Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle

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Nettle (Urtica dioica) has recently become a popular treatment for allergies based on a small study found in the July issue of the Phytotherapy Research journal. Nettle is an herb commonly found in the damp areas of Europe and North America. The roots, leaves, and seeds are all said to have health benefits. When infused in boiling water, the roots and leaves make tea.

The recent study shows that the nettle extract inhibits several key inflammatory events that cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Histamines in the herb can reduce the body’s response to pollen and other allergens.

The study appears to confirm results found in an older study which used a freeze-dried preparation of the nettle herb in individuals with allergic rhinitis. After one week of therapy, the herbal treatment was found to reduce symptoms.

Stinging Nettles is a common plant that has been used medicinally throughout history. Caesar’s Roman troops are thought to have brought nettle from England and used the spines for warmth. Touching the stingers on the nettle plant causes an allergic reaction, probably due to the formic acid found in the stingers which initiates a localized histamine release, thus producing a burning sensation.

In Europe, it was used as a spring tonic, a treatment for scurvy, as a diuretic, and a treatment for joint pain. Nettle is rich in Vitamin C and the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E. It is also high in chlorophyll, iron, potassium, magnesium, chromium, and zinc.

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Other possible health benefits for nettle include anti-inflammatory effects, relief of benign prostatic hyperplasia and urinary tract infections, and the lowering of blood pressure and blood sugar. Nettle tea also has a mild laxative effect, which could be useful for the treatment of constipation.

Stinging nettle is available as a dried leaf, extract, capsules and as a root tincture. Typical dosage is 600 mg dried herb or 2-4 ml per day of fluid extract in divided doses. To make a tea, prepare 2/3 cup of boiling water over 3 to 4 teaspoons of dried leaves or root and steep for 3-5 minutes.

As a side effect, it may occasionally cause mild gastrointestinal irritation when taken internally. It may also cause a rash with topical use. It is not recommended for use in pregnancy, as studies have indicated that it may alter the menstrual cycle and contribute to miscarriage. It has also not been established as safe for children to use.

Because stinging nettle can affect the blood’s ability to clot, it could interfere with blood-thinners such as Coumadin, Plavix and aspirin. It should also not be used with prescription medications for high blood pressure or diabetes. Always discuss all non-prescription treatments with your primary care physician.

Sources Include: Phytotherapy Research July 2009 and Prescription for Nutritional Healing.

This page is updated on April 18, 2013.

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