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Couch Grass

Scientific Name(s): Elymus repens (L.) P. Beauv.
Common Name(s): Couchgrass, Dog grass, Quack grass, Triticum, Twitchgrass

Clinical Overview

Use

In general, clinical studies are lacking to support traditional uses. Studies in animals suggest potential benefit in diabetes and in the treatment of urinary tract conditions.

Dosing

No recent clinical studies provide a basis for dosage recommendations.

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 adverse effects, although the potential for allergy exists.

Toxicology

No toxicological information is 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. The leaves alternate with sheaths, the blades are long and narrow, and the veins are parallel. 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.Bisset 2001, Khan 2009, USDA 2014 Synonyms are Agropyron repens (L.) Gould, Elytrigia repens (L.) Desv. Ex Nevski, E. vaillantiana, Graminis rhizoma, Triticum repens, and T. vaillantianum Wulfen & Schreb.

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, primarily the rhizome, are typically imported from Eastern EuropeBisset 2001, Duke 2002, Khan 2009

Chemistry

The major constituent of couch grass is triticin (3% to 8%), a polysaccharide related to inulin. Also present are mucilaginous substances (10%); saponins; sugar alcohols (mannitol and 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; silicates; and iron. Lectins found in the seedlings and leaves also may be present in the rhizome. However, the lectin content of the leaves varies from season to season. Other constituents found in couch grass include agropyrene (volatile oil constituent, 95%), mucilage, thymol, menthol, iron, and other minerals. Albumin content in couch grass and other wheat-related plants has been evaluated.Bisset 2001, Duke 1996, Khan 2009

Uses and Pharmacology

Diabetes

Animal data

An experiment in healthy and diabetic rats determined that T. repens had a hypoglycemic effect independent of an effect on insulin.Eddouks 2005

Clinical data

There are no clinical data regarding the use of couch grass in diabetes.

Urolithiasis

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.Grases 1995 An older study reports a diuretic effect in rats.Khan 2009

Clinical data

A small open-label trial investigated the effect of A. repens in urolithiasis treatment. A potassium citrate and couch grass combination was more effective than potassium citrate alone.Brardi 2012

Urinary tract infection

Animal data

Moderate to limited antioxidant activity was demonstrated in extracts of E. repens in a laboratory study of medicinal herbs traditionally used to treat urinary tract infection symptomsWojcikowski 2007; antiadhesive activity was demonstrated against uropathogenic E. coli in another study.Rafsanjany 2013

Clinical data

There are no clinical data regarding the use of couch grass in urinary tract infections.

Other uses

Dried A. repens has been evaluated as a hydrogel for use in wound dressings.Pielesz 2012

Dosing

No recent clinical studies of couch grass provide a basis for dosage recommendations. Traditional doses of the rhizome were 6 to 10 g daily for suspected urinary tract infections.Duke 2002, Blumenthal 2000

Pregnancy / Lactation

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

Interactions

None well documented. Interference with laboratory tests is theoretically possible because couch grass leaf lectin exhibits specificity for N-acetylgalactosamine and preferentially agglutinates blood group A erythrocytes.Khan 2009

Adverse Reactions

There are no known adverse effects associated with the use of couch grass. As a member of the grass family, the potential for allergy exists.

Toxicology

No toxicological data is available.

References

Bisset NG, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Scientific Publishers; 2001.
Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
Brardi 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;84(2):61-67.22908773
Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke P. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
Duke J. Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Agricultural Research Service website. http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/. Updated June 13, 1996. Accessed December 23, 2014.
Eddouks M, Maghrani M, Michel JB. Hypoglycaemic effect of Triticum repens P. Beauv. in normal and diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;102(2):228-232.16099613
Elymus repens L. USDA, NRCS. 2014. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 23 December 2014). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed December 23, 2014.
Grases F, Ramis M, Costa-Bauzá A, March JG. Effect of Herniaria hirsuta and Agropyron repens on calcium oxalate urolithiasis risk in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1995;45(3):211-214.7623486
Khan I, Abourashed E. Leung’s Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 2009.
Pielesz A, Paluch J. Therapeutically active dressings—biomaterials in a study of collagen glycation [in Polish]. Polim Med. 2012;42(2):115-120.23016442
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;145(2):591-597.23211661
Wojcikowski K, Stevenson L, Leach D, Wohlmuth H, Gobe G. Antioxidant capacity of 55 medicinal herbs traditionally used to treat the urinary system: a comparison using a sequential three-solvent extraction process. J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13(1):103-109.17309384

Disclaimer

This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

Further information

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