Gravel is the formation of stones in the kidneys. There are at least four major forms of gravel, each with different causes and effects. The most common stones tend to be oxalate based, and are partially genetic and partially dietary in nature (plants rich in oxalates assist in their formation). Oxalate stones tend to be spiney, almost sea-urchin-like, and can be quite painful even when exceptionally small. Their passage through the urinary tract is torturous and the worst pain one could possibly experience according to some patients. Phosphorous stones tend to form a perfect casting of the interior flow track for urine through and out of the kidney. They are irritating, but not as torturous. The other two stones–struvite and uric acid/cystine stones are less common and not as distinct in symptomatology.
The goal of Osborn’s treatment would be to clean out the stone from the body. A logical thought might be to try to dissolve them, but an equally logical alternative that could come up after a failure of such attempts in previous cases might be to facilitate the passage of the stone through the urinary tract and out of the body.
The following traditional herbalism related lines of reasoning, with a little of ‘Osbornianism’ added, may relate to the reasons for his inclusion of the ingredient into his recipe:
- Parsley and “aspara Grass” - the smell comes out in the urine, thus these are good diuretics
- “Rushes such as they scower with” (Equisetum or Horsetail) – bears grainy sandlike stones in the joints, thus a doctrine of signatures; a belief standard for this plant according to nearly all herbals then published
- Wild Holy Hocks – a mucusy leaf herb, the mucus implying a lubricating effect upon the ureter, thus easing to transi of stones out of the kidney and bladder.
Haarlem Oil (A dutch recipe), Oil of Juniper, and Spirit Nitre Dulce are typical older recipes usd for this condition.
The most important recipe for treating gravel according to Osborn is his Mead recipe. This is made using a bee hive with bees, comb and honey included. The purpose for leaving the bees in the hive are uncertain. Osborn recommends that all 10 gallons of this decoction this be drunk. The hopes were perhaps to facilitate the expulsion of the gravel, or maybe he felt this caused it to be dissolved.