Background: The use of herbal medicines (medicinal plants or phytotherapy) has recently gained popularity in Europe and the United States. Nevertheless the exact mechanism of the preventive effects of these products is still far to be clearly established, being its knowledge necessary to successfully apply these therapies to avoid stone formation.
Methods: The effect of oral lemon juice administration on calcium oxalate urolithiasis was studied in male Wistar rats. Rats were rendered nephrolithic by providing drinking water containing 0.75% ethylene glycol [v/v] (EG) and 2% ammonium chloride [w/v] (AC) for 10 days. In addition to EG/AC treatment, three groups of rats were also gavage-administered solutions containing 100%, 75% or 50% lemon juice [v/v] (6 microl solution/g body weight). Positive control rats were treated with EG/AC but not lemon juice. Negative control rats were provided with normal drinking water, and were administered normal water by gavage. Each group contained 6 rats. After 10 days, serum samples were collected for analysis, the left kidney was removed and assessed for calcium levels using flame spectroscopy, and the right kidney was sectioned for histopathological analysis using light microscopy.
Results: Analysis showed that the rats treated with EG/AC alone had higher amounts of calcium in the kidneys compared to negative control rats. This EG/AC-induced increase in kidney calcium levels was inhibited by the administration of lemon juice. Histology showed that rats treated with EG/AC alone had large deposits of calcium oxalate crystals in all parts of the kidney, and that such deposits were not present in rats also treated with either 100% or 75% lemon juice.
Conclusion: These data suggest that lemon juice has a protective activity against urolithiasis.