Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging Nettle Summary

Stinging nettle is considered a weed in most places it grows.

This is a shame because it makes for excellent medicine.

It is very adaptable and can be grown in very harsh growing conditions. The stinging leaves make it undesirable by most people.

Despite its undesirable traits, the leaves are a high source of trace minerals and have potent anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, and hypertensive effects. The roots are mainly used to treat hormone-related dysfunctions for its ability to inhibit SHBG competitively.

stinging-nettle-cover.jpg

+ Indications

Leaves

  • Allergies
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Insect bites
  • Wounds
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hypertension
  • As a diuretic
  • Convalescence

Roots

  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Prostatitis
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Urinary stones

+ Contraindications

None noted.

Herbal Actions:

  • Alterative
  • Anti-allergy
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antilithic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-Prostatic
  • Analgesic
  • Astringent
  • Diuretic
  • Vermifuge
  • Galactagogue
  • Hemolytic
  • Hypotensive
  • Refridgerant
  • Styptic
  • Vasodilator
  • Vulnerary
 

What Is Stinging Nettle Used For?

The leaves an root of nettle are used very differently. The leaves are high in minerals and are often used to treat convalescence, allergies, arthritis, and as a diuretic. The roots are commonly used for benign prostatic hyperplasia, alopecia, and hormone-related male pattern baldness.

 

Traditional Uses

+ Western Herbal Medicine

In the past, nettle has been used as a diuretic, to build the blood, for arthritis, rheumatism, improve hair appearance and health (topical) [2].

Both Galen and Dioscorides have mentioned the leaf for use with asthma, pleurisy, and spleen conditions, and noted its diuretic and laxative effects [2].

In Europe, especially Germany, stinging nettle is used for rheumatic and other inflammatory conditions, prostate diseases, and as a diuretic. [2].

In current Western herbal medicine, the root and leaves are used for different conditions. The leaves are used as a diuretic and for arthritis, prostatitis, and allergies. The root, on the other hand, is used mainly for benign prostatic hyperplasia, and to treat or prevent baldness or alopecia. [2].

+ South America

In Brazil, the entire plant was traditionally used for excessive menstrual bleeding, diarrhea, diabetes, urinary disorders, and respiratory conditions. It was also used topically here for a range of skin conditions. [2].

In Peru stinging nettle is used for muscular pain, arthritis, ulcers, diabetes, digestive conditions, nosebleeds, and rheumatism. It was also used externally here for a range of inflammatory and pain conditions, as well as head lice. [2].

+ North American Aboriginals

In early North American medicine, the leaves and stems were infused and then soaked into bandages to be used as a type of vulnerary to heal wounds. Early North American herbalist also recommended nettle leaves as a nutritious food for weight loss programs and support [2].

+ Other Non-Medicinal Uses

In the past, nettle was used as a source for textile fibers in the place of flax or hemp. The oil was also used as a burning oil in Egypt [4].

 

Herb Details

Weekly Dose

Part Used

Whole plant

Family Name

Urticaceae

Distribution

Nettle is native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and western North America.

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Constituents of Interest

  • Formic acid
  • Histamine
  • Serotonin
  • Scopoletin

Common Names

  • Nettle
  • Big string nettle
  • Common nettle
  • Gerrais
  • Isirgan
  • Kazink
  • Nabat al nar
  • Ortiga
  • Urtiga
  • Chichicaste
  • Brennessel
  • Gross d’ortie
  • Racine d’ortie

CYP450

Unknown

Nature/Taste

Unknown

Pregnancy

Unknown

Duration of Use

  • Long-term use is acceptable.
 

Botanical Information

Stinging Nettle is a member of the Urticaceae, or "nettle" family of plants. The family includes about 2625 different species, and 53 genera. The Urtica genus itself contains about 80 different species.

 

Habitat Ecology, and Distribution

Generally, stinging nettle is found in waste areas, and areas with nitrogen rich soils [4].

 

Harvesting Collection, and Preparation

This herb can easily be grown at home in the garden or in a window sil, Just be cautious of the stinging hairs on the leaves and wear gloves whenever handling this plant.

 

Pharmacology & Medical Research

+ Allergies

Some of the traditional uses on treating allergies, and in particular allergic rhinitis have been supported by a couple of studies identifying the mechanism of action for this condition it was suggested that these effects were the result of nettles ability to inhibit various inflammation triggering cytokines, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes. [2].

+ Inflammation

Some of nettle leafs ability to combat inflammation is suggested to be through its ability to block the production of various inflammatory cytokines, prostaglandin and leukotrienes [2].

+ Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

The root is suggested to be much more useful than the leaves of the plant for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Several older studies have begun investigating the possible mechanisms of action for this. Some of these findings have suggested that a lignan component of stinging nettle was able to reduce the binding activity of human sex hormone binding globulin in vitro. They work by competitively binding to this hormone which prevents it from binding to 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHA). Various in vivo studies have reported a reduction in prostate growth after long-term oral treatments of stinging nettle root. [4].

+ Hypertension

Nettle leaf water extracts were noted to lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and had notable diuretic action. It was even found to be more effective than the pharmaceutical furosemide at decreasing blood pressure and increasing urine output and sodium excretion. [2, 4].

A vasorelaxant action from a stinging nettle root extract was reported to act through a release of endothelial nitric oxide, and an opening of potassium channels. A negative inotropic effect in the atria of guinea pigs was also reported with the oral intake of nettle root extracts [4].

Nettle leaf has also been found to inhibit platelet aggregation in vitro [4].

 

Phytochemistry

The sting associated with stinging nettle is due to a slurry of chemicals contained in the leaves surface hairs. Some of these chemicals include formic acid, the indoles histamine and serotonin, and acetylcholine. [2-4].

The plant also contains a rich source of minerals chlorophyll, amino acid, lecithin, carotenoids, flavonoids, sterols, tannins, flavonol glycosides (isorhamnetin, kaempferol, quercetin), and vitamins (vitamin C and vitamin K), proteins, dietary fiber, nitrates, and silicon (mainly in the stinging hairs) [2-4].

Nettle leaf contains acetophenone, acetylcholine, agglutinins, alkaloids, astragalin, butyric acid, caffeic acids, carbonic acid, chlorogenic acid, chlorophyll, choline, coumaric acid, folacin, formic acid, friedelins, histamine, kaempherols, koproporphyrin, lectins, lecithin, lignans, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, neoolivil, palmitic acid, pantothenic acid, quercetin, quinic acid, scopoletin, secoisolariciresinol, serotonin, sitosterols, stigmasterol, succinic acid, terpenes, violaxanthin, and xanthophylls. [2-4].

The root contains chemicals such as scopoletin (a coumarin), sterols, fatty acids, polysaccharides, isolectins, steryl glycosides (sitosterol), lignans, phenylpropanes, and polyphenols. [2, 4].

 

Clinical Applications Of Stinging Nettle:

The vasodilating actions of the root make it useful for hypertension, and the SHBG inhibiting activity makes it useful for male hormone-related conditions like male pattern baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

The leaves are a reliable diuretic, antinflammatory, hypotensive, and antiallergenic through a variety of different mechanisms affecting cytokine production.

 

Cautions:

The leaves contain small, irritating hairs that may cause significant contact dermatitis in some individuals.

 

Author

Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)

 

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References

  1. BROKEN SOURCE

  2. Taylor, L. (2005). The healing power of rainforest herbs: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinals. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers.

  3. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press. (Pg. 591).

  4. Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health. China. (Pg. 760-771).