You may not know how rough toe pain can be until you have a bout of gout, a common form of arthritis that causes sudden and severe attacks of pain, swelling, and redness in the joints.
While gout can theoretically affect any joint, it’s most known for causing sharp and intense pain in the big toe—in fact, people often report waking in the middle of the night feeling like their big toe is burning.
Gout is caused by an accumulation of urate crystals, which form when people have too much uric acid in their blood.
The body normally produces uric acid when it breaks down substances called purines, which are already found in the body but also in certain foods and drinks, such as red meat, certain fish, and beer and cocktails.
This buildup of uric acid can cause sharp urate crystals to form in tissue, which results in needle-like pain known as a “gout attack.”
While gout isn’t necessarily cause for major medical concern, if left untreated, it can result in joint damage or lead to kidney stones.
While you should always seek medical attention for new, severe pain, there are also ways to relieve gout pain at home, such as natural foods and supplements.
Home Remedies for Gout Relief
If you’re prone to gout attacks, a doctor may also prescribe a medication to decrease the uric acid in your body, such as allopurinol.
If you’re at home and in severe pain—or if you want to reduce your chances of a gout attack—there are a few evidence-backed natural remedies for gout relief, from foods to lifestyle changes.
If, for some reason, your gout gets worse or home remedies just aren’t cutting it, don’t hesitate to see a health care provider or chat with a K doctor, who can help you manage the pain and teach you how to prevent future gout attacks.
Natural Ways to Treat Gout
There are several common foods that are known to help your body excrete uric acid, thereby helping to alleviate pain from gout flares.
Cherry juice is a common home remedy for gout.
According to one study from 2011, drinking eight ounces of 100% tart cherry juice every day for four weeks can significantly lower the amount of uric acid in people’s blood.
Cherries also contain compounds called anthocyanins, which are naturally anti-inflammatory and can ease swelling associated with gout.
To prevent a gout flare-up with cherries, the Arthritis Foundation recommends eating a handful of tart cherries or drinking a glass of tart cherry juice each day.
You can find either at most grocery stores.
An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, but eating apples can help naturally lower uric acid levels and in turn prevent gout attacks.
That’s because apples are high in fiber, a nutrient that absorbs uric acid from the bloodstream so the body can eliminate it.
Apples also contain malic acid, which can neutralize negative effects of uric acid that’s already in the body.
If your goal is to reduce the odds of a gout attack, steer clear of juice, which often has added sugar that can have the opposite effect on uric acid levels.
Plus, juice doesn’t contain the fiber from an apple, which is what’s most helpful for gout.
Hibiscus, a flowering plant, has been shown to increase uric acid levels in the urine (a byproduct of removing uric acid from the body).
One animal study found hibiscus could be effective in lowering uric acid levels, which could theoretically reduce the risk of gout.
To prevent gout attacks at home, try drinking hibiscus tea.
You can find hibiscus tea at grocery stores or make your own tea with dried hibiscus.
Simply steep the herbs in hot water for 10 or so minutes.
Dandelion is another tea you can make at home to potentially stave off gout attacks.
People often use dandelion tea and extract to help with kidney function, which could in turn help the body remove excess uric acid.
There’s not much scientific evidence supporting dandelion as a gout remedy, but one animal study found dandelion can decrease uric acid levels.
You can find dandelion tea at many grocery and health food stores.
If you decide to try a supplement or dandelion extract, talk to a doctor first and, as always, follow the instructions on the label.
Celery is commonly touted as a home remedy for urinary tract issues, and celery seed extract has been recommended as a home remedy for gout.
That may be because celery seed contains luteolin, a compound that can help to reduce uric acid levels.
Antioxidants found in celery can also help to reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, including gout.
While there’s no direct scientific evidence suggesting celery is an effective way to prevent gout, it can’t hurt to munch on a healthy snack that’s low in purine.
If you decide to try celery seed extract as a supplement, talk to your doctor first and follow the instructions on the product label.
Ginger is known to help with digestion and ease nausea, but it can also help with inflammation, including gout.
One animal study, for example, found ginger lowered uric acid levels in subjects who consumed ginger internally.
Another study conducted in humans concluded applying ginger as a paste or compress to gout flare-up can reduce pain.
Creating your own ginger compress is relatively easy.
Start by boiling a tablespoon of fresh, grated ginger, then soak a clean cloth in the mixture and apply it to the affected joint when it’s fully cool for up to 30 minutes.
You can also cook your own food with ginger to see if it helps reduce inflammation, or drink a cup of ginger tea, which you should be able to find at the store.
