Pain in your toe? It could be gout. This relatively common issue presents as recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory joint pain. The big toe is the most common site of pain – up to half of all gout cases only show up there.
What is Gout?
Gout is caused by the buildup of uric acid in the bloodstream. When it reaches a certain level, the acid falls out of solution and crystallizes into sharp stones. These poke into the soft tissues in your joints, tendons, and muscles. Gout can also contribute to kidney stones. So don’t ignore it!
At root, this is a kidney problem. If the kidneys are working well, they’ll filter out the uric acid in a timely manner, and it won’t build up to the problematic level where stones form. So, supporting kidney function is our primary goal. We’ll use herbal diuretics and urinary disinfectants to improve the function of the urinary system, and we’ll also look at nutritive herbs to help provide minerals in a proper balance to ensure healthy kidney activity.
Single Herbs for Gout
For a quick fix, there’s not much better than simply introducing goldenrod (Solidago spp.) or nettle (Urtica dioica) into your daily routine.
- Goldenrod’s diuretic effect comes from its volatile oil content, which stimulates the kidneys to work harder. It’s also disinfectant, so this is a good choice if you also get urinary tract infections.
- Nettle, in addition to being a strong diuretic, is extremely rich in minerals. This helps your kidneys function well and improves your capacity to neutralize uric acid in the bloodstream.*
If you don’t have a lot of goldenrod or nettles growing around you, or if you’re looking for something you can find at the grocery store, look to celery and cherry.
- Celery seeds are best, but the stalks are a bit diuretic in their own right. Eat a few stalks a day, or include them in a green smoothie. (You can juice them, but juicing is wasteful and less effective if you don’t consume the fiber.)
- Cherry juice has a beneficial effect for lowering serum uric acid concentrations all on its own. Drink 4-8 oz of black cherry juice (preferably unsweetened) each day.
Formulae for Gout
Here are two simple herbal formulae for gout:
Kidney Support Tea
These herbs will stimulate your kidneys to be more active in filtering uric acid out of the bloodstream. These are pretty strong diuretics – be prepared to pee a lot!
- 1 part nettle leaf
- 1 part dandelion leaf
- 1 part goldenrod
- ½ part marshmallow leaf
- ¼ part uva ursi
- ¼ part yarrow
- Mix all herbs and store in an airtight container.
- If you have a very damp constitution, you may omit the marshmallow leaf. If you run very dry, double the amount of marshmallow and reduce the nettle by half.
- Use 2-4 tablespoons of herbs per quart of water. Pour boiling water on the herbs, then allow to infuse for 20 minutes or so in a covered container before drinking.
- Drink a quart or more every day. More is better! Ensuring adequate hydration and water movement in the body are critical for long-term resolution and prevention.
Somewhat more portable than tea, a tincture blend can be easily carried with you so you get continual herbal influence throughout your day.
- 1 part juniper or cedar berry (or leaf)
- ½ part uva ursi
- ½ part celery seed
- Mix all tinctures together and bottle. Don’t forget to label!
- Take 1-2 droppersful of tincture, 3-5 times per day.
- The berries of juniper and cedar are stronger diuretics than the leaves, so we prefer them for this purpose.
- It’s better if you squirt your tincture dose into a big glass of water to take it – remember, hydration is essential for this problem. This is especially true if you have a dry constitution.
- Even better, squirt your tincture into a glass of cherry juice!
* PS: In some circles it’s popular to talk about an “alkalizing” diet to resolve gout, but most of those claims are nonsense, especially when they start advocating for a meatless diet. Get good mineral nutrition and you don’t have to worry about your blood getting “acidic” in some general sense. And definitely steer clear of “alkaline water” – it’s a scam.
Join our newsletter for more herby goodness!
Get our newsletter delivered right to your inbox. You'll be first to hear about free mini-courses, podcast episodes, and other goodies about holistic herbalism.