Stinging nettle is a popular herb that is used for its various health benefits.
Research shows that it may be able to help with a variety of health complaints, including: allergies (allergic rhinitis), enlarged prostate, and arthritis. It may also help to balance inflammation in the body.
In this article, we will look at the benefits of stinging nettle, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
- What Are Stinging Nettles?
- Are Stinging Nettles Safe To Consume?
- Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle:
- Best Stinging Nettle Supplement:
- Stinging Nettle Safety:
- History & Traditional Use:
What Are Stinging Nettles?
Nettle is generally regarded as a weed. It grows throughout the temperate regions of the world, particularly on nitrate-rich soil in waste places. The plant has been used extensively throughout history for a variety of applications and possesses very fine, sharp stinging hairs.
It provided a source of fiber before the general introduction of flax and has an old reputation as a spring vegetable, the young shoots being cooked and eaten like spinach (and as a remedy for scurvy).
The leaf was used as livestock fodder and the oil from nettle seed was employed as burning oil in Egypt. Nettle is currently a commercial source of chlorophyll. The leaf, root, and seeds are all used medicinally.
The British Herbal Compendium recommends nettle leaf should comprise the dried leaf or aerial parts, collected during the flowering period. Nettle root includes the root and rhizome and is mainly indicated for benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Stinging nettle can be taken as a powder, in capsules, or as a tea. In particular, nettle tea benefits the body in a number of different ways, and has a delicious taste.
Are Stinging Nettles Safe To Consume?
Yes, stinging nettles are safe to consume. However, nettle leaves must first be heated to destroy the irritating chemicals.
Nettles leaves have tiny hairs that contain chemicals that irritate the skin; these chemicals include acetylcholine, histamine, and formic acid. When nettles leaves are heated up by steaming or cooking, this destroys these chemicals and removes the potential for irritation.
It should be noted that dietary supplements that contain stinging nettle will have gone through a heating process that renders them safe and free of irritation.
Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle:
Stinging nettle has many purported health benefits. We’ve listed the top research-backed advantages below, based on our analysis.
1. May Help With Seasonal Allergies
One of the primary health benefits of stinging nettle is for allergies. In fact, stinging nettle is thought to be one of the best herbs for allergies.
It should be noted that nettle leaf benefits the body’s allergic response, other parts of the nettle plant provide different health advantages (i.e. nettle root for prostate health, etc…).
Research shows that stinging nettle leaf may have the ability to reduce symptoms caused by seasonal allergies and hay fever. In fact, it’s one of the best herbs for respiratory health due to its antiallergic effects.
Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis, is an atopic disease that presents itself when sensitive individuals are exposed to allergens, such as pollen or pet dander.
Typical symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- nasal congestion
- watery eyes
- clear rhinorrhea (clear, runny nasal mucus)
- and nasal pruritus (itchy nose and throat)
In vitro studies show that stinging nettle has the ability to stabilize mast cells. It’s thought that this stabilization effect blocks histamine receptors and stops immune cells from releasing inflammatory molecules that trigger allergic reaction symptoms.
A clinical trial with 98 participants showed that stinging nettle was rated as being more effective than placebo in treating allergic rhinitis symptoms.
Another human clinical trial showed that stinging nettle root helped to reduce nasal smear eosinophil count (a key marker used in diagnosing allergic rhinitis). While both the placebo group and the stinging nettle group experienced a decrease in total allergy symptoms, the findings were labeled as inconclusive.
The researchers noted that their research limitations for this study underscore the need for larger, longer-term studies on nettle for the treatment of allergic rhinitis.
It should also be noted that the study utilized an extract made from stinging nettle root. Typically the leaf is the part that’s utilized for stabilizing the body’s immune response.
Summary:Stinging nettle leaf appears to be a promising natural remedy for seasonal allergies. However, long-term human clinical trials are needed to ensure the efficacy of nettles for allergies.
2. May Help With Arthritis
Human clinical studies have shown that stinging nettle can help to relieve inflammatory conditions, including arthritis.
