Gravel root is an herbal supplement with a long history of use in Native American herbal medicine.

Little research has been conducted on gravel root, but it appears to have some anti-inflammatory potential.

Herbal medicine practitioners claim it can help treat kidney stones, and its supplement form is marketed for this purpose.

This article reviews gravel root, including its benefits, downsides, and effectiveness.

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Gravel root is an herbal supplement made from Eupatorium purpureum, a flowering plant native to eastern North America and grows in wooded wetlands.

It’s sometimes called Joe Pye weed, after a Native American man who — according to legend — used the plant to cure a typhoid outbreak (1).

Although it’s commonly called gravel root, the herbal supplement typically contains the root, stem, flowers, and leaves of the plant.

It has been widely used in Native American herbal medicine to treat various ailments, such as arthritis, kidney problems, menstrual problems, and colds. It was also used by some tribes for burns and as a poison antidote (1).

Today, it’s most commonly marketed as a way to help relieve kidney stones.

Summary

Gravel root is a plant native to North America with a long history of use in herbal medicine. The supplement reportedly helps with kidney stones.

There’s not much research available on the benefits of gravel root.

Its essential oil may have some mild antifungal effects, according to one test-tube study. However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t mean that taking a supplementary form of gravel root would have the same effect (1).

Gravel root also contains a compound called cistifolin. According to some mouse and test-tube studies, this compound possesses anti-inflammatory benefits.

In one rat study, rats given cistifolin 2 hours before receiving a paw injury had reduced swelling at the site (2, 3).

Unfortunately, little evidence regarding how gravel root works in humans is available.

What’s more, it’s unclear how gravel root would help with kidney stones — which is one of the main reasons people use it.

Herbal medicine practitioners claim that it acts as a diuretic and dissolves kidney stones, but there’s no scientific evidence to support this.

Summary

Animal and test-tube studies have noted the antifungal and anti-inflammatory effects of gravel root, but evidence in humans is lacking. There’s also no scientific evidence that gravel root helps with kidney stones.

Unfortunately, gravel root supplements may not be safe to take — even in small doses. The same is true for other supplements made from plants in the Eupatorium genus.

These plants contain dehydropyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver damage and ultimately liver disease (4).

It’s unclear what dose is necessary to cause harm.

While a single high dose of these alkaloids can cause irreversible liver damage, researchers theorize that lower doses over longer periods of time may also contribute to liver disease and other chronic diseases, including cancer (5).

Summary

Gravel root contains toxic substances called dehydropyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver damage when taken in high doses. Low doses over longer time periods may be harmful as well.

Gravel root is generally available as loose tea, liquid extract, or in capsule form.

Because so little is known about supplementing with the plant, there’s currently no recommended dose. Supplements most often contain about 250–500 mg of the herb per serving.

Due to a lack of evidence supporting its use, along with the presence of harmful alkaloids that may lead to liver disease, you should strongly consider avoiding gravel root supplementation.

What’s more, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid it completely.

Summary

You can use gravel root to make tea or take it in liquid extract or capsule form. Still, there’s not enough scientific information to establish a safe dosage. If you’re considering supplementing with gravel root, consult your healthcare provider.

Gravel root is an herbal supplement made from the plant E. purpureum, which has been used in Native American herbal medicine for several purposes. Today, it’s claimed to help with kidney stones.

However, there’s no scientific evidence to support this use.

Unfortunately, gravel root also contains compounds that may lead to liver damage or other health problems — even at low dosages.

Because there’s no evidence to support its use, and because it’s potentially harmful, gravel root isn’t a good choice for those with kidney stones.