6 Evidence-Based Benefits of Stinging Nettle

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6 Evidence-Based Benefits of Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle is a nutritious plant popular in Western herbal medicine. It may reduce inflammation, hay fever symptoms, blood pressure and blood sugar levels — among other benefits

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been a staple in herbal medicine since ancient times

Ancient Egyptians used stinging nettle to treat arthritis and lower back pain, while Roman troops rubbed it on themselves to help stay warm (1)

Its scientific name, Urtica dioica, comes from the Latin word uro, which means “to burn,” because its leaves can cause a temporary burning sensation upon contact

The leaves have hair-like structures that sting and also produce itching, redness and swelling (2Trusted Source).

However, once it is processed into a supplement, dried, freeze-dried or cooked, stinging nettle can be safely consumed. Studies link it to a number of potential health benefits

Here are 6 evidence-based benefits of stinging nettle

Phenolic compounds analysis of root, stalk, and leaves of nettle

Abstract

Types of nettles (Urtica dioica) were collected from different regions to analyze phenolic compounds in this research. Nettles are specially grown in the coastal part. According to this kind of properties, nettle samples were collected from coastal part of (Mediterranean, Aegean, Black sea, and Marmara) Turkey. Phenolic profile, total phenol compounds, and antioxidant activities of nettle samples were analyzed. Nettles were separated to the part of root, stalk, and leaves

Then, these parts of nettle were analyzed to understand the difference of phenolic compounds and amount of them. Nettle (root, stalk and leaves) samples were analyzed by using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography with Diode-Array Detection (HPLC-DAD) to qualitative and quantitative determination of the phenolic compounds. Total phenolic components were measured by using Folin-Ciocalteu method. The antioxidant activity was measured by using DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) which is generally used for herbal samples and based on single electron transfer (SET)

Contains Many Nutrients

Stinging nettle’s leaves and root provide a wide variety of nutrients, including)

Vitamins: Vitamins A, C
and K, as well as several B vitamins

Minerals: Calcium, iron,
magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium

Fats: Linoleic acid
linolenic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid

Amino acids: All of the essential amino acids

Polyphenols: Kaempferol,
quercetin, caffeic acid, coumarins and other flavonoids

Pigments: Beta-carotene, lutein
luteoxanthin and other carotenoids

What’s more, many of these nutrients act as antioxidants inside your body

Antioxidants are molecules that help defend your cells against damage from free radicals. Damage caused by free radicals is linked to aging, as well as cancer and other harmful diseases (3Trusted Source)

Studies indicate that stinging nettle extract can raise blood antioxidant levels (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source)

However, it is unlikely that the amount of stinging nettle in herbal supplements would provide significant amounts of most of these compounds

Summary 

Stinging
nettle offers a variety of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids
polyphenols and pigments — many of which also act as antioxidants inside your
body

May Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is your body’s way of healing itself and fighting infections

However, chronic inflammation can inflict significant harm (6Trusted Source)

Stinging nettle harbors a variety of compounds that may reduce inflammation

In animal and test-tube studies, stinging nettle reduced levels of multiple inflammatory markers by interfering with their production (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source)

In human studies, applying a stinging nettle cream or consuming stinging nettle products appears to relieve inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis

For instance, in one 27-person study, applying a stinging nettle cream onto arthritis-affected areas significantly reduced pain, compared to a placebo treatment (9Trusted Source)

In another study, taking a supplement that contained stinging nettle extract significantly reduced arthritis pain. Additionally, participants felt they could reduce their dose of anti-inflammatory pain relievers because of this capsule (10Trusted Source)

That said, research is insufficient to recommend stinging nettle as an anti-inflammatory treatment. More human studies are needed

Summary 

Stinging
nettle may help suppress inflammation, which in turn could aid inflammatorydconditions, including arthritis, but more research is needed

May Treat Enlarged Prostate Symptoms

Up to 50% of men aged 51 and older have an enlarged prostate gland (11Trusted Source)

An enlarged prostate is commonly called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Scientists aren’t sure what causes BPH, but it can lead to significant discomfort during urination

Interestingly, a few studies suggest that stinging nettle may help treat BPH

Animal research reveals that this powerful plant may prevent the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone — a more powerful form of testosterone (12Trusted Source)

Stopping this conversion can help reduce prostate size (13Trusted Source)

Studies in people with BPH demonstrate that stinging nettle extracts help treat short- and long-term urination problems — without side effects (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source)

However, it’s unclear how effective stinging nettle is compared to conventional treatments

Summary 

Stinging
nettle may help reduce prostate size and treat symptoms of an enlarged prostate
gland in men with BPH

May Treat Hay Fever

Hay fever is an allergy that involves inflammation in the lining of your nose

Stinging nettle is viewed as a promising natural treatment for hay fever

Test-tube research shows that stinging nettle extracts can inhibit inflammation that can trigger seasonal allergies (16Trusted Source)

This includes blocking histamine receptors and stopping immune cells from releasing chemicals that trigger allergy symptoms (16Trusted Source)

However, human studies note that stinging nettle is equal to or only slightly better at treating hay fever than a placebo (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source)

