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Copyright © 1990 - 2016 by Robert Dale Rogers. All rights reserved.
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COUCH GRASS
DOG GRASS
QUACK GRASS
QUITCH GRASS

(Elymus repens [L.] Gould)
(Triticum repens L.)
(Agropyron repens [L.] Beauv.)
(Elytrigia repens [L.] Desv. ex Nevski)

BLUEBUNCH
WHEATGRASS
BUNCHGRASS

(A. spicatum [Pursh.] Scribn. & Smith)

SQUIRREL TAIL

(E. elymoides [Raf.] Swezey)

WESTERN WHEAT GRASS

(A. smithii Rydb.)

 

 

PARTS USED- rhizomes, flowers, leaves

 

INTRODUCTION

 

AGRO is Latin meaning a eld, earth or soil and PYROS is Greek for re. Some believe it is from the Greek PUROS meaning wheat, and REPENS for creeping; which also makes sense. It is commonly known as quack or dog grass. Elytrigia repensis a new taxonomic designation, but why, I have no idea!

The Russian name PIREY POLZUTCHY quite literally means “Field of Fire”.

Couch is possibly from the Anglo-Saxon CWICE for quick or lively, or CIVICE meaning “vivacious” in reference to its tenacious growing habits. Some believe the word Couch is from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “holding on to life”. Couch is a variation of Quitch, Squitch, Twitch, Whick and Quack.

Quackgrass is from the German QUECKE meaning “to live” in honour of the plant’s tenacity. Dog grass may originate from ingestion by canines as an emetic.

Cursed and despised by farmers and gardeners, couch grass or dog grass, is extremely stubborn and therefore placed under Saturn/Mars. In the language of flowers, couch grass is related to war and death.

The Scottish word for the plant, Kett, means filth, while Yawl, from the Old Cornish dyawl means devil.

It has an enormous rhizome system and this is where the strength of the plant lies. A single plant can produce over 400 feet of rhizomes per year. The interlocking roots help stabilize slopes and the plant is used in Holland to reinforce new dikes.

Many grasses are called quack grass, but a close look at the leaf will help identification. Each leaf blade looks like it has been pinched with a fingernail about two to four inches from the tip. Once identified ed, never forgotten. Ruth Yanor, noted herbalist, says the fresh root tips taste like dried watermelon, and I have to agree. Very sweet!

New studies from Michigan indicate that couch grass is effective at reclaiming nutrients from sewage effluent sprays. Couch grass is an indication of soil with a calcium deficiency. Foxtail Barley growth also indicates this mineral imbalance.

Methanol extracts have been used to control mosquito larvae and could be combined with Shepherd’s Purse seed (Mosquito News 34).

Dogs and cats will seek it out as a purgative to rid the body of parasites. They prefer smooth grasses as an emetic. Vomiting stimulates vagus nerve and in turn the digestive and respiratory tracts are cleared. Food poisoning and colds are quickly treated by dogs themselves, when they have access to dog grass.

The seeds may be gathered for bird feed, as well as making bread and beers.

The long, fibrous roots were once used to make brooms. In fact, couch grass is a cleanser and sweeper of the entire uro-genital tract, putting out inflamed, fiery conditions in the water system.

Dioscorides, a Greek physician of the 1st century, recommended decocted rhizomes for gallstones, and reducing fever.

In ancient Babylon, a type of mead was fermented from couch grass rhizomes, juniper, honey and yeast.

Culpepper, an herbalist of 16th century England, proclaimed one acre of couch grass was worth ten acres of carrots. Certainly not taste wise, although the roots are mucilaginous and sugary. The roots were dried and made into bread and the roasted roots were brewed as a coffee substitute.

Culpepper wrote that couch grass “is the most medicinal of all the quick grasses. Being boiled and drunk it openeth obstructions of the liver and gall, and the stoppings of urine, and easeth the griping pains of the belly, and inflammations...the seed doth more powerfully expel urine, and stayeth laxes and vomiting.”

