What are the benefits and uses of stinging nettle?


What are the benefits and uses of stinging nettle? 



Stinging nettle is a popular natural remedy with a wide range of uses. In this article we will examine more closely the uses of stinging nettle, its effectiveness, how to use it, and possible side effects.

What is stinging nettle?

Stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, commonly grows in the United States, Canada, and Europe. It gets its name from the sharp hairs on its leaves which contain chemicals which irritate the skin and cause stinging, itching, and redness.

Stinging nettles have been used since ancient civilisations. For example, the Ancient Egyptians are known to have used stinging nettle infusions to treat arthritis.


Relieving arthritis

Stinging nettles can be used to reduce inflammation, improve osteoarthritis pain, and ease gout. This is due to the fact that the hairs of the nettles contain multiple chemicals that can help to reduce pain and inflammation.

Researchers have found that stinging nettles have the following properties: antimicrobial, antioxidant, pain-relieving, and anti-ulcer.

In a randomized controlled trial (RCT) from 2009, 81 participants with osteoarthritis were given either a supplement containing fish oil, vitamin E, and stinging nettle, or a placebo.

Over a 3 month period, the group who took the supplement reported fewer symptoms and reduced use of their anti-inflammatory medications. However, a more recent human study could be of use.

In 2016, a mouse study suggested that a herbal gel containing stinging nettles had pain-relieving and anti-edema effects without irritating the skin.

People who use stinging nettle for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects generally take capsules or apply a cream to their effected areas. It is hoped that stinging nettle could also be used to help remedy other inflammatory conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.


Reducing seasonal allergies

Stinging nettle is a popular treatment for seasonal allergies. Although researchers are not yet sure on how it has this effect, it has been suggested that it is due to the nettle reducing allergy-related inflammation in the body.

Seasonal allergies occur when a substance such as pollen triggers the body to produce histamine, which is what causes the characteristic symptoms of allergies.

Research has found that stinging nettle may disrupt the allergy process by inhibiting the body’s histamine production.

However, in an RCT from 2017, it was found that stinging nettle extract and a placebo pill both reduced symptom severity, and the authors concluded that more research is required.

The National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) indicate that there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that stinging nettle can help treat allergies.


Treating benign prostatic hyperplasia

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a non-cancerous growth of the prostate gland in men. It has a variety of symptoms, most of which involve urinary processes.

It has been found that stinging nettle may help to slow the growth of the prostate in people with BPH by affecting hormone levels or interacting with cells in the prostate.

Some studies have also shown that stinging nettle can reduce symptoms of BHP. In one RCT from 2013, two groups were given either stinging nettles or placebos for 8 weeks, and found a significant reduction in symptoms for the group who were taking stinging nettles, but not the placebo.


Managing diabetes

Although there is some early evidence which suggests stinging nettle could be used with the treatment of diabetes, much of it is limited to animal models.

In another RCT from 2013, a human study showed that nettle extract taken alongside usual treatment had a positive effect on blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Other studies have had similar results.

These findings are promising, but researchers need to conduct more studies in humans to determine whether stinging nettle could be a useful addition to traditional diabetes treatments.


Where can I find stinging nettle?

Stinging nettle grows throughout the U.S, Canada and Europe. It generally grows in damp soil, such as in forests, near lakes, at roadsides, or in fields.  

If you are foraging for stinging nettles, be sure that you have correctly identified the plant to ensure that it is stinging nettle and not a similar looking plant. It can usually be identified by its leaf shape and structure.

Stinging nettle products can also be purchased in health food stores and online. Ensure that you check reviews and find reputable brands.

People can also purchase stinging nettle products that use the stems, leaves, and roots of the plant in health food stores and online. When purchasing remedies over the internet, be sure to check the reviews and find reputable brands.


How to use

The method of taking stinging nettle will vary depending on its intended use.

The Arthritis Foundation suggest taking up to 1,300mg of stinging nettle as a tea, capsule, tablet, extract, or tincture. Creams can also be applied directly to the skin.

Although multiple research studies have used these forms of stinging nettle, there are no official guidelines yet.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate the ingredients, strengths, and claims of herbal remedies or supplements. This includes stinging nettle products.


Side effects

Although stinging nettle is safe to consume in moderate amounts, some side effects can occur, including stomach problems, urinary issues, sweating, hives or rashes, and diarrhoea.

There are no official guidelines or safety information for pregnant women or children, and so both groups should avoid using this remedy.

Always consult a doctor before using any herbal remedy.


Possible drug interactions

Stinging nettle may also interact with certain medicines, including blood thinners, treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes medication, and heart disease medication.

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