Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in First-time and Recurrent Kidney Stone Formers

Urology. 2021 Oct:156:58-64. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2021.05.084. Epub 2021 Jul 19.


Objective: To describe the patterns of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among patients with kidney stones and analyze the alkali content of commonly used CAM therapies.

Methods: We prospectively conducted structured interviews with patients who presented to a specialty stone clinic for the management of kidney stones. Open-ended questions were used to elicit information regarding CAM knowledge, formulation/dosing, and patterns of use. Several common CAM therapies were then analyzed for their alkali, organic anion, and sugar content.

Results: Of 103 subjects, 82 (80%) patients reported knowledge of CAM and 52 (50%) reported using CAM. Patients with recurrent kidney stones were more likely to report using CAM than patients with first-time episodes (56% vs 26%, P = 0.04). Some respondents reported their condition decreased in severity or frequency since starting CAM therapy (17%) and improvements in pain (12%). Total alkali content per serving of the tested supplements was 0 mEq (Stonebreaker), 1.5 mEq (Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail), 4.7 mEq (Lakewood Pure Cranberry Juice), 0.6 mEq (Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar), 11.9 mEq (LithoBalance), 9.5 mEq (Simply Grapefruit Juice), 19.8 mEq (KSP-Key Lime), and 20.2 mEq (KSP-Very Berry).

Conclusion: Patients with kidney stones may use CAM to alleviate symptoms or prevent recurrence. Commercially available CAM therapies may contain comparable alkali content to commonly prescribed citrate therapy. These data suggest that providers should be prepared to discuss the role of CAM with their patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alkalies / analysis
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Calculi / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence


  • Alkalies