There is little evidence that suggests cannabis negatively impacts kidney health or cause kidney stones. However, it could provide benefits for kidneys. In the United States, approximately 11 percent of all men and 6 percent of women will experience kidney stones at some point in their lives according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD).  Furthermore, these yellow or brown pebble-like formations are more common in…
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.
CBD Oil And Kidney Stones
In the United States, approximately 11 percent of all men and 6 percent of women will experience kidney stones at some point in their lives according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD). 
Furthermore, these yellow or brown pebble-like formations are more common in Americans with a family history of kidney stones or those that have a medical condition that increases their risk of developing stones. This includes those diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, obesity, or repeated urinary tract infections.
Certain medications—like diuretics, calcium-based antacids, and anti-seizure medications—can also cause kidney stones. And if you’ve had them once, you’re more likely to get them again. How do they form?
Kidney Stone Formation
The NIDDKD indicates that kidney stones can form if there are high levels of specific minerals that are present in the urine.
Based on these minerals, the four types of kidney stones are:
- Calcium stones (which includes calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones). These are the most common types of kidney stones and occur when your body has extra calcium that is not used by your bones and muscles. Though, eating a high calcium diet does not necessarily mean that you’ll develop calcium stones.
- Uric acid stones. If you eat a lot of fish, shellfish, and organ meat, you may be more prone to developing uric acid stones. Uric acid is also what causes gout, a condition that can cause high levels of pain due to crystals forming around the joints. 
- Struvite stones. Struvite stones can occur if you have a urinary tract infection. The NIDDKD states that these particular stones are known for forming and growing rather quickly.
- Cystine stones. This type of stone is more common in people with cystinuria, a genetic condition in which cysteine—which is an amino acid—leaks into the urine.
All four of these types of kidney stones can cause severe pain, particularly if they get stuck in the urinary tract and are unable to pass on their own.
Fortunately, research has found that lab grade, full spectrum CBD (cannabidiol) can help ease this type of chronic pain .
How CBD Works
CBD is one of hundreds of cannabinoids found within the hemp plant, of which tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is probably the most well-known.  Though, unlike THC, CBD does not create a psychoactive effect.
The endocannabinoid system interacts with cannabinoids, both those made by your body and those ingested via hemp and cannabis substances. These cannabinoids attach to the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, resulting in a few rather positive health benefits.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shares that some of the health benefits provided by the cannabinoids found in medical cannabis and various CBD products include reduced inflammation and individuals having fewer seizures. 
For those suffering from kidney stones specifically, CBD can also help provide lower levels of pain. This is critical as many kidney stone sufferers report experiencing excessive amounts of back pain near where the kidneys are located.
Research: CBD for Pain
Research conducted in this area confirms CBD’s positive impact on kidney stone pain and overall kidney health.
For instance, one study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology shares that cannabinoids such as CBD can help improve kidney health by stimulating the CB1 and CB2 receptors. 
Another study took an in-depth look at the renal benefits CBD can provide chemotherapy patients, a demographic which is more susceptible to developing toxicity in the kidneys. 
In this case, researchers noted that CBD offers an anti-inflammatory effect and decreases cell death in the kidneys while also improving total kidney function.
Proper CBD Dosing
Like with any other health supplement, proper dosing is important when it comes to safe and effective pain management for kidney stones.
According to Medscape, just one dose of CBD “is likely insufficient,” with most therapeutic doses ranging somewhere between 2.85 and 50 mg a day depending on the individual and his or her response to this particular cannabinoid. 
However, since cannabis use is now becoming more widely accepted for medical purposes versus strictly for recreational use, Medscape goes on to say that more studies need to be conducted in this area to determine proper dosing for kidney stones and other chronic kidney diseases specifically.
Choosing CBD Product Type
In addition to using the right dose, it’s also important to choose the right CBD product type.
Some of the options in this area include CBD oil and hemp oil, tinctures, sprays, and medical marijuana. It is important to note that medical marijuana also contains THC, so this is something to keep in mind if you want a product that does not offer a psychoactive effect.
That said, some CBD products also contain THC, making it important to know what’s in the products you’re interested in trying for chronic pain relief if you’re concerned about the common effects of cannabis or testing positive on a work-related drug test.
CBD’s Potential for Side Effects
In a Critical Review Report, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that CBD has failed to produce any major side effects when tested in various human studies. 
The WHO adds that many open label and clinical trials have also found that this hemp plant cannabinoid “it is generally well tolerated, with a good safety profile.”
In the end, if you’re concerned about whether CBD can help reduce your kidney stone pain safely and without unwanted side effects, you can always consult with medical professionals who are familiar with this cannabinoid and ask them for guidance when making the right decision for you.
This expert can also help you figure out how much CBD you should be taking a day to achieve your desired relief from kidney stone pain.