Couch grass is an herbal medicine virtually ignored in modern research. Yet recent research is exposing this herb’s ability to reduce kidney stones as well as urinary tract infections.
Let’s take a look at some of the research.
Urinary tract infections and E. coli adhesion
Most urinary tract infections today are the result of E. coli infections. The E. coli will build up within the walls of the urinary tract. This will produce inflammation and often pain. The issue becomes the adhesiveness – the adhesion – of the E. coli on the bladder cells and bladder walls.
Researchers from Germany’s University of Munster studied the effect of couch grass (Agropyrum repens) extracts on E. coli and human bladder cells. The researchers tested the ability of the couch grass extract to reverse the E. coli’s adhesion abilities.
The researchers found that one of the extracts significantly reduced the adhesion abilities of the E. coli. The researchers identified the anti-adhesive element in the couch grass as a hexadecyl-coumaric acid ester.
In a 2013 study, researchers tested a number of plant medicines, and again found that couch grass extract successfully reduced adhesion capacity of E. coli. In this study, they found that the extract decreased bacterial adhesion with an interaction with the proteins on the outer membranes of the bacteria.
Couch grass reduces kidney stones
Research from Italy determined that a combination of couch grass and potassium citrate significantly reduces kidney stones.
The researchers tested 50 patients with active kidney stones (nephrolithiasis) for five months. They gave the patients a combination of a special diet consisting of reduced animal protein, reduced consumption of oxalate foods, and moderate calcium intake with at least two liters a day of fluids. In addition to the diet, one group was given 24 mEq of potassium citrate and 100 milligrams of dried couch grass extract each day.
The research comes from the hemodialysis unit of the Ospedale S. Donato Hospital in Arezzo, Italy.
At the end of the five months, the group that took the potassium and couch grass had significantly fewer kidney stones, and reduced kidney stone size compared to the patients who were not given the potassium and couch grass extract.
One of the most significant improvements from the couch grass group over the other group was the measurement of oxalate acid excreted over 24 hours. Both had a noticeable reduction in oxalate acid excreted due to their diet, but the potassium/couch grass group had a greater reduction of oxalate acid excretion, measured at -165 versus -38 milligrams over a 24 hour period.
Potassium supplements and kidney stones
Potassium supplementation has been documented in other clinical settings to help reduce the size and number of kidney stones. In a 2006 study from Istanbul’s Memorial Hospital, 52 of 96 children were given oral potassium citrate for a year. The remaining 44 children were not given the potassium. The children receiving the potassium had more than 75% fewer kidney stones compared to the untreated group.
Maintaining a mineral balance between calcium, sodium, and potassium is critical, and imbalances combined with a poor diet and a diet heavy in animal proteins has been attributed to increased uric and oxalic acid levels and subsequent kidney and gallstones. In addition, a chronic state of dehydration can contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
High oxalate foods include spinach, rhubarb, and wheat bran.
The Italian researchers designed the kidney stone reduction diet around these observations. Adding potassium citrate and couch grass to these dietary strategies was successful in decreasing the size and number of stones.
Couch grass has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine for the treatment of urinary disorders and water retention issues. Dogs instinctively understand the benefit of couch grass as they will often eat it and even dig up its roots when they are not feeling well. Cats will also munch on couch grass when they are not feeling well.
The researchers concluded:
“This prospective randomized study demonstrates the superiority of the association of potassium citrate and dry extract of couch grass.”
This study has also been confirmed in laboratory studies using couch grass for kidney ailments.
Beydokthi SS, Sendker J, Brandt S, Hensel A. Traditionally used medicinal plants against uncomplicated urinary tract infections: Hexadecyl coumaric acid ester from the rhizomes of Agropyron repens (L.) P. Beauv. with antiadhesive activity against uropathogenic E. coli. Fitoterapia. 2017 Mar;117:22-27. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2016.12.010.
Rafsanjany N, Lechtenberg M, Petereit F, Hensel A. Antiadhesion as a functional concept for protection against uropathogenic Escherichia coli: in vitro studies with traditionally used plants with antiadhesive activity against uropathognic Escherichia coli. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jan 30;145(2):591-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.11.035.
Bradi S, Imperiali P, Cevenini G, Verdacchi T, Ponchietti R. Effects of the association of potassium citrate and agropyrum repens in renal stone treatment: results of a prospective randomized comparison with potassium citrate. Arch Ital Urol Androl. 2012 Jun;84(2):61-7.
Sarica K, Erturhan S, Yurtseven C, Yagci F. Effect of potassium citrate therapy on stone recurrence and regrowth after extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy in children. J Endourol. 2006 Nov;20(11):875-9.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.