Couch grass

Scientific Name(s): Agropyron repens (L.) P. Beauv., Elymus repens , Graminis rhizoma , Triticum repens . Family: Gramineae (grasses)

Common Name(s): Couch-grass root , dog grass , quack grass , triticum , twitchgrass

Uses

Couch grass has been used to treat gout, rheumatic disorders, chronic skin conditions, and urinary tract, bladder, and kidney disorders. Various extracts have been used as a dietary component for diabetic patients. There is a lack of clinical studies to support these uses.

Dosing

There are no recent clinical studies of couch grass that provide a basis for dosage recommendations. Classical use of the rhizome was at doses of 6 to 10 g of rhizome or herb daily.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There are no known side effects.

Toxicology

Limited amount of toxicological information available.

Botany

Couch grass ( A. repens ) is a weed that is widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere. The grass grows up to 1.5 m tall with spikes up to 15 cm long containing many flowered spikelets. 1 The leaves alternate with sheaths, the blades are long and narrow, and the veins are parallel. 2 The grass also possesses shiny, pale yellow, hollow rhizomes and longitudinally grooved stems that are 2 to 3 mm thick. Thin roots and short fiber-like cataphylls are present at the unthickened nodes. Couch grass has an almost bland but slightly sweet taste. The rhizomes, roots, and stems are used to formulate the product. 1

History

In folk medicine, couch grass has been used as a diuretic in cases of bladder catarrh and bladder/kidney stones, and as a cough medicine to alleviate bronchial irritation. It has been used to treat gout, rheumatic disorders, and chronic skin disorders. The drug products are typically imported from Romania, Hungary, the Yugoslavian region, and Albania. 1

Chemistry

The major constituent of couch grass is triticin (3% to 8%), a polysaccharide related to inulin. Upon hydrolysis, triticin releases the following: fructose; mucilage (10%); saponins; sugar alcohols (mannitol, inositol, 2% to 3%); essential oil with polyacetylenes or carvone (0.01% to 0.05%); small amounts of vanilloside (vanillin monoglucoside), vanillin, and phenolcarboxylic acids; silicic acid; and silicates. 1 , 3 , 4 Extraction of silicon-containing compounds from couch grass has been studied. 5 Lectins found in the seedlings and leaves also may be present in the rhizome. 1 However, the lectin content of the leaves varies from season to season. 6 Other constituents found in couch grass include agropyrene (volatile oil constituent, 95%), mucilage, thymol, menthol, iron, and other minerals. 3 , 4 Albumin content in couch grass and other wheat related plants has been evaluated. 7 Breeding potential of couch grass also has been reported. 8

Uses and Pharmacology

In addition to the folk uses of couch grass, it has been indicated for irrigation therapy in inflammatory disorders of the urinary tract, in the prevention of renal gravel, and to supplement treatment in catarrh of the upper respiratory tract. Couch grass is said to be useful as a diuretic. 1 The essential oil has shown antimicrobial effects, and extracts of the drug are used as a dietary component for diabetic patients. 1 Broad spectrum antibiotic activity has been documented for agropyrene and its oxidation product. Couch grass may have weak anti-inflammatory effects. 4 Despite these indications, pharmacological and clinical studies are lacking.

Animal data

One study reports the effects of couch grass on calcium oxalate urolithiasis risk in rats, finding antilithiasic effects to be dependent on diet. 9 Couch grass leaf lectin exhibits specificity for N-acetylgalactosamine and preferentially agglutinates blood-group-A erythrocytes. 6 Nutritive value of the plant has been studied in sheep. 10

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of couch grass.

Dosage

There are no recent clinical studies of couch grass which provide a basis for dosage recommendations. Classical use of the rhizome was at doses of 6 to 10 g of rhizome or herb daily. 11

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There are no known side effects or drug interactions associated with the use of couch grass.

Toxicology

One study reports on allergens in canine atopic dermatitis. Intradermal skin tests in 1000 dogs revealed 33% reacting to the house dust mite and 15% reacting to couch grass, suggesting these to be common allergens. 12 Couch grass can be consumed safely when used appropriately. 13 The limited amount of toxicological data requires cautious use during pregnancy and lactation.

Bibliography

1. Bisset NG, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals . 2nd ed. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Scientific Publishers; 2001.
2. Trease GE, Evans WC. Pharmacognosy . 12th ed. London, England: Bailliére Tindall; 1983.
3. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients . 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.; 1996.
4. Newell CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
5. Paslawska S, Piekos R. Studies on the optimum conditions of extraction of silicon species from plants with water. IV. Agropyron repens . Planta Med . 1976;30:216-222.
6. Cammue B, Stinissen HM, Peumans WJ. A new type of cereal lectin from leaves of couch grass ( Agropyrum repens ). Eur J Biochem . 1985;148:315-322.
7. Konarev A, Gavriliuk IP. Identification of albumin 0.19 in wheat and other cereal proteins [in Russian]. Biokhimiia . 1978;43:28-33.
8. Fatih AM. Anaysis of the breeding potential of wheat-Agropyron and wheat-Elymus derivatives. Ι. Agronomic and quality characteristics. Hereditas . 1983;98:287-295.
9. Grases F, Ramis M, Costa-Bauza A, March JG. Effect of Herniaria hirsuta and Agropyron repens on calcium oxalate urolithiasis risk in rats. J Ethnopharmacol . 1995;45:211-214.
10. Christen AM, Seoane JR, Leroux GD. The nutritive value for sheep of quackgrass and timothy hays harvested at two stages of growth. J Anim Sci . 1990;68:3350-3359.
11. Gruenwald J, ed. PDR for Herbal Medicines . 2nd ed. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare Inc; 2000:772.
12. Mueller RS, Bettenay SV, Tideman L. Aero-allergans in canine atopic dermatitis in southeastern Australia based on 1000 intradermal skin tests. Aust Vet J . 2000;78:392-399.
13. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association Botanical Safety Handbook . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1997.

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