Stinging nettle Infographic

Stinging Nettle Summary:

Stinging nettle is a small, perennial herb found growing all over the world. Its leaves are covered in tiny hairs that cause a painful stinging sensation upon contact with the skin. The hairs contain a slurry of chemicals to cause this sting including histamine, serotonin, choline, and formic acid (also found in bee stings).

Stinging nettle has a high level of nutrition, and contains a rich source of minerals, vitamins, amino acids, chlorophyll, lecithin, carotenoids, sterols, and tannins.

The leaves and root of the plant are both used, however, they are useful for different conditions. The root is best for benign prostatic hyperplasia, and hair loss. The leaves on the other hand are best for inflammation, prostatitis, allergies, and as a diuretic.

One of the most unique uses of this plant is also one of the oldest, dating back some 2000 years. Urtication, is the process of rubbing or slapping the fresh leaves against swollen or arthritic joints, with the ironic goal of relieving pain and inflammation. The stinging hairs are suggested by many to act as a distraction from the pain of arthritis, however, there is clearly more going on here than this simple explanation. Contained within the hairs are potent blend of chemicals. Some of these chemicals directly signal inflammation to subside, others trigger a histamine response which then causes the body to launch an antihistamine response that ends up with a reduced level of inflammation after a few minutes.

Stinging nettle tea is also great for a hangover, the high level of nutrition, including minerals, help to revitalize the body's electrolytes after a night out. Other benefits of stinging nettle is combating benign prostatic hyperplasia, anti-allergic effects, detox support, treating hair loss, anti inflammatory support, cleansing the blood, antimicrobial actions, diuretic, lowers blood pressure, nutritive, analgesic, stops bleeding, vulnerary, stimulates digestion, aids lactation, promotes regular menstrual cycles, and helps to revitalize individuals with weak disposition.


Herbal Actions:

  • Alterative
  • Anti-allergy
  • Antinflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Analgesic
  • Astringent
  • Diuretic
  • Tonic
  • Expels worms
  • Galactagogue
  • Hemolytic
  • Hypotensive
  • Balances hormones
  • Promotes menstruation
  • Refrigerant
  • Stimulates digestion
  • Stops hair loss
  • Styptic
  • Vasodilator
  • Vulnerary

Botanical Name:

Urtica dioica

 

Family:

Urticaceae

 

Part used:

Aerial parts and roots


Dosage:

Leaves

Infusion (1:20):

250 ml (1 cup) 2-3 times a day

Liquid Extract (1:2): 

3-6 ml/day

Tincture (1:5):

7-14 ml/day

Tablets/Capsules:

2-3g 2 or 3 times a day

 

Roots

Tincture (Root) (1:5) (40% Alc):

2-5ml 2 or 3 times a day

 

Long term use of both the leaves and the root is acceptable. [4]. 

Indications:

 

Leaves

The leaves are used for conditions such as prostatitis, allergies and allergic rhinitis, rheumatoid arthritis, insect bites, wounds, osteo arthritis, high blood pressure, and as a diuretic. They are used both topically and internally for many of these conditions. As an infusion, this herb is great for undernourishment, and for convalescence as it contains a rich nutritional profile. 

 

Roots

The roots are used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, other prostate conditions, and to treat or prevent baldness.


Common Names:

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

 

Traditional Uses:

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 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].

In Brazil, the entire plant was traditionally used for excessive menstrual bleeding, diarrhea, diabetes, urinary disorders, and respiratory conditions. It was also used toically 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 ranfge of inflammatory and pain conditions, as well as head lice. [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 generally used as a diuretic, 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].

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]. 


    Botanical Description:

    Stinging nettle is a perennial herb that is grown all over the world, mainly in temperate and tropical areas. It grows to about 2-4 m high.

    The leaves are pointed, elliptical, with small stinging hairs on the leaf surface. Its name is due to these stinging hairs. Urtica comes from the latin word "urere", which means “to burn”. The species name dioica means “2 horses” likely due to the presence of 2 separate plants for male and female. [2].


    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.


    Constituents:

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

    The plant also contains a rich source of minerals chlorophyll, amino acid, lecithin, carotenoids, flavonoids, sterols, tannins, flavonol glycosides (isohamnetin, 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].


    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

     

    Antiallergy

    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 leukotrines. [2].
     

    Antinflammatory

    Some of nettle leafs ability to combat inflammation is suggested to be through its ability to block the production of various inflammatory cytikines, prostaglandin and leukotrines [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 began 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 activityof human sex hormone binding globulin in vitro., they work by coompetitively binding to this hormone which prevent s it ffrom 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]. 

     

    Hypotensive

    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 reducing blood pressure, and increasing urine output and sodium excretion. [2, 4].

    A vasorelaxant action from a stinging nettel root extract was reported to be act through a release of endothelial nitric oxide, and an opening of potassium channels. A negative inotropic action 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]/. 


    Toxicity and Contraindications:

    Still compiling research. 


    Cautions:

    Still compiling research. 


    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    Still compiling research. 


    Synergy:

    Still compiling research. 



    Author: 

    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: March 2017


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    References:

    1. .
    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). 
    5.  
    Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary