Can You Self-Medicate for Kidney Disease?

As a kidney patient, should you be using alternative treatments along with your prescribed drugs to help you feel better?  The internet is full of tempting but often misleading– or outright false– information about medical marijuana and other alternative medicines. You must find ways to separate fact from fiction and become an empowered patient in the fight against kidney disease.

Ask your nephrologist and internist in Beverly Hills, Dr. Gura, about the supplements you are taking. Dr. Gura specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease and can give you the most up-to-date information.  

Medical Marijuana

Reasons Kidney Patients Use It

Joshua L. Rein, DO, told Healio’s Nephrology News & Issues that “some patients may be using (marijuana or cannabis) to treat some of the symptoms of their kidney disease, explaining, ‘Patients with kidney disease experience significant symptom burden.’ And symptoms, such as nausea, lack of appetite and chronic pain, ‘are all valid issues for medical marijuana usage.’”

An increasing number of states have legalized medical marijuana, and some have even made it legal for recreational use. “But just because a drug is legal, that does not make it safe, or a good idea, for kidney patients [AmericanKidneyFund.]”

Why Kidney Patients Should Not Use Marijuana

When the American Society of Nephrology’s held their annual Kidney Week conference in October 2018, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York shared some interesting research findings. They had studied kidney disease progression in cannabis users and “found that chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients’ kidney function declined faster in those who used cannabis, compared to those who did not [AmericanKidneyFund.]”

So, if you already have kidney disease, using cannabis to treat your symptoms does not seem to be the best solution. The drug can actually cause your condition to get worse.

If you are a CKD patient and have been using medical or recreational marijuana to treat your symptoms, it may be a good time to have a discussion with your nephrologist and internist in Beverly Hills, Dr. Gura.

Does Marijuana Cause Kidney Disease?

“The study did not show cannabis to cause kidney disease, or a decrease in kidney function in people who do not already have CKD [AmericanKidneyFund.]”

So, if you have otherwise healthy kidneys, cannabis is not likely to cause problems in that area.

However, if you already have kidney disease, it’s best to stay away from it.

Talk to Your Doctor

Kidney patients should always discuss every supplement and treatment they take with their nephrologist and internist in Beverly Hills, Dr. Victor Gura. A medical marijuana-prescribing doctor is not a kidney specialist and may not know about the research showing risks associated specifically with kidney disease.

If you use marijuana recreationally– just as with smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol– it is important to let your nephrologist and internist in Beverly Hills know about it so they can look at your body’s function in context.

View the American Kidney Fund’s “Tips for Talking to Your Doctor” for ideas on how to broach the topic of medications at your visit.

Drug Interactions

Can Herbal Medicines Interfere with Other Medications I Take?

Many commonplace herbal supplements interact with prescription drugs you may be taking. Some examples are:

  • St. Johns Wort
  • Echinacea
  • Ginkgo
  • Garlic
  • Ginseng
  • Ginger
  • Blue cohosh


If you have a kidney transplant, any interaction between these supplements and your prescriptions could put you at risk of losing the kidney.

Diuretics aka “Water Pills”

Herbal supplements that have a diuretic effect are sometimes known as “water pills” because they basically drain the water from your body. It is important to know that these can cause kidney irritation or damage. “These include bucha leaves and juniper berries. UvaUrsi and parsley capsules may also have bad side effects [NationalKidneyFoundation.]”

Internist in Beverly Hills

Dr. Victor Gura is a board-certified kidney specialist and internist in Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Gura specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease as well as dialysis technology. He is the inventor of the WAK, the Wearable Artificial Kidney: “a portable, ergonomically designed dialysis device that enables patients to experience the benefits of daily dialysis while performing their normal, day-to-day routines.” Dr. Gura is also an internist and provides routine checkups. Contact Victor Gura, MD at (310)550-6240, or Book Online Today.