Stinging Nettle: Six Evidence-Based Benefits Plus Potential Side Effects


Stinging nettle, scientifically called Urtica dioica, has been known to carry many health benefits used as herbal medicine for centuries. Some people use stinging nettle tea, whereas early Egyptian used it in treating lower back pain and arthritis. Because of its burning sensation, the Roman troops rubbed it on their skins to keep warm. Its leaves contain hair-like erections that sting the skin, causing swelling and redness of the affected area. However, once you dry the leaves, or it is used to manufacture supplements, or it is cooked, it is consumed in tea, drinks, or foods. The stinging nettle’s hair irritates by injecting folic acid, histamine, and other substances, which are believed to have several health benefits.

Benefits of stinging nettle

Though used in ancient times to treat influenza, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatism, and urinary tract disorder, modern studies can now establish the benefits of stinging nettle.

It may reduce inflammation

Moderate inflammation can be a good thing caused by your body’s healing process and fighting against infections. However, when it is chronic, inflammation can cause significant damage to the body. Stinging nettle has several compounds that can reduce inflammation by interfering with the production of inflammation-causing hormones. Some human studies suggested that drinking stinging nettle tea or applying its cream on body joins helps reduce inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Another study conducted on arthritis patients taking supplements having stinging nettle components experienced reduced pain. Further studies are required to confirm the conclusion of this study.

It contains essential nutrients

The roots and the leaves of stinging nettle have been found to contain several valuable nutrients that can benefit the body. These nutrients include:

Vitamins The plant is rich in vitamins A, K, and C. It also has a measure of the B vitamins.

Minerals – Roots and leaves are a good source of iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and potassium.

Fats  Since it is acidic, it contains linolenic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid, and palmitic acid, all of which are useful fats.

Pigments – It contains pigments such as lutein, carotenoids, beta-carotene, and luteoxanthin.

Amino acids – The plant is believed to possess all the essential amino acids.

Antioxidants  Most minerals, as mentioned above, and nutrients act as antioxidants that help against cell damage caused by free radicals. Some studies confirm that stinging nettle can help in improving blood antioxidant levels, thus preventing diseases such as cancer and heart conditions.

It may help alleviate fever

Fevers such as hay fever that inflames the nose’s lining can be remedied by using stinging nettle. A test-tube study demonstrated that extracts from stinging nettle could reduce inflammation that often triggers seasonal allergies. The extracts could block histamine receptors and inhibit the release of chemicals by immune cells that could trigger allergies. However, human studies suggest that stinging nettle may equal or slightly above placebo in treating hay fever.

It can help in the treatment of prostatic hyperplasia

Benign prostatic hyperplasia is often found in the men’s prostate gland as a noncancerous growth that leads to the glands enlarging.  Stinging nettle can help slow down prostate growth by inhibiting hormone levels or by interacting with prostate cells. A study by RCT in 2013 experimented by giving people with BPH placebo or stinging nettle for eight weeks. The result showed a considerable reduction in BPH symptoms in those taking stinging nettle than those on placebo. Nevertheless. There no conclusive research to determine the efficiency of stinging nettle in treating BPH symptoms.

It may help in lowering blood pressure

High blood pressure is a world problem, with a third of the American population having this problem. Severe high blood pressure can result in heart disease and possible stroke that can prove fatal in many instances. Traditionally, stinging nettle is a common component in lowering blood pressure as herbal medicine. Several animal tests suggest that it can lower blood pressure as it stimulates nitric oxide production to relax the blood vessel muscles.

Furthermore, stinging nettle contains compounds that can block calcium channels to help in relaxing the heart through a reduction of force contractions. Some animal studies have also demonstrated that stinging nettle could help raise the heart’s antioxidant defenses while lowering blood pressure. More additional studies are needed to establish the complete effects of stinging nettle on human blood pressure.

It may aid in stabilizing blood sugars

Several studies on humans and animals associate lower blood sugar with stinging nettle. Some compounds in stinging nettle can act similar to insulin. One study conducted on people daily taking 500 mg of the extracts from stinging nettle registered low blood sugar than their placebo counterparts. Further studies are still needed to perform more research to establish the effectiveness of stinging nettle on blood sugar levels.

Other perceived advantages of Stinging nettle

Extracts from stinging nettle are believed to have the following benefits:

It has been employed in the past to reduce excessive bleeding by doctors during surgery.

It can enhance liver health due to its antioxidant properties, thus protecting the liver from potential toxin and inflammation damage.

It can be used for wound healing when applied in cream form to the injured areas.

Potential side effects

Though taking cooked or dried stinging nettle is generally safe, the plant may have some side effects. Exercise caution when harvesting its fresh leaves since their hair-like thorns can cause potential harm to your skin. The secretion from the hair-like barbs can cause itchiness, hives, rashes, and bumps. It can also result in a severe allergic reaction in some people, though it is rare.

Stinging nettle should not be taken by pregnant women as it may cause uterine contraction, resulting in a potential miscarriage. It may react with some medications; therefore, those taking blood thinners, diuretics, lithium, and blood pressure medication should talk to their doctor first whenever they want to consume stinging nettle.

The Bottom Line

Stinging nettle is rich in nutrients components that can be beneficial to the body. This ancient plant has long been used for medicinal purposes such as alleviating arthritis pain and relieving joint pains. Some studies have found that stinging nettle could improve blood sugar and pressure and treat other illnesses. However, there is a need for additional human studies to unlock the benefits of stinging nettle to our bodies fully.

Crystal Kadir

MS, Durham University

The work of a family doctor includes a wide range of clinical diversity, which requires extensive knowledge and erudition from a specialist. However, I believe that the most important thing for a family doctor is to be human because the cooperation and understanding between the doctor and the patient are crucial in ensuring successful health care. On my days off, I love being in nature. Since childhood, I have been passionate about playing chess and tennis. Whenever I have time off, I enjoy traveling around the world.

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