Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid crystals in the tissues, most often in the big toe or toes—although other joints are sometimes affected—so that you have little crystalline needles in the fluid around the joints whose pricking causes severe pain. This condition is almost exclusively found in men, and is rare in women.
Uric acid is a waste product of the liver’s metabolism of proteins, and the underlying cause of the build-up of uric acid crystals in the tissues is a diet that is too rich in meat and other animal proteins. This is why, historically, gout has been viewed as an affliction of the rich.
Though there are other possible causes (such as injury, high blood pressure, over-consumption of alcohol, chemotherapy, and some medications), in most cases, gout is most easily cured by eliminating animal proteins from the diet entirely until the condition clears.
After the acute condition has been eliminated, it would be wise to greatly reduce animal proteins in the diet, so as to help prevent a recurrence. Also, ask your doctor if any of the medications you are taking could cause gout, and be sure to remind you doctor that you have gout if he is prescribing any new medications.
DRINK CHERRY JUICE
Perhaps the most valuable natural remedy for gout is to drink cherry juice. While one of my informants, who has cured his own bouts of gout, puts it, “Drink all you can hold,” the amount of cherry juice usually suggested is one or two cups a day. Alternatively, about a half-pound of fresh or frozen cherries may be eaten.
The old herbals—and even some of the newer ones—often specified “black cherry” juice, but any kind of cherry juice can be used.
Some people are still concerned that only “black cherry” juice is effective against gout. “Black cherry” traditionally means the wild cherry, or Prunus serotina, whose inner bark has been traditionally used to prepare wild cherry cough syrup, but even the “black cherry” juice available in health food stores is very unlikely to contain any of the juice of Prunus serotina berries. Hence, when you buy “black cherry” juice, what you are getting is almost certainly the juice of cultivated black cherries. Fortunately, that is okay. Cherry juice of any kind is effective against gout.
Cherries and cherry juice reduce uric acid. They also help collagen integrity and reduce inflammation.
If you are fairly young and the gout is not too severe, in some cases you can cure an attack of gout in a few days solely by drinking cherry juice. But most people will find will take more than cherry juice to cure an episode of gout.
GIVE UP EATING MEAT UNTIL THE CONDITION CLEARS
Since the cause of gout is excessive consumption of animal proteins, leading to the formation of uric acid crystals, most gout sufferers find that, in addition to drinking cherry juice, they will need to switch to a vegetarian diet for at least a couple of weeks, until the condition clears.
Our culture encourages excessive meat-eating, and many men may find it difficult to greatly limit the steaks and briskets and other meats so often featured at tailgate parties and back-yard barbeques. But it’s possible to completely redesign your diet so as to get sufficient calories and high-quality protein from mainly vegetable sources—and doing so will help prevent cardiovascular disease and other chronic health problems.
It’s best to plan on reducing your intake of animal proteins on a long-term basis. If you return to your former dietary habits you are likely to experience another flare-up of this condition.
HERBS THAT HELP RID THE BODY OF EXCESS URIC ACID
Some herbs that help gout seem to work by reducing uric acid, and some seem to work by promoting collagen health and reducing inflammation. Many do all three.
Hawthorn berry: Hawthorn berries and other dark-red berries, such as blueberries and raspberries, contain anthocyanidins that decrease inflammation and help collagen integrity. Hawthorn berries are also one of the favorite herbs for the health of the heart and circulatory system, and is available in several forms, including capsules and whole berries from the bulk herbs section of the health-food store. The tea is made by simmering an ounce of the berries for 20-30 minutes in a quart of water. Since hawthorn berry has little flavor, you may wish to add other herbs. Other herbal materials should be added after removing from heat. Add your favorite good-tasting herbs, cover the pan, and allowing them to steep, covered, in the hawthorn berry tea for 10-20 minutes. Hibiscus flowers are a tasty addition to this tea, and are also heart-healthy. After brewing, strain and refrigerate, and drink a cup or two daily.
Alfalfa: This helps to reduce uric acid levels and also provides valuable nutrients. Alfalfa is probably most conveniently taken in tablet form. The tablets are often rather large, but they will dissolve in water or other beverages. While alfalfa can be taken in unlimited quantities (it is basically a food item), four to six tablets a day should be enough.
Burdock root: Burdock reduces serum uric acid levels and is considered an important herbal remedy for both gout and arthritis. It is available in capsule form, as well as in the bulk herbs section of the health-food store. Burdock root is eaten in Japan as a vegetable, called “gobo,” and believed to promote strength and endurance.
Celery seed: This also rids the body of excess uric acid and has anti-inflammatory properties. Celery seed is a fine seasoning for many dishes. It is excellent sprinkled on fried, baked, or boiled potatoes, and is one of the ingredients in some seasoned rice mixes. Celery seed is excellent added to soups, too.
Stinging nettle: This is another herb that helps clear the system of excess uric acid, is anti-inflammatory, and highly nutritive. If you recognize stinging nettle growing wild and have some in your area, it would be well worth your while to harvest some. But wear gloves. The uninitiated are usually surprised by how much it stings, if your skin comes in contact with it.
Many people in my area grow a patch of stinging nettle in the garden for its highly nutritious greens, and the seeds may be purchased from any of several seed suppliers. It is a very worthwhile perennial garden plant that will provide you with the earliest spring greens for eating plain or adding to soups and pasta dishes. It makes a very fine vegetable broth on its own. But you can buy stinging nettle in capsules or as a bulk herb from herb stores and health-food stores.
A RECIPE FOR GOUT SOUP
Make nettle tea by steeping an ounce of dried nettles in a quart of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes and strain.
Add a tablespoon of ground celery seed and a tablespoon of ground burdock root.
While all is still hot, add a spoonful of miso paste and a sliced scallion.
Voila! This makes a delicious miso soup that is chock full of herbs that ease gout!
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