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease of the joints. Arthritis sufferers experience a wide variety of symptoms, including joint pain and stiffness, decreased range of motion, and joint deformities. It’s estimated that over 40% of the population will develop osteoarthritis in their lifetime.
A double-blind placebo-controlled study involving 27 individuals showed that applying a stinging nettle cream onto arthritis-affected areas significantly reduced pain and improved functionality, as compared to the placebo treatment group.
Another clinical trial showed that taking a stinging nettle supplement significantly reduced arthritic pain in individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. Additionally, the researchers noted that the stinging nettle group had a decreased need for additional analgesics and NSAIDs for pain management.
Summary:Stinging nettle appears to be a promising natural remedy for inflammation-based diseases like arthritis. However, additional long-term human clinical trials are needed to ensure the efficacy of nettles for arthritis.
3. May Support Prostate Health
Studies show that stinging nettle root benefits individuals with an enlarged prostate.
Enlarged prostate, known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a condition in men in which the prostate gland increases in size, which can cause discomfort during urination. There is no known cause of enlarged prostate.
Research has been conducted on stinging nettles’ ability to treat BPH.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted with 620 individuals. The group that was given stinging nettle experienced improvements in a variety of prostate health markers, including increased urinary flow rate and decreased residual urine volume.
The researchers noted that the stinging nettle group also experienced a modest reduction in total prostate size. The nettle group also experienced no side effects.
Another clinical trial tested the effectiveness of a combination supplement containing extracts made from stinging nettle and saw palmetto fruit. The findings revealed that this supplement increased urinary flow by 19% and reduced residual urine volume by 44%.
Summary:Stinging nettle extract may help reduce prostate size and treat symptoms in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
4. May Reduce Inflammation
Research shows that stinging nettle may help to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Inflammation is your body’s natural healing and self-defense response. It’s the process by which the immune system recognizes and removes harmful invaders and kickstarts the healing process.
While acute inflammation is good, chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health disorders, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and joint diseases, allergies, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
A number of animal and lab studies have shown that stinging nettle works to reduce inflammation in the body.
One test-tube study showed that a nettle leaf extract significantly reduced serum concentrations of the Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-a) and interleukin-1(IL-l); two pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Another experiment was carried out on human blood from healthy volunteers. After 24 hours, the concentration of TNF-a was reduced by 50.8% and that of IL-l by 99.7%.
Summary:Stinging nettle extract may reduce the body’s inflammatory response and support overall inflammatory balance throughout the body.
5. Rich In Vitamins & Minerals
Stinging nettle is loaded with a wide variety of minerals and vitamins. In fact, it’s considered to be one of the most nutrient-dense wild foods. In particular, nettle has more protein and calcium than kale.
Stinging nettle contains:
- Minerals: includes minerals such as calcium (853–1050mg/100g dry material), iron (2–200mg/100g), magnesium (175mg/100g), phosphorus (50–265mg/100g), potassium (532–613mg/100g), and sodium (16–58mg/100g)
- Vitamins: Vitamins C (20–60mg/100g of dry material), vitamin K (0.16–0.64mg), and the B group of vitamins.
- Amino acids: Stinging nettle contains all of the essential amino acids
- Fatty Acids: includes both linolenic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, steric acid, and oleic acid. Linolenic acid is predominantly found in the leaves, while the seeds are richer in linoleic acid.
- Flavonoids: Quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin
All of these different nutrients help to build your body’s nutritional reserves.
Summary:Stinging nettle is rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Best Stinging Nettle Supplement:
Stinging nettle benefits the body in a variety of ways, especially for seasonal allergies. This leads many readers to ask the question, what is the best stinging nettle supplement?
We recommend looking at Utzy Natural’s Allurtica formula. Allurtica is a natural antihistamine formula that is highly effective for seasonal allergies. Allurtica’s key ingredient is organic stinging nettle, but it also contains quercetin, rutin, and a variety of other key ingredients for allergies.