Various tribes made use of the roots, for their diuretic and urinary toning effect. The Cherokee, for example, decocted the plant to wash swollen legs, and drank infusions for “gravel” in the urine and for “incontinence and bedwetting”. The Iroquois used the plant as a worm remedy, in an unspecified manner, and combined ER-HAR ENA-WI-RA rhizomes with alder twigs for thick urine.

Dr. Ellingwood, one of my favorite Eclectics, wrote the herb increased “the ow of the water portion of the urine without to the same extent influencing the actual renal secretion.”

During World War I, the US Surgeon General praised couch grass for its diuretic effect on wound and burn victims. African healers chewed the plant and applied it to poison arrow wounds, after sucking out the poison.

Today, the flavour industry uses couch grass extract in baked goods, pastries, ice cream, beers, spirits, and non-alcoholic drinks in 2-6 parts per million.

Many farmers may grimace at this, but research conducted by Christen et al, October 1990 Journal of Animal Science, found the nutritive value of quack grass hay similar to that of timothy.

Research by Grela et al, J of Animal and Feed Sciences 1998 7 found that supplementing nettle herb, garlic bulb, and couch grass rhizomes to 96 pigs improved daily gains by 5% and feed utilization by 10% over controls. Antibiotic additives also improved performance, but only by half as much.

Bluebunch Wheat Grass was used by various Natives of the interior of British Columbia as tinder for starting res, insulating footwear in winter and babies’ bedding.

The straws were inserted into newly pierced ears to keep the tissue from sealing back in.

Some widows of the Thompson tribe wore breech-cloths of dry bunchgrass for several days after bereavement so “that the ghost of the husband should not have connection with her.”

Saskatoon berries were often dried on mats of the grass.

The Secwepemc would use the versatile and handy grass to line root- cooking pits.

Couch grass can be made into a garden spray for mildew and fungus, especially in greenhouses. Planting tomatoes, also known as wolf peaches, will inhibit couch grass, as the roots release enzymes that restrict the “weed”.

Ironically, dog grass appears to cause atopic dermatitis in up to 15% of canines. Mueller et al, Aust Vet J 2000 78.

When grown in rows for commercial harvest, it is important to mow the plants close to the ground first, and rake all this matter away. Then turn over soil using a simple blade and pick through. Fresh rhizome tincture is best.

An accession of couch grass collected in Turkey and later work in Utah has produced a strain with excellent salinity tolerance along with drought resistance.

The related Western Wheat Grass has been found in studies by McCutcheon & Schmoor 2003 to enhance degradation of toxic TPH and PAHs in soil.

 

 

MEDICINAL

CONSTITUENTS- leaves-mannitol, iron, triticin (polyfructosan up to 7%) tricin, agropyrene, inositol, avenin, amygdalin, an anti-microbal acetylenic carbide, p-hydroxycinnamic acids, vanilloside, silicic acid, potassium (5.65%), pectins, and Vit A and B.

rhizomes- 5-hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid (5-HIAA), 5-hydroxy-tryptamine, tetrahydro-B-carboline, and indole-3-acetic acid.

Also contains 3-10% fructans (triticin), inositol, mannitol, dormin, abscisic acid, various sugar alcohols, volatile oils (0.05%) vanillin glucoside, quercitin and luteolin glycosides, silicon, potassium, iron, vitamins A and B, xed oils, and mucilage. Trace amounts of mammalian steroids have been detected: estrogen (120nanogram/ gram), androstenone (120ng/g) progesterone (250ng/g) and androgens (3ng/g). Simons and Grinwich, Can J Botany 1989 67.

Couch grass is perhaps our most versatile urinary plant remedy. It is a urinary demulcent that soothes, with its sweet, cool, moist properties, all inflammations of the urethra.

For chronic urinary irritations, such as the passing of kidney stones and gravel, it combines well with yarrow and pipsissewa and can be used as a substitute for job’s tear seeds or woolly grass root.