Bananas in moderation may help prevent gout because they contain high levels of potassium, a mineral your organs need to function properly (including your kidney).
Bananas also contain a decent amount of fiber, which may help remove uric acid from the body.
One banana per day should be enough to reap any benefits they offer—just avoid eating too many, because they contain fructose, which, in large quantities, can actually trigger gout.
Since ancient times, milk thistle has served as a treatment for digestive problems and liver diseases.
Recent studies on mice show that milk thistle is also capable of decreasing uric acid, so there is no evidence that this works on humans as of yet.
Milk thistle is available for purchase online or in most health food stores. Follow the dosing directions on the supplement you purchase or discuss with your medical provider.
Since the times of Ancient Greece, stinging nettle has treated aching muscles and joints, eczema, gout, and anemia.
You can make this plant into a tea, juice, or used as an ingredient in dishes.
To brew a tea, boil water and steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried nettle per cup of water. Drink up to three cups per day.
Magnesium is a dietary mineral with many benefits.
Magnesium intake helps decrease inflammation in the body, and one study suggests taking magnesium may lower a person’s uric acid.
While this remedy may not help with an acute gout flair, consistently taking it may help reduce flairs in the future.
Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice
Lemons are full of health and medicinal value. Recent studies show that lemon juice helps reduce uric acid levels in mice, but there isn’t strong research yet for humans.
Apple cider vinegar has a long anecdotal history for treating gout although there are no current studies to back it up. It is however beneficial for overall health.
Lifestyle Changes That Help Treat Gout
Gout can happen to anyone, and it’s not always possible to prevent it, especially because some people seem to be predisposed to developing gout.
However, certain lifestyle factors can help your kidneys get rid of excess uric acid and decrease the odds that you’ll experience a gout attack.
Here are a few simple lifestyle shifts to try.
Get enough sleep
An overall healthy lifestyle is crucial to preventing inflammation, including gout attacks.
Daily routines such as exercise, a nutritious diet, and getting enough sleep can help your body fight inflammation and in turn prevent high levels of uric acid from building up in your body.
If possible, try to go to bed and wake up at a regular time, making sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
It’s also helpful to avoid caffeine late in the day and moderate your alcohol intake (especially since alcohol is a known risk factor for gout).
Stress-reduction techniques like yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and psychotherapy can also help you sleep.
If you find yourself experiencing difficulty falling or staying asleep on a regular basis, talk to your health care provider or a K doctor about how you can improve your sleep.
Drinking enough water is a simple way to help your kidneys flush out any excess uric acid in your body.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for water intake.
Keep a glass or bottle of water with you throughout the day and sip it frequently.
If your urine is light or clear, you’re likely hydrated enough (and you hopefully won’t have a gout attack).
Topical cold or hot application
Once a gout attack hits, try applying ice or heat to the affected area to reduce the pain.
Cold has been shown in studies to reduce swelling and inflammation associated with gout, while heat can reduce pain by bringing more blood to the affected area.
Alternate with an ice pack and hot compress throughout the day as needed.
Just make sure to cover the cold and hot compresses so they don’t directly touch your skin.
Eliminate diet triggers
Food and drink can play a big role in a gout attack, so pay attention to your nutrition if you want to prevent one.
If possible, cut back on your red meat intake, and avoid shellfish and anchovies, sardines, trout, and tuna, which are all high in purines.
It also helps to moderate your alcohol intake, particularly if you know that it’s a trigger for you.
If you do decide to consume alcoholic beverages, aim for a glass of wine instead of a cocktail or beer, both of which can significantly increase the amount of uric acid in your body.
Medications For Gout
If home remedies aren’t cutting it, your provider may recommend you take an over-the-counter (OTC) medication to manage your pain.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help to reduce inflammation associated with gout, and in turn, reduce the pain, swelling, and redness of a gout attack.
Your healthcare provider can recommend the best nonprescription medication for you to manage gout flare-ups.
If home remedies and OTC medications aren’t working to manage your symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend prescription medication for your gout.
This may include colchicine (Colcrys, Mitigare), or corticosteroids.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Dietary magnesium intake and hyperuricemia among US adults. (2018.)
Effect of lemon water soluble extract on hyperuricemia in a mouse model. (2019.)
Effect Of Red Ginger Compress To Decrease Scale Of Pain Gout Arthritis Patients. (2017).
Gout, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020.)
Protective effect of silybum marianum and taraxacum officinale extracts. (2016.)
The new-old way to treat gout. (2020).
Treatment of Gout, Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. (2022.)
Uritca spp: Ordinary plants with extraordinary properties. (2018.)
Vinegar: Medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. (2006.)