Stinging nettles are found all over the world wherever there are temperate climates. The roots and leaves of the plant are used medicinally, although the purposes for each can vary. It is available in capsules, tinctures, and even as a tea. Although it is generally regarded as safe, using any herb may cause an allergic reaction in some people. Check with your health care professional before adding stinging nettles to your health plan.
The leaf of the stinging nettle plant has been used to treat a variety of allergies. "T" cells, which control the immune cells that cause allergies, are produced in greater quantities when low doses of stinging nettle root extract are used. Studies were conducted by the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, that revealed the use of stinging nettle to be more effective in treating allergic rhinitis than placebo. The anti-inflammatory effects of this herb may be responsible for its ability to relieve allergies. People with food sensitivities may find some relief from allergic reactions if stinging nettle is taken before meals.
The anti-inflammatory properties of the stinging nettles herb also make it very beneficial in relieving the pain and swelling that accompany rheumatoid arthritis. The actions of histamine are hindered with the use of this herb, according to Dr. Ellen Feingold. Using stinging nettles may reduce the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The herb may be taken in conjunction with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), allowing a lower dose of the drugs to be consumed. This may provide effective pain relief, while reducing the chance of side effects from long-term drug use.
Stinging nettle may help in cases of a decreased sex drive due to its ability to keep testosterone active. The lignans found in the herb may also interact with sex hormone-binding globulin, or SHBG, to prevent it from removing testosterone from circulation. Using stinging nettle as a libido stimulant is often preferred over many other treatments because it does not contribute to benign prostatic hypertrophy.
Using this herb may slow the rate at which cells divide in the prostate gland. Receptor sites on the gland, which normally accept growth hormones, are blocked by some compounds in stinging nettles as they bind to these receptors. Cell growth in the prostate also relies on specific enzymes. The compounds in the herb may interfere with these enzymes to slow cell division. In conditions such as benign prostatic hypertrophy, urine flow is often difficult due to pressure on the urethra. When the cell growth and division is reduced in the prostate, this pressure is reduced, thus allowing for an easier urine flow.
- UMMC: Stinging Nettle
- PubMed: Urtica dioica for benign prostatic hyperplasia
- ProHealth: Stinging Nettle Relieves Arthritis Pain
- “Homeopathy, Herbal Remedies, and Nutritional Supplements”; Ellen Feingold, MD, 2008
Addie Scearce has been working in the natural health field since 2003 and freelance writing since 2005. Her articles appear on eHow and LIVESTRONG.COM. She is a naturopathic doctor, certified natural health professional and certified Pilates instructor. Scearce has a Doctor of Naturopathy from the Trinity College of Natural Health.