cranberry do that helps with kidney stones? Read on to learn more.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are deposits — sometimes called calculi — that form in one or both of your kidneys. Kidney stones are usually hard and develop when your urine becomes supersaturated with insoluble salts and minerals, like calcium, oxalate, or phosphate. They range from the size of sand grains to golf ball-sized stones. A kidney stone’s texture can be smooth or jagged.
In the United States, one out of 11 people will get kidney stones at some point in their life. About 5 to 10 percent of the population is genetically predisposed to develop them.
Usually, small kidney stones can pass through the urinary tract on their own. Larger stones, however, can get stuck and create issues, such as blocking urine flow from your kidney to your bladder — and causing extreme discomfort.
How Cranberries Can Help Kidney Stones
Cranberries are a tart, red fruit that many people associate with Thanksgiving dinner. Although you’re used to seeing them in a sauce on the table during the holidays, cranberries have a long history in North America.[3, 4]
Native Americans used cranberry fruits and leaves for bladder, stomach, and other ailments. Even today, cranberry juice is a well-known natural herbal remedy for urinary tract infections and other renal system conditions, including kidney stones.
Cranberry Juice for Kidney Stones
The same phytonutrients in cranberries that keep harmful microorganisms from adhering to the urethra lining (thus promoting normal urinary tract health) also prevent kidney-forming crystals and stone-promoting harmful organisms from sticking to kidney cells. If they don’t stick together, they don’t form stones, and can more easily and painlessly get purged from your system in urine.
Cranberries also positively affect the chemical composition of your urine, including pH, volume, and calcium excretion.[5, 7] Overall, they help with the issues that can lead to kidney formation.
When a group of men took 500 mL of cranberry juice diluted with 1,500 mL of water for two weeks, their urine changed for the better. These men excreted less oxalate and phosphate in their urine, reducing their risk of developing kidney stones. Oxalate and phosphate are two of the compounds that can form kidney stones, so you don’t want high levels in your body.
Beyond that, the men's' excretion of citrate also rose — another indicator that their kidneys were working well and not forming stones. When urine has higher levels of citrate and a higher pH, you’re less likely to develop kidney stones.
Favorite Ways to Use Cranberries
Cranberries are versatile. You can use them in both food and drinks. However, they’re tart, so it’s hard to eat them fresh or on their own. I recommend using raw honey, organic maple syrup, or monk fruit to sweeten recipes that include cranberries.
This lovely, tart tea is a great pick-me-up in the morning or anytime during the day!
- 1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Raw honey to taste
- Rinse fresh cranberries in cold water.
- Add all the cranberries and cinnamon sticks to a saucepan with 2 cups of purified water.
- Cook the cranberries on medium heat until they are soft and pop open.
- Remove the cranberries from the stove and strain the liquid from them into a bowl.
- Use the strained liquid to make tea and add raw honey to taste.
Year-Round Cranberry Sauce
Instead of buying canned cranberry sauce that’s filled with preservatives and loaded with sugar, try this simple, homemade recipe instead!
- Wooden spoon
- 1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
- ¾ cup of water
- 2 teaspoons of orange zest
- ½ cup of monk fruit
- Rinse fresh cranberries in cold purified water.
- Zest the rind of an orange to get two teaspoons worth.
- Add the water, cranberries, orange zest, and monk fruit to a saucepan.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Lower the heat, so the pot simmers for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
- Make sure all the cranberries have popped and are soft before removing from the heat.
- Remove from the stove and allow the sauce to cool. Serve.
Cranberry — usually in the form of fruit extract — is one of the most popular supplements in the United States. Nearly 2 million people take them regularly. You can find cranberry supplements as capsules, teas, and liquid extracts.
When looking for support for urinary tract health, a good option is to combine cranberry with other herbs. Plant-Based Kidney Health provides a superior blend of kidney-supporting herbs, including cranberry, horsetail, hydrangea, uva ursi, and others. Our industry-leading Raw Herbal Extract™ technology enables this liquid herbal extract to detoxify and cleanse while providing nutritional support for the kidneys.
What Else Can Help Kidney Stones?
Are you wondering what else you can do to help your kidneys? If you have a history of developing kidney stones, or you are concerned about developing them, below are some other suggestions to keep them at bay.
- Drink plenty of fluids. By drinking plenty of fluids, you’ll increase urine production and help move minerals out of your body. Drinking more purified water is rule number one for kidney stone prevention. Although water is best, you can also drink citrus beverages like orange juice because the citrate in them can prevent kidney stones. Or, of course, cranberry juice!
- Reduce sodium intake. Lowering your salt intake is essential because sodium is a risk factor for kidney stones. Too much sodium in your diet increases calcium levels in your urine. Reducing sodium can prevent stones from forming.
- Avoid animal protein. Eating less animal protein — including meat, seafood, dairy products, and eggs — reduces your risk of developing kidney stones. High-protein diets cause excess calcium in urine, lowers urine pH, and increases uric acid — all of which raise the chance that stones will develop.
Points to Remember
Cranberry is one of the most popular herbal supplements in the U.S., and drinking cranberry juice is often recommended by doctors and other healthcare providers for kidney stones and other urinary system issues.
Experts believe that the same natural compounds in cranberries that prevent harmful organisms from sticking to the urethra keep minerals that form stones from sticking together. Instead, they exit the body in urine.
Cranberry juice is a safe, natural way to support your kidneys. Another option is to take cranberry supplements to maintain the health of these vital organs. Other ways to reduce your risk of getting kidney stones are drinking plenty of fluids, lowering sodium intake, avoiding animal protein, and performing a kidney cleanse.
A kidney cleanse can flush harmful minerals from your system and set the stage for kidney health. Plant-Based Kidney Health contains cranberry and other herbs that support the normal functioning of your kidneys while eating a healthful diet.
- Definition & Facts for Kidney Stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Updated May 2017. Accessed 17 Dec. 2019.
- Scales CD Jr, et al. Prevalence of kidney stones in the United States. Eur Urol. 2012;62(1):160-165.
- The Cranberry Kidney Connection. National Kidney Foundation. 2019. Accessed 17 Dec. 2019.
- Cranberry. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Updated Nov. 2016. Accessed 4 Nov. 2019.
- McHarg T, et al. Influence of cranberry juice on the urinary risk factors for calcium oxalate kidney stone formation. BJU Int. 2003 Nov;92(7):765-768.
- Butterweck V, Khan SR. Herbal medicines in the management of Urolithiasis: alternative or complementary? Planta Med. 2009 Aug;75(10):1095-1103.
- Kessler T, et al. Effect of blackcurrant-, cranberry- and plum juice consumption on risk factors associated with kidney stone formation. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Oct;56(10):1020-1023.
- Use of Complementary Health Approaches in the U.S.: National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Most Used Natural Products. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH. Updated 24 Sep 2017. Accessed 16 Jan 2020.
- Treatment for Kidney Stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Updated May 2017. Accessed 16 Jan 2020.
- Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Kidney Stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Updated May 2017. Accessed 16 Jan 2020.
- Han H, et al. Nutritional management of kidney stones (nephrolithiasis). Clin Nutr Res. 2015;4(3):137-152.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.