Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica, Urtica urens) has a long medicinal history. It was used in Europe as a diuretic (to rid the body of excess water) and to treat joint pain.Nettle is an excellent source of minerals, vitamins A, C, E, as well as Iron and Calcium. Formic acid is one of the chemicals present in nettle stings, along with histamine and acetylcholine. This chemical cocktail is delivered via stinging hairs with tips that break off when touched. This transforms them into needles which then inject the sting into the skin.
Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). It is also used for urinary tract infections, allergic rhinitis, or in compresses or creams for treating joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a common disease in human that gradual overgrowth of the prostate gland leads to impinge on the urethra with impairment in urinary function. Stinging nettle root is used widely in Europe to treat BPH. Studies in people suggest that stinging nettle may be effective at relieving symptoms such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of the bladder, post urination dripping, and the constant urge to urinate.
These symptoms are caused by the enlarged prostate gland pressing on the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). Some studies suggest that stinging nettle is comparable to finasteride (a medication commonly prescribed for BPH) in slowing the growth of certain prostate cells. However, unlike finasteride, the herb does not decrease prostate size. Scientists aren’t sure why nettle root reduces symptoms. It may be because it contains chemicals that affect hormones (including testosterone and estrogen), or because it acts directly on prostate cells. It is important to work with a doctor to treat BPH, and to make sure you have a proper diagnosis to rule out prostate cancer.
The leaves and stems of nettle have been used historically to treat arthritis and relieve sore muscles. Studies have been small and inconclusive, but they do suggest that some people find relief from joint pain by applying nettle leaf topically to the painful area. Other studies show that taking an oral extract of stinging nettle, along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), allowed people to reduce their NSAID dose.
A study shows that nettle extract manifests in vitro inhibition of several key inflammatory events that cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
The nettle extract acts by inhibiting prostaglandin formation through inhibition of central enzymes in pro-inflammatory pathways. These results provide understanding of the role of nettle extracts in reducing allergic and other inflammatory responses in vitro.
One study showed lowered glucose levels in rats treated with nettle extract. The insulin resistance was also decreased. This effect was highlighted when animals were exposed to swimming too.
Ina another study used urtica dioica leaf alcoholic and aqueous extracts to diabetic rats. Histological examination of pancreas from diabetic rats treated with dried Urtica dioica leaf alcoholic and aqueous extracts show slight to moderate rearrangement of islets. According to study findings, dried Urtica dioica leaf alcoholic and aqueous extracts can cause a suitable repair of pancreatic tissue.
Does nettle increase milk flow in nursing mothers?
Although nettle tea is very commonly used for supporting the milk flow in nursing mothers, there is a lack of evidence that justify this use. In fact there are few clinical cases that show neonatal urticaria when mother have used nettle tea for replacing iron levels or increasing the milk flow.
Stinging nettle is generally considered safe when used as directed. Occasional side effects include mild stomach upset, fluid retention, sweating, diarrhea, and hives or rash (mainly from topical use). It is important to be careful when handling the nettle plant because touching it can cause an allergic rash. Stinging nettle should never be applied to an open wound.
Because nettle can alter the menstrual cycle and may contribute to miscarriage, pregnant women should not use nettle.
- Abbas Ranjbari, Mohammad Ali Azarbayjani, Ashril Yusof, Abdul Halim Mokhtar, Samad Akbarzadeh, Mohamed Yousif Ibrahim, Bahman Tarverdizadeh, Parviz Farzadinia, Reza Hajiaghaee, and Firouzeh Dehghan, In vivo and in vitro evaluation of the effects of Urtica dioica and swimming activity on diabetic factors and pancreatic beta cells, BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016; 16: 101.
- Durdi Qujeq, Mohsen Tatar, Farideh Feizi, Hadi Parsian, Alieh Sohan Faraji, and Sohrab Halalkhor, Number and the Diameter of the Islets in Diabetic Rats, Int J Mol Cell Med. 2013 Winter; 2(1): 21–26.
- Urtica dioica (stinging nettle), Cambridge University Botanic Garden, http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk
- Stinging Nettle use while Breastfeeding, https://www.drugs.com
- Moradi HR, Erfani Majd N, Esmaeilzadeh S, Fatemi Tabatabaei SR, The histological and histometrical effects of Urtica dioica extract on rat’s prostate hyperplasia, Vet Res Forum. 2015 Winter;6(1):23-9.
- Stinging nettle, University of Maryland Medical Center, http://umm.edu