Stinging Nettle Extract

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Stinging nettle root is used for urination problems related to an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia [BPH]). These problems include nighttime urination, too frequent urination, painful urination, inability to urinate, and irritable bladder.

Stinging nettle root is also used for joint ailments, as a diuretic, and as an astringent.

Stinging nettle above ground parts are used along with large amounts of fluids in so-called “irrigation therapy” for urinary tract infections (UTI), urinary tract inflammation, and kidney stones (nephrolithiasis). The above-ground parts are also used for allergies, hay-fever, and osteoarthritis.

Some people use the above ground parts of stinging nettle for internal bleeding, including uterine bleeding, nosebleeds, and bowel bleeding. The above ground parts are also used for anemia, poor circulation, an enlarged spleen, diabetes and other endocrine disorders, stomach acid, diarrhea and dysentery, asthma, lung congestion, rash and eczema, cancer, preventing the signs of aging, “blood purification,” wound healing, and as a general tonic.

What are the benefits and uses of stinging nettle?

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Stinging nettle is a popular herbal remedy with many uses, ranging from reducing arthritis pain to treating seasonal allergies. What are the benefits of stinging nettle, and what does the research say?

Stinging nettle has a range of uses, and many people find it to be an effective remedy. The herb is generally safe to use, but it can cause side effects in some people.

There is limited research to suggest that stinging nettle is an effective remedy. Researchers need to do more studies before they can confirm the health benefits of stinging nettle.

This article will take a look at what the research says about the benefits and uses of stinging nettle. It will also discuss potential side effects and how to use the herb.

What is stinging nettle?

Stinging nettle has a long history of use as a medicinal aid.

Stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, is a common plant that grows in the United States, Canada, and Europe. It primarily grows in damp, fertile soil.

The nettle has sharp hairs on its leaves. These hairs contain chemicals, such as formic acid and histamine, that can irritate the skin and cause stinging, itching, and redness.

Stinging nettle hairs also contain a range of other chemicals that can affect humans, including acetylcholine and serotonin.

Ancient civilizations used stinging nettles to treat various ailments. For example, Ancient Egyptians used stinging nettle infusions to treat arthritis. Some people still use stinging nettle as a medicinal aid today.

Below, we cover the alleged health benefits of stinging nettle.

Relieving arthritis

One of the most popular uses of stinging nettle is treating arthritis symptoms. According to the Arthritis Foundation, some people claim that the nettle can reduce inflammation, help improve osteoarthritis (OA) pain, and ease gout.

Researchers have investigated the following properties of stinging nettle:

Stinging nettle hairs contain several chemicals that have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. This means that stinging nettle could help reduce pain and inflammation in conditions such as arthritis.

In a randomized controlled trial (RCT) from 2009, researchers gave 81 people with OA either a supplement that contained fish oil, vitamin E, and stinging nettle or a placebo.

Over a period of 3 months, people who took the supplement reported fewer symptoms and less frequent use of their anti-inflammatory medications than those in the placebo group. However, there is a need for more recent studies in humans.

The results of a 2016 mouse study suggested that a herbal gel containing Urtica dioica had pain-relieving and anti-edema effects without irritating the skin.

People who use stinging nettles either take capsules or apply a cream that contains stinging nettles to their affected joints.

Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, which have let to its current uses in conditions such as arthritis and allergies, researchers hope that stinging nettle could also have uses in other inflammatory conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Reducing seasonal allergies

Stinging nettle is a popular treatment for seasonal allergies. Scientists are not yet sure how it has this effect, though some suggest it is because the nettle can reduce allergy-related inflammation in the body.

Seasonal allergies occur when a substance such as pollen triggers the body to produce histamine. Histamine is what causes the characteristic symptoms of allergies, such as inflammation, itching, and hives.

The current evidence for how effective stinging nettle is for relieving allergies is mixed.

According to some research, stinging nettle may disrupt the allergy process by inhibiting the body’s histamine production and related inflammation.

However, in an RCT from 2017, researchers found that stinging nettle extract and a placebo pill both reduced symptom severity. The authors concluded that more research is needed.

The National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) indicate that there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that stinging nettle can help treat allergies.

The NCCIH also report that other home remedies for allergies, such as capsaicin, questioner, spirulina, and Pycnogenol, do not have enough solid evidence behind them to prove their effectiveness.Medical News Today Newsletter Stay in the know. Get our free daily newsletter

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Treating benign prostatic hyperplasia

Benign pro-static hyperplane (BPH) is a noncancerous growth of the prostate gland in men. The condition can cause a range of symptoms, mostly involving urinary processes.

Stinging nettle may help slow the growth of the prostate in people with BPH by affecting hormone levels or interacting with cells in the prostate.

Some studies have found that stinging nettle can reduce the symptoms of BPH. For example, in one RCT from 2013, researchers gave people either stinging nettles or a placebo for 8 weeks. They found a significant reduction in symptoms for people taking stinging nettles but not those taking the placebo.

However, there is not currently enough research in humans to determine whether stinging nettle can help treat the symptoms of BPH. That said, future studies may uncover other ways to use it.

A person should see a doctor if they suspect prostate problems, so the doctor can rule out or treat any serious issues.

Managing diabetes

There is some early evidence to suggest that stinging nettle could also help with the treatment of diabetes. However, much of this research is limited to animals.

In another RCT from 2013, people with type 2 diabetes took 500-milligram (mg) capsules of stinging nettle extract or a placebo every 8 hours along with their usual treatment. After 3 months, the stinging nettle extract had a positive effect on blood glucose levels.

These findings are promising, but researchers need to conduct more studies in humans to determine whether stinging nettle could be a useful addition to traditional diabetes treatments.

Where can I find stinging nettle?

Stinging nettle grows throughout the U.S. It grows in damp soil, such as near lakes or in open forests. It can also grow at roadsides or in fields.

When foraging for the plant, make sure to correctly identify it to be sure it is stinging nettle and not a similar-looking plant. A person can usually tell by looking at its leaf shape and structure.

People can also purchase stinging nettle products that use the stems, leaves, and roots of the plant in health food stores and online. When purchasing remedies over the internet, be sure to check the reviews and find reputable brands.

How to use

Drinking nettle tea is an easy way to benefit from the herbal remedy.

The method of taking stinging nettle will vary depending on its intended use.

For example, the Arthritis Foundation suggest taking up to 1,300 mg of stinging nettle as a tea, capsule, tablet, tincture, or extract. Otherwise, people can take 1–4 mg per day as a tincture, or they can apply creams directly to the skin.

Many research studies have used a capsule or extract of stinging nettle, but there are no official guidelines as of yet.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate the ingredients, strengths, and claims of herbal remedies or supplements. This includes stinging nettle products.

People should therefore use such products with caution.

Side effects

Stinging nettle is a safe herb to consume in moderate amounts. However, side effects can include:

There is no official safety information for pregnant women or children. For this reason, both groups should avoid using stinging nettle.

It is always important to consult a doctor before using any herbal remedy to treat a medical condition.

6 Evidence-Based Benefits of Stinging Nettle

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

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.

1. Contains Many Nutrients

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).

2. 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 hormones 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.

3. 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 dihydro-testosterone — 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.

4. 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 needed.

5. May Lower Blood Pressure

Approximately one in three American adults has 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 dilatory. Validators 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.

6. May Aid Blood Sugar Control

Both human and animal studies link stinging nettle to lower blood sugar levels (26Trusted 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.

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).
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