encyclopedia

Nettles

Scientific Names:
Urtica dioica L. [Fam. Urticaceae]

Forms:
Fresh, whole herb; cut and dried or powdered herb; herb tea; root extract.

Traditional Usage:
– Allergies

– Alzheimer’s Disease

– Antinflammatory

– Antioxidant

– Baldness

– Bladder Infections

– Bronchitis

– Bursitis

– Blood Purifier

– Bone and Joint Problems

– Breathing Difficulties

– Cough

– Cellular Regeneration

– Cleansing

– Detoxifying

– Diuretic

– Gingivitis

– Hives

– Laryngitis

– Multiple Sclerosis

– Premenstrual Syndrome

– Prostate Enlargement

– Sciatica

– Tendonitis

– Urinary Tract gravel

Overview:
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) of the plant family Urticaceae is also known as ‘Indian spinach’ and was used as a food and medicine by Canadian Indigenous Peoples, as well as by Europeans. Stinging nettle is known traditionally as a spring tonic. The German Commission E recognizes stinging nettle for treating bone and joint conditions, inflammation and irritation of the urinary tract and for preventing urinary system gravel. The diuretic action of the herb has been shown to significantly increase urine volume in people taking the herb and can help to alleviate bladder infections. Stinging nettle was also traditionally used for treating allergies, baldness, bladder infections, bronchitis, bursitis, cough, gingivitis, hives, laryngitis, multiple sclerosis, premenstrual syndrome, prostate enlargement, sciatica and tendonitis. The most popular use of stinging nettle today is for treating prostate enlargement with the root, which contains lignan-type phytoestrogens. Clinical trials show efficacy of stinging nettle root for this purpose is equivalent to finasteride and is better tolerated. Many studies have shown powerful effects of stinging nettle extracts against abnormal growths and hyperplasia associated with this disorder. Studies have also shown that stinging nettle is an effective treatment of bone and joint conditions and contains approximately 47ppm boron (i.e. > 3mg/100g recommended by the Rheumatoid Disease Foundation for alleviating sore joints and also beneficial for treating Alzheimer’s disease). Clinical studies have found stinging nettle effective for alleviating rheumatoid troubles based on a study of “base-of-thumb” pain. The herb has also been shown to have potent antihistamine activity and is now recommended for hay fever and breathing difficulties. The fresh leaves are a superior food medicine containing high levels of iron and flavonoids. Its calcium is also well assimilated by the human body, and the herb has been traditionally used as a remedy for vitamin and mineral deficiency.

Active Ingredients:
Stinging Nettle herb and flowers contain: Flavonoids (glycosides of quercetin, kaempferol, and rhamnetin in the flowers); chlorophylls a and b, chlorophyll degradation products and carotenoids (including beta carotene and xanthophylls), vitamins C, B and K, triterpenes and sterols (including beta sitosterol), mineral salts including silica, potassium salts, nitrates), 47 ppm boron, other ubiquitous plant substances, e.g. formic, acetic, citric and other acids) are present. The detection of glucokinins, which are said to be responsible for the “antidiabetic” activity of the herb, is still disputed. The stinging trichomes in particular contain amines including histamine, serotonin, choline, etc. The roots have been found to contain 4 different polysaccharides extracted by methanol that inhibit cell proliferation. Polar extracts of the root also contain the lignans (+)-neoolivil, (-)-secoisolariciresinol, dehydrodiconiferyl alcohol, isolariciresinol, pinoresinol, and 3,4-divanillyl-tetrahydrofuran.

Suggested Amount:
The daily dose of stinging nettle is 8-12 g of dried herbal drug or 40-60 g fresh herb or 120-300g freshly pressed juice, or as required according to nutritional requirements. Hot water (ca. 150ml) is poured over 3-4 teaspoonfuls (ca. 4g) of stinging nettle herb and after about 10 minutes passed through a strainer. Unless otherwise prescribed, a cup of the freshly prepared infusion is drunk three or four times a day. For prostate conditions, two to three teaspoons of the root extract are taken daily.

Drug Interactions:
None known.

Contraindications:
Stinging nettle is contraindicated in cases of water retention or edema caused by impaired cardiac or renal function.

Side Effects:
In rare cases, after taking nettle tea, allergies (skin hives or marks, water retention and gastrointestinal irritation) have been observed.

References:

Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. pp. 170; 266. Rodale Press.

Konrad L, Muller HH, Lenz C, Laubinger H, Aumuller G, Lichius JJ. 2000. Antiproliferative effect on human prostate cancer cells by a stinging nettle root (Urtica dioica) extract. Planta Med 2000 Feb; 66(1): 44-7.

Randall C, Randall H, Dobbs F, Hutton C, Sanders H. 2000. Randomized controlled trial of nettle sting for treatment of base-of-thumb pain. J R Soc Med 2000 Jun; 93(6): 305-9.

Schottner M, Gansser D, Spiteller G. 1997. Lignans from the roots of Urtica dioica and their metabolites bind to human sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Planta Med 1997 Dec; 63(6): 529-32.

Sokeland J. 2000. Combined sabal and urtica extract compared with finasteride in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia: analysis of prostate volume and therapeutic outcome.

BJU Int 2000 Sep; 86(4): 439-42.