Work by Grases et al, J Ethnopharm 1995 45:3 found couch grass decreased citraturia when combined with a high carbohydrate diet; with an increase in calciuria and decrease in magnesiuria.

In an open study, 313 patients suffering from cystitis, prostatitis, urethritis or irritable bladder ingested 50-60 drops three times daily for 12 days of a 1:1 60% uid extract of the rhizome. Some patients were on antibiotics (23%). Urological symptoms declined by 69-91% during the course of therapy, with physicians’ global assessment of ef cacy at good to very good in 84% of cases. Hautmann & Scheithe, Z Phytotherapie 2000 21.

Dog grass is useful in prostatitis or enlarged, benign enlargement of the prostate gland, making it one of man’s best plant friends. It combines well with aspen poplar and nettle root for this purpose.

For uric-acid related gout, combine couch grass, pipsissewa and dandelion root for best results, and drink cool.

Acute inflammation, or interstitial cystitis is soothed. Dog grass combines best with birch leaf, goldenrod, uva ursi, and other cold antiseptic herbs for this purpose.

Chronically swollen lymphatic glands, with dry or suppurative eczema, respond to couch grass, combining well with mullein leaf, cleavers and plantain.

In all cases, it helps dilate renal capillaries and assists in the passage of more water, what a German herbalist would call an aquaretic.

It does not make the kidneys work harder but opens the tubules to increase water ow. In this manner, various sand and gravel particles can pass more easily.

Mannitol is believed to play a key role in the medicinal value of this plant. It helps to dilute the urine, helping to ush out sites of infection and inflammation, and thus reduce the chance of calculi formation.

Mannitol is soothing to the mucosa; combined with organic silica assists in healing and tissue repair, and saponins and vanillin that further increase urine ow.

Mannitol is a sugar absorbed whole from the gut, and excreted by the kidney tubules, causing extra water to be retained to maintain osmotic pressure at the same level.

Organic silica helps strengthen the urinary tract and nervous systems.

Triticin is a polysaccharide obtained from the hydrolysis of inulin.

Studies have shown couch grass helps lower blood cholesterol, reduces arteriosclerosis, and relieves fatty liver. The root juice is very effective in treating jaundice and other liver complaints.

Skin problems like chronic eczema (wet or dry), muscular rheumatism, and high blood sugar all bene t from this invaluable plant. If not so common, it would certainly command higher respect.

An older recipe for recent late-onset diabetes is equal parts of couch grass, marshmallow root, uva ursi, poplar bark and pine needles.

Work by Maghrani et al, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2004 90:2 found water extracts of the rhizome lower both body weight and lipid levels in lab-induced diabetic rats. More recent work in same journal 101:1-3 by Eddouks et al, found couch grass rhizomes lower blood sugar levels independent of insulin secretion.

The German Commission E recommends couch grass for various respiratory problems such as laryngitis, bronchitis, colds and coughs. It may be used to advantage in asthma due to calcium antagonism. Many herbs that are good for kidney stones are good for asthma and bronchitis, due to balancing the body’s metabolism of electrolytes away from calcium ion in ux, or calcium antagonist.

The large amount of mucilage helps stubborn cases of constipation. 86

French herbalists make use of the leaves, the bitter principles stimulating the liver and gallbladder function. A good springtime cleanse for chronic catarrh due to constipation and lymphatic congestion is to drink 1-2 cups of leaf decoction three times daily before meals for two weeks. Infusions of cough grass root have shown sedative effect in mice and activity against gram-positive bacteria.

Couch grass seed is used in Germany as a hot and moist pack applied to the stomach to soothe peptic ulcer pain.

Today, in Japan, the leaves are harvested and sold as a functional food or nutraceutical supplement like wheatgrass or barley grass.

Like rye, and other grasses, couch grass seed is susceptible to ergot infestation. Work by Munch found that ergot from quack grass was 1-3 times as potent in physiological activity as required to meet the minimum standards for ergot of rye.

