Gout is an inflammatory disease caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. It most often affects the joint of the big toe, but it can occur in any joint.
An acute gout attack causes severe pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in a joint. These attacks can last for up to 2 weeks. Chronic, advanced gout can cause tophi. Tophi are hard, chalky deposits of uric acid in places like the elbow or earlobe.
Acute gout attacks are treated with medications to ease pain and swelling. Chronic gout may be managed with changes to the diet and lifestyle habits. Medications are also used to lower uric acid levels in the body to prevent future attacks.
Alternative therapies have been used to manage the symptoms of gout and to prevent future attacks. Although some are widely proposed, there is little data to strongly support them. Some of these therapies may be more effective when combined with standard treatments.
Natural therapies that are possibly effective:
- Acupuncture —traditional Chinese medicine that involves placing fine needles at precise points to improve the flow of Qi (a form of vital energy). Acupuncture may help reduce symptoms of an acute attack and lower uric acid levels in the blood.A1,A2
- Traditional Chinese herbal medicine —A blend of specific herbs tailored to a person based on traditional Chinese medicine. Results may be similar as those achieved by Western medications.B1
Supplements that are possibly effective:
- Cherry juice D1
May Not Be Effective
- Vitamin C —May lower uric acid levels in the blood, but it is not clear that it will prevent gout attacks.C1,C2
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution
Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions.
A1. Lee WB, Woo SH, Min BI, Cho SH. Acupuncture for gouty arthritis: a concise report of a systematic and meta-analysis approach. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013:52(7):1225-1232.
A2. Lu WW, Zhang JM, Lv ZT, Chen AM. Updated on the clinical effect of acupuncture therapy in patients with gouty arthritis: systematic review and meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016:2016:9451670.
Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
B1. Zhou L, Liu L, Liu X, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the clinical efficacy and adverse effects of Chinese herbal decoction for the treatment of gout. PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e85008.
C1. Huang HY, Appel LJ, Choi MJ, et al. The effects of vitamin C supplementation on serum concentrations of uric acid: results of a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;52(6):1843-1847.
C2. Juraschek SP, Miller ER 3rd, Gelber AC. Effect of oral vitamin C supplementation on serum uric acid: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2011;63(9):1295-1306.
D1. Zhang Y, Neogi T, Chen C, Chaisson C, Hunter DJ, Choi HK. Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks. Arthritis Rheum. 2012;64(12):4004-4011.
Last reviewed February 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Richard Glickman-Simon, MD Last Updated: 2/22/2019