The emergency room doctor approached my bed. I was in New York Downtown Hospital in Chinatown, hooked up to an IV. It was 5 am.
Five hours earlier I had been at home writhing on the floor in agony. “Oh God! Oh heaven, Oh please stop!” I begged, as what seemed like a hot knife stabbed me repeatedly in the lower back. It was no knife. I’d had a kidney stone, my fourth in as many years. The pain would stop for a few minutes, then start up again. It had already made me vomit many times. My wife sat there watching, helpless, begging me to let her call an ambulance. I refused. I was determined not to go to the emergency room this time. I was gonna tough this one out. “You are SO catholic!” was all she could say, as she listened to me plead for divine intervention. I was in the trenches. After five hours the pain stopped and I knew from experience that the stone had finally left my ureter, at last in my bladder. I slept for an hour, still on the floor, when suddenly the pain came back, just as intense. I was out of prayers. I’d had two stones at the same time?!?! My wife called the ambulance.
What the ER doc told me later that morning gave me the shivers. “The MRI shows that you have three more stones in your left kidney”, he said. After the shock of the news wore off, I was in a panic.
Conventional treatment for kidney stones is a follows: drink a lot of water and put a hot pack on the kidney or take a hot bath; if that doesn’t work then check into the emergency room for some strong pain killers and wait for the stone to pass. If it won’t pass on its own then surgery can be performed to remove the stone, or ultra-sound can be used to try and blast it into little pieces, making it easier to pass. A stone that won’t budge leads eventually to kidney infection and can be fatal. I thought about it. Surely there must be something I can do, some alternative to just waiting around for the pain to begin. There was something: A very effective, very inexpensive treatment for kidney stones, and it changed my life.
After hours on the internet, I found a website called EarthClinic, and discovered an herb from South America called Chanca Piedra, which translates literally as “break-stone”. What then transpired had the force of a miracle. Flower Power, an East Village herb shop, carried it as a tincture from a company called Herb Pharm. I was advised to also take marshmallow root, a demulcent, which helps soothe mucous membranes and might ease passage of the stone. After taking a few drops, three times a day for two weeks, of Chanca Piedra, I thought it might be a fluke as I seemed to pass one stone. I was hoping somehow it was all three. A week later, I felt a twinge in my kidney and a little irritation in my ureter. I raced home, dreading the coming pain, and took a last dose of the Chanca Piedra. I then went to the bathroom and passed the remaining two stones painlessly! I was stunned. I found the stones. They were so big I could see them at the bottom of the toilet. My prayers had been answered.
What amazed me most, besides Chanca Piedra’s astonishing effectiveness, was its obscurity. It wasn’t in any of my “herb encyclopedias”. For a few years I had dilly-dallied with herbalism, but the Stone Breaker put me firmly on the path of plants. Chanca Piedra had proven to me, unequivocally, the awesome power of herbs.
Modern science has even corroborated Break Stone’s mysterious power, which makes it’s obscurity even more of a mystery. As can often be the case with herbs, no one is really sure how or why it works. Let’s just leave aside for a moment if we are really sure how or why anything works. But multiple studies have been undertaken, especially in Brazil, India and Germany, that confirm its effectiveness. Dr. Wolfram Wiemann (of Nuremburg, Germany) treated over 100 kidney stone patients with Chanca Piedra obtained in Peru and found it to be 94% successful in eliminating stones within a week or two. Here is a link to a detailed report on many of the studies including Dr. Wieman’s. Note the astonishing number of symptoms and issues and problems Chanca Piedra is effective for, which is not unusual for a medicine plant.
Others have similar stories to mine, with different physical or psychological or even spiritual issues, where herbs have raced to the rescue when “conventional” western treatments has failed. I put conventional into quotation marks because for all of human history, with the exception of the last 100 years, herbal medicine was pretty much the conventional treatment, besides bloodletting! Herbs are still considered conventional medicine for 80% of the world’s population. And most modern pharmaceutical medicines either begin as plants or are synthesized in a lab but inspired by plant chemistry. Even I can still recall laughing years ago, when I came across a book extolling the effectiveness of herbs- how silly and outdated it seemed to me. A lot of us still have that same reaction, and there are many reasons for it. But the tide is turning, herbal medicine is back in style. Yet herbal medicine is not a fashion- It’s more the clothes than the fashion. Certain herbs get popular, but Herbal Medicine itself never really went away.
Take my advice, when you have an intractable problem, or just feel a cold coming on, think “Herbs First”!
by Bob Klein
Bob Klein comes from a family of teachers and healers. He is a songwriter and anti-GMO activist presently studying clinical herbalism and plants in general. His GMO website is www.schoolfood.info .