Utzy Naturals makes some of the highest-quality supplements that we’ve come across. They have a company farm where they grow their own certified Organic stinging nettles, which adds a layer of trust. Allurtica is the perfect way to add stinging nettle to your daily health routine, especially if you struggle with allergies.
Stinging Nettle Safety:
Safety Class: 1
Interaction Class: A
The Botanical Safety Handbook rates Urtica dioica as being in the safety class of 1, meaning it can be safely used when appropriately consumed.
It has an interaction class of “A” which suggests that no clinically relevant adverse reactions are expected to occur.
In general, stinging nettle is a safe herb that is well tolerated by most.
If eating wild nettles, make sure to heat them prior to ingestion. This removes the “stinging” effect that nettle has.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
Limited information on the safety of stinging nettle leaves during pregnancy or lactation is available in the scientific and traditional literature.
Although this review did not identify any concerns for use while pregnant or nursing, safety has not been conclusively established.
The following stinging nettle dosage is recommended for most inidvduals.
Capsules: Take 8-12g of dried leaf per day or 4-6g of dried root daily.
Tincture: 2.5-5mL three times a day (1:5 in 40%)
Hot Tea Infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1-3 teaspoons of dried herb and infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink three times a day.
There are few concerns when it comes to the sustainability of stinging nettle. It is a prodigious weed that grows throughout the world.
Stinging nettle can be found growing wild in areas with moist soil. It is an easy herb to spot. It grows readily in the spring.
While nettle can be wild-harvested just about everywhere, it is also cultivated in the US and Europe. Cultivated nettle is often used in teas and supplements.
• Nettle leaf: anti-rheumatic, antiallergic, depurative, styptic (hemostatic), counter-irritant (topically, fresh leaves)
• Nettle root: anti-prostatic.
Nettle leaves contain flavonol glycosides (especially rutin), sterols, scopoletin (isolated from the flowers), chlorophyll, carotenoids, vitamins (including C, B group, K1), minerals, plant phenolic acids (especially chlorogenic and 2-O-caffeoylmalic acids). The stinging hairs contain amines, including histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
Nettle roots contain sterols and steryl glycosides (including sitosterol) and lignans. It also contains phenylpropanes, polyphenols, and polysaccharides. It also has been shown to contain the coumarin scopoletin.
History & Traditional Use:
Stinging nettle, also known as “Urtica dioica“, is a commonly used herb among Western herbal practitioners.
Its genus name “Urtica” is derived from “uro” (to burn) or “urere” (to sting). The species name “dioica” is Latin for “two houses”, and refers to the plant’s dioecious nature, bearing male and female flowers on separate plants.
Traditionally, people have taken advantage of this plant’s stinging effect by flailing arthritic limbs with fresh nettle to stimulate circulation. This treatment was known as “urtication”.
This practice of urtication became a standard folk remedy for arthritis, rheumatism, and muscular paralysis and is perhaps the most ancient medicinal use of stinging nettle.
Nettle leaf was traditionally regarded as a blood purifier, a styptic (stops bleeding), and a diuretic. It was also used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, discharges, chronic diseases of the colon, and chronic skin eruptions.
A syrup made from the juice of root or leaves was said to relieve bronchial and asthmatic troubles. Nettle infusion or fresh plant tincture has been applied topically for nosebleeds, as a lotion for burns, as an astringent gargle, and as a hair lotion.
A poultice was also used to relieve gout, sciatica, or joint pain. The seeds were utilized in cases of consumption and goiter and combined with flowers for ague.
It was considered very efficient in uterine hemorrhage and reputedly eased urethral and bladder irritation and had galactagogue activity. Oral intake of nettle leaf was used to treat eczema, nettle rash, and other skin conditions.
In conclusion, stinging nettle appears to be a safe and well-tolerated herb.
Clinical research appears to be promising for helping reduce inflammation, treat allergies, and aid in BPH and osteoarthritis.
It’s worth looking into stinging nettles if you are needing support in any of these areas. As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.
Gardner, Z., McGuffin, M. (2013). The botanical safety handbook [2nd edition]. American Herbal Products Association.