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Nettle

Botanical name(s):

Urtica dioica L. Family: Urticaceae

Other name(s):

common nettle, greater nettle, stinging nettle

General description

The stinging nettle is a noxious plant with tiny stinging hairs covering its surface. Contact with the plant produces a stinging or burning sensation in the skin and a wheal and flare at the site of contact. This reaction is thought to be produced by histamine from the plant that is released as the hairs pierce the skin.

There are several species of stinging nettle, including Urtica dioica, Urtica urens and Urtica pilulifera. Nettle grows wild in temperate regions and can reach 2 to 3 feet in height. Nettle has a long reputation in folk medicine as a treatment for asthma and as an expectorant, astringent, tonic, anti-spasmodic and diuretic.

Medically valid uses

The best established uses for nettle (in conjunction with other agents) include treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Nettle extract may influence BPH by binding to sites on sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and, subsequently, decreasing testosterone's effect on the prostate; however, there is contradicting evidence on its effectiveness. Further studies are needed to establish its use in BPH.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Nettle extract has components that interfere with inflammation. Inflammation plays an important role in the pain and joint damage associated with arthritis. However, there is little hard evidence to support the efficacy of this herb for this condition. Further scientific studies are needed to verify nettle's efficacy.

Other common, but equally unsupported, claims include nettle's efficacy in treating rheumatism.

There are claims that nettle may also be used in the management of asthma, gout, hay fever, high blood pressure, irritable bladder, nosebleeds, PMS, scurvy, and stings/venomous bites.

Dosing format

Nettle is available as a juice or herb that may be mixed into a tea. The average dose is 4–6 grams/day, which should be taken with at least 2 liters of liquid each day.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

With proper use of this herb, there are no health hazards. Possible allergic reactions (skin conditions, erythema or edema) rarely occur. Nettle may also cause stomach cramps or diarrhea; if so, discontinue use of the herb or decrease the amount taken.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also not take this herb due to its potential diuretic effect.

Additional information

Click here for a list of reputable websites with general information on nutrition.