Couch grass contains the flavonoid tricin. Work by Kuwabara et al, J Nat Prod 2003 66:9 found tricin to possess potent anti-histamine activity.

 

 

HOMEOPATHY

Triticum-agropyrum repens is an excellent remedy for excessive irritability of the bladder; and relieving prostate inflammation.

Urination is frequent, painful and difficult. There may be gravel or mucous in the urine, with a constant desire to urinate.

One symptom that can help differentiate the use of couch grass from similar herbs is observing the patient always blowing their nose.

DOSE- Mother tincture or infusion. The mother tincture is made from the fresh roots.

 

 

ESSENTIAL OIL

The decaying roots of Couch grass release essential oils that help inhibit the growth of cultivated plants.

Couchgrass essential oil contains 61 known compounds, with carvacrol (11%), trans-anethole (6.8%), carvone (5.5%), thymol (4.3%), menthol (3.5%), methane, para-cymene and agropyrene (1-phenyl-2,4-hexadiyne) being of most interest.

The yield from the rhizomes is about 0.05%. Agropyrene has generated much interest for its antibiotic properties, and requires further investigation.

 

 

***********Dog Grass flowers

 

 

HYDROSOL

The distilled water of Dog Grass, or Couch grass, as some call it, cleanses the reins gallantly, and provokes urine, opens obstructions of the liver and spleen, and kills worms. CULPEPPER

 

 

FLOWER ESSENCES

Dog grass is the flower essence for those who find themselves tenaciously holding on to old belief systems. Stubborn to a fault, they will twist their fear of change into a battle of egos. Then comes the lower back pains, and frequent urination that accompanies resistance to change.       PRAIRIE DEVA

I highly recommend Couch Grass essence when you need to slow down, take things easy, and recover because it swiftly reduces energy owing through the valves... It is recommended to help you take steps forward and for alcoholics.

OLIVE

Quack grass essence helps in situations where one has behaved badly and others have had to “clean up”.      MIRIANA

 

 

SPIRITUAL PROPERTIES

The feathery, weightless form of the Squirrel tail Grass flower brings with it a message of lightness of spirit and heart. No matter how much is going on in our lives, it is important that we remain lighthearted and playful.            ECLARE

 

 

PERSONALITY TRAITS

As every one knows, the quickest way to get rid of a bad dose of quack grass is to plow the land deep in the fall and sell the farm before spring... It is now generally believed that the reason Old MacDonald had a farm, and evidently hasn’t got one now, is that the ‘quack, quack here and a quack, quack there’, referred not to ducks, as the writer ofthe immortal song appears to have believed, but to patches of quack grass.               COUNTRY GUIDE JULY 1931

 

 

RECIPES

INFUSION EXTRACT is made by simmering two ounces of dried rhizomes in quart of water and reducing to pint. Take in four divided doses over 24 hours.

DECOCTION- Take two teaspoons of the cut rhizome to one cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes.

DOSE- One cup three times daily.

Another recipe is to combine equal parts couch grass rhizomes and parsley root in a decoction. Remove from heat and add a handful of rose petals. Steep, strain and drink lukewarm throughout day for kidney infection or stones.

TINCTURE- 3-6 ml up to three times daily. The fresh root tincture is made 1:2, the dried rhizome at 1:5, both at 40% alcohol.

FLUID EXTRACT- 10-30 drops up to five times daily. Made 1:1 at 25%.

JUICE- Crush the fresh rhizomes with a mortar and express through cheesecloth; or use a wheat grass juicer. Preserve with 25% vodka, or freeze in ice cube trays.

COFFEE- Combine equal parts roasted and ground couch grass roots, dandelion roots and barley grains. It is diuretic so better as morning drink than before bedtime.

CAUTION: German health authorities warn that extra fluids be taken with couch grass. They also advise not to use couch grass in cases of edema caused by heart or kidney insufficiency. The use of couch grass with bloody urine is not advised.


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