Couchgrass (Eltrygia repens)

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Couchgrass Summary

Couchgrass is considered a weed in most places. It can grow in both hot and cold, dry and wet, sunny or shady locations with ease and spreads quickly through millions of tiny seeds and tough creeping rhizomes.

Couchgrass roots are so tough they can even be found growing up through cement cracks in the ground.

It’s these tough creeping rhizomes that are used medicinally.

They contain a set of sugar compounds that are able to sooth the mucosa throughout the body. This includes the urinary tract, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract. This demulcent or soothing activity makes is useful for conditions involving inflammation, infection, or hyper-permeability.

These sugars are also responsible for its ability to treat gout, and increase urine flow through osmotic pressure. As such, couchgrass is one of the most popular herbs for treating gout.

 

Indications

  • Gout
  • Inflammation and infection of urinary tract
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Jaundice
  • Kidney and bladder inflammation and calculi
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Prostatitis and BHP
  • Rheumatism
  • Urinary tract infections

Contraindications

  • None noted

Herbal Actions:

  • Antimicrobial
  • Demulcent
  • Diuretic
  • Urinary demulcent
 

What Is Couchgrass Used For?

Couchgrass is mainly used to treat inflammation and infection of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder inflammation and calculi, prostatitis, gout, and rheumatism.

 

Traditional Uses

The British herbal pharmacopoeia lists Elytrigia repens (refers to Agropyron repens) as a diuretic for cystitis, urethritis, and prostatitis as well as BPH [3].

 

Weekly Dose

Part Used

Rhizome

Family Name

Gramiaceae

Distribution

North America
Australia
Europe
Asia

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Constituents of Interest

  • Triticin
  • Inositol
  • Mannitol
  • Agropyrene

Common Names

  • Couchgrass
  • Triticum
  • Agropyron
  • Dogs Grass

CYP450

Unknown

Nature/Taste

Unknown

Pregnancy

Unknown

Duration of Use

  • Avoid long-term use in therapeutic doses.
 

Botanical Information

As a member of the grass family (Gramiaceae) couchgrass is just one of 12,000 species of flowering plants contained within 780 genera.

Couchgrass is a perennial, frost resistant grass growing up to 1m. It will grow in both very acidic, and very alkaline soils. The pollen is distributed via wind. [5].

 

Habitat Ecology, and Distribution

Elytrigia repens can be found abundantly growing in North America, Europe, Northern Asia, and Australia. [3].

 

Pharmacology & Medical Research

+ Acute Kidney Injury

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a major complication following cardiovascular surgery (15-30% occurrance). Diuretics are a common treatment option for improving filtration rate of the kidneys. Couchgrass contains high concentrations of mannitol, a type of sugar shown to be a potent osmotic diuretic. [7].

A recent study on uncomplicated postcardiac surgery patients with normal renal function, the application of mannitol was able to increase glomerular filtration rate [7]. Researchers in this study suggested that this action was due to a deswelling effect on tubular cells.

+ Gout

Couchgrass is a popular traditional remedy for arthritis and gout [broken source]. In modern times it has fallen out of favor and lacks a significant amount of study over the past half century. Recently however, there has been some enlightening research on the saccharide known as mannitol, which is contained in couchgrass and released upon the hydrolysis of triticin. Mannitol is a sugar alcohol (contained in about 2-3% which has been shown shown significant increases in urine flow (61%) [7], which is considered a key treatment goal for gout.

The diuretic actions of mannitol are suggested to be through a de-swelling effect on tubular cells. It is considered an osmotic diuretic. [7].

 

Constituents

Elytrigia contains carbohydrates (10%) (including triticin (3-8%) (a polysaccharide related to inulin), inositol, mannitol, and mucilage (10%)), volatile oil (0.01-0.05%), agropyrene, flavonoids (tricin), cyanogenic glycosides, saponins, vanilloside (vanillin monoglucoside) (very small amounts), vanillin, and phenolcarboxylic acids (silicic acid; and silicates) [1, 2, 3, 8-10].

 

Clinical Applications Of Couchgrass:

The sugars, mucilage, and flavonoids of Agropyron repens makes it useful for treating conditions involving the mucus membranes. This includes the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and urinary tract mucosa. It has an affinity for the urinary tract, also offering support to damaged kidneys through osmotic diuretic action, urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder inflamamtion, prostatitis, and gout.

Couchgrass is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal inflammation.

 

Cautions:

Caution is advised when using potassium-depletion diuretics as couchgrass may potentiate the problem of potassium depletion.

 

Synergy

The British herbal pharmacopoeia suggests Elytrigia is synergistic with Agathosma for cystitis, and hydrangeae in prostatic enlargement [3].

 

Author

Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)

 

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References:

  1. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

  2. Wren, R. C. (1956). Potter's new cyclopaedia of botanical drugs and preparations.

  3. British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Bournemouth, UK: Author.

  4. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a.: Churchill Livingstone.

  5. Plants for our future. (n.d.). Elytrigia repens Couch Grass PFAF Plant Database. Retrieved from http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Elytrigia+repens

  6. Blumenthal, M. (1998). German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Commission E. The complete German Commission E monographs: therapeutic guide to herbal medicines. Austin, Tex.: American Botanical Council, 11-12.

  7. Bragadottir, G., Redfors, B., & Ricksten, S. E. (2012). Mannitol increases renal blood flow and maintains filtration fraction and oxygenation in postoperative acute kidney injury: a prospective interventional study. Critical care, 16(4), R159.

  8. Bisset NG, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals . 2nd ed. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Scientific Publishers; 2001.

  9. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients . 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.; 1996.

  10. Newell CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.