Many people today suffer from arthritis and gout but what a lot of them don’t realise is that their painful condition is made worse by many commonly eaten foods and their acidic content. There are plenty of greens, vegetables and some fruits that contain oxalic acid and this is where the problem lies. Purines in foods become uric acid in the body. Even black tea is one such source of the problem. Cranberries can be good for you but they are a fruit with a high acid content. Moderation is the key with many such foods.
The late Margaret Hills, who had been a nurse, became famous for her book Curing Arthritis the Drug-Free Way, and a main part of her theory and the remedy she prescribed, is the avoidance of the foods and drinks that cause arthritic conditions. Hills had once suffered the painful ailment herself but had found a cure for it.
She claimed that apple cider vinegar counter-acted the problem by helping to break up the crystals in the joints. It contains malic acid, and this has an alkaline effect in the bloodstream. So, apple cider vinegar is a very important way of treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, according to Hills.
Hills helped many people cure their arthritis and soon had thousands of followers. She set up a clinic and also went on to write other books, all dealing with the subject of how to treat yourself if you suffer from arthritis and how to live a lifestyle that prevents the condition starting or returning if you once had it. She recommended eating a healthy diet that is low in purines and avoiding commonly eaten food such as citrus fruit and drinking black tea.
You see, the inflammation in the joints is caused by uric acid crystals that have accumulated over time. Oxalic acid and oxalates not only add to this problem but cut down the absorption of calcium, which is needed for the strength, repair and growth of bones. It is believed that oxalates, and calcium oxalate in particular, cause kidney stones.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Honeygar
Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes healed himself of terrible arthritis with cider vinegar in a product known as Honeygar, which also contains honey as its name suggests. He takes Honeygar daily and swears by its efficacy. His story was published in the Daily Mail in 2008 in a story by Matthew Dennison entitled: “Sir Ranulph Fiennes: I beat my arthritis with a vinegar cure passed down from my mother”.
Amongst the plants that contain oxalic acid, Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) has large amounts of this substance in its leaves. Many people think of this herb as being healthy to eat, and whilst this is mainly true, because of the oxalic acid it should be eaten with caution by anyone with a tendency to suffer from arthritis.
Many of us were brought up watching the Popeye the Sailor-man cartoons in which the hero of these animations derives all his strength from eating Spinach. Again, this plant is very good for us in moderation because os the vitamins and minerals it contains. However, Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) too has a lot of oxalic acid in it, as does its very close relative the Beetroot. Beetroot and the Beets are all in the Beta genus of plants. Sea Beet or Wild Spinach, which is regarded an ancestor of the cultivated varieties, is Beta vulgaris. Chard too contains oxalic acid in its leaves and is actually a descendant of the wild plant just mentioned because it is known to botanists as B. vulgaris subsp. cicla.
Rhubarb on sale
Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) may make delicious pies but the leaves of this vegetable are actually poisonous due to the acids in them. The pinkish-red stalks which we use in our cooking admittedly do not contain anywhere near as much oxalic acid but it is present. This has been known for a long time and many old books will include a caution that this food should be avoided or eaten in moderation by those who suffer from gout and arthritis.
There are two sorts of plant known as Sorrel. First there are those in the Rumex genus including the Common Sorrel (R. acetosa) and the Sheep’s Sorrel (R. acetosella). They are known for having a sharp and tangy taste and make good additions to salads and can be cooked as greens. However the acidity of these Sorrels is caused by oxalic acid.
The second type of Sorrel that also contains high levels of this harmful acid are those in the Oxalis genus. Even their generic name tells you this is the case. Wood Sorrel (O. acetosella) and the Bermuda Buttercup (O. pes-caprae) are two of the many species. They all have pretty foliage like four-leaved clovers and many have dainty flowers too. The Oxalis species have a tangy taste and are eaten in salads but again the caution needs to be applied because of the oxalic acid they contain.
The Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a common weed in many places in the world. This little plant with its semi-succulent leaves makes a popular and tangy addition to salads but again it has oxalic acid present in its leaves in the form of oxalates. It can be cooked as well as eaten raw and has many other health-giving nutrients but care should be taken because of the oxalic acid present.
A useful list of edible plants and how much oxalic acid they contain is published here by the USDA: