Gout-weed is mentioned by the herbalist and physician Nicholas Culpeper in the Complete Herbal in 1653: ‘the very bearing of it about one eases the pains of the gout and defends him that bears it from the disease.’ The leaves also have diuretic and sedative effects.
Any wild plant should be treated with great respect as an error in identifying a plant may result in a different, highly poisonous plant being eaten by mistake. Also different parts of a plant may be harmless or very poisonous; and plants of different age may have different effects on the body from helpful to neutral to harmful.
Published advice is if eaten at all this is best confined to young ground elder plants, before flowering. Ground elder becomes bitter after flowering, older plants developing laxative effects due to increased gut motility. Bio-active ingredients include the polyacetylene falcarindiol (highest concentration in ground elder flowers). Falcarindiol has COX-1 inhibitary activity, the mode of action of aspirin and other modern non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs such as ibuprofen. This anti-inflammatory could explain beneficial effects to relieve gout and other forms of arthritis. Other potential bio-actives and trace elements include vitamin C and also iron, calcium, magnesium and beta-carotene. The vitamin C may contribute additional effects of the plant to relieve gout through causing a modest reduction in serum uric acid, the biochemical cause of gout.
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