A group of Chinese scientists have extracted new substances from sunflowers to treat gout.
The team, led by Dr. Liu Xiaobo with the School of Life Sciences at Jilin University, found that the three substances are effective in treating gout, which plagues over 80 million Chinese people.
Gout is caused by abnormally high levels of uric acid in the blood. Kidney function and joints are affected as the disease develops.
The number of Chinese gout patients has grown by 9.7 percent annually.
The substances proved effective in a clinical trial involving 80 patients at China-Japan Union Hospital of Jilin University.
"Seventy patients were cured, without toxic side effects," said Xue Junlai, a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with the hospital.
A report issued by the College of Basic Medical Sciences of Jilin University showed the ingredients are safe for the liver and kidneys.
The most commonly used anti-gout drugs fail to clear chalkstones, which lead to swollen joints. In addition, most of the drugs disrupt the function of the liver and kidneys.
Only sunflowers grown in salty and alkaline soil are effective in treating gout, Liu said, since levels of alkaloids, one of the three substances, differ in sunflowers grown in different locations.
The extracts are produced as dietary supplements. The research team is pushing for the next phase of clinical trials and will apply for its status as a drug.