While this plant may prove a promising natural remedy for hay fever symptoms, more long-term human studies are neede

Summary 

Stinging
nettle may reduce hay fever symptoms. Yet, some research indicates that it may
not be much more effective than a placebo. More studies are needed on stinging
nettle’s effects on hay fever

May Lower Blood Pressure

Nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure (19Trusted Source)

High blood pressure is a serious health concern because it puts you at risk of heart disease and strokes, which are among the leading causes of death worldwide (20Trusted Source)

Stinging nettle was traditionally used to treat high blood pressure (21Trusted Source)

Animal and test-tube studies illustrate that it may help lower blood pressure in several ways

For one, it may stimulate nitric oxide production, which acts as a vasodilator. Vasodilators relax the muscles of your blood vessels, helping them widen (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source)

In addition, stinging nettle has compounds that may act as calcium channel blockers, which relax your heart by reducing the force of contractions (21Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source)

In animal studies, stinging nettle has been shown to lower blood pressure levels while raising the heart’s antioxidant defenses (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source)

However, stinging nettle’s effects on blood pressure in humans are still unclear. Additional human studies are needed before recommendations can be made

Summary

 Stinging
nettle may help lower blood pressure by allowing your blood vessels to relax
and reducing the force of your heart’s contractions. Yet, more human studies
are needed to confirm these effects

May Aid Blood Sugar Control

Both human and animal studies link stinging nettle to lower blood sugar levels (26Truste Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source)

In fact, this plant contains compounds that may mimic the effects of insulin (31Trusted Source)

In a three-month study in 46 people, taking 500 mg of stinging nettle extract three times daily significantly lowered blood sugar levels compared to a placebo (30Trusted Source)

Despite promising findings, there are still far too few human studies on stinging nettle and blood sugar control. More research is necessary

Summary

 While
stinging nettle may help lower blood sugar levels, more human studies are
crucial before recommendations can be made

Other Potential Benefits

Stinging nettle may offer other potential health benefits, including

Reduced bleeding: Medicines
containing stinging nettle extract have been found to reduce excessive
bleeding, especially after surgery (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).

Liver health: Nettle’s
antioxidant properties may protect your liver against damage by toxins, heavy
metals and inflammation (34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).

Natural diuretic: This plant may
help your body shed excess salt and water, which in turn
could lower blood pressure temporarily. Keep in mind that these findings
are from animal studies (31Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source).

Wound and burn healing: Applying
stinging nettle creams may support wound healing, including burn wounds (37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source).

Summary

 Stinging
nettle’s other potential health benefits include lessened bleeding, boosted
liver health and wound healing

Potential Side Effects

Consuming dried or cooked stinging nettle is generally safe. There are few, if any, side effects (40Trusted Source)

However, be careful when handling fresh stinging nettle leaves, as their hair-like barbs can harm your skin

These barbs can inject an array of chemicals, such as, 2Trusted Source)

Acetylcholine

Histamine

Serotonin

Leukotrienes

Formic
acid

These compounds can cause rashes, bumps, hives and itchiness

In rare cases, people may have a severe allergic reaction, which can be life-threatening

However, these chemicals diminish as the leaves are processed, meaning that you shouldn’t experience mouth or stomach irritation when eating dried or cooked stinging nettle

Pregnant women should avoid consuming stinging nettle because it may trigger uterine contractions, which can raise the risk of a miscarriage

Speak to your doctor before consuming stinging nettle if you’re taking one of the following

Blood thinners

Blood pressure medication

Diuretics (water pills)

Diabetes medication

Lithium

Stinging nettle could interact with these medications. For instance, the plant’s potential diuretic effect may strengthen the impact of diuretics, which can raise your risk of dehydration

Summary 

Dried
or cooked stinging nettle is safe to eat for most people. However, you
shouldn’t eat fresh leaves, as they may cause irritation

How to Consume It

Stinging nettle is incredibly easy to add to your daily routine

It can be purchased in many health food stores, but you can also grow it yourself

You can buy dried/freeze-dried leaves, capsules, tinctures and creams. Stinging nettle ointments are often used to ease osteoarthritis symptoms

The dried leaves and flowers can be steeped to make a delicious herbal tea, while its leaves, stem and roots can be cooked and added to soups, stews, smoothies and stir-frys. However, avoid eating fresh leaves, as their barbs can cause irritation

Currently, there is no recommended dosage for stinging nettle products

That said, studies suggest that the following doses are most effective for certain conditions (14Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source)

Enlarged prostate gland: 360 mg of root
extract per day

Allergies: 600 mg of freeze-dried leaves per
day

If you buy a stinging nettle supplement, it’s best to speak to your doctor before trying it and to follow the instructions that come with it

Summary 

Stinging
nettle is very versatile. It can be cooked in stews and soups, brewed as an
herbal tea, applied as an ointment and taken as a supplement

The Bottom Line

Stinging nettle is a nutritious plant popular in Western herbal medicine

Studies suggest that it may reduce inflammation, hay fever symptoms, blood pressure and blood sugar levels — among other benefits

While fresh stinging nettle may cause irritation, cooked, dried or freeze-dried stinging nettle is generally safe to consume

If you’re curious, try adding this leafy green to your diet today

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