Nettle is a leafy plant that is found in most temperate regions of the world. The Latin root of Urtica is uro, meaning “I burn,” indicative of the small stings caused by the little hairs on the leaves of this plant that burn when contact is made with the skin. The root and leaves of nettle are used in herbal medicine.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
120 mg of root extract (capsules or tablets) twice per day or 2 to 4 ml of tincture three times per day
A concentrated extract made from the roots of the nettle plant may increase urinary volume and flow rate in men with early-stage BPH.
In many parts of Europe, herbal supplements are considered standard medical treatment for BPH. Although herbs for BPH are available without prescription, men wishing to take them should be monitored by a physician.
A concentrated extract made from the roots of the nettle plant may increase urinary volume and the maximum flow rate of urine in men with early-stage BPH.1 It has been successfully combined with both saw palmetto and pygeum to treat BPH in double-blind trials.2 It has also been shown in a double-blind trial, when used by itself, to relieve symptoms of BPH and to improve disease severity.3 An appropriate amount appears to be 120 mg of nettle root extract (in capsules or tablets) twice per day or 2 to 4 ml of tincture three times per day.
Apply stinging nettle under the direction of a qualified healthcare practitioner
Stinging nettle has historically been used for joint pain and has been shown to be safe and effective for relieving the pain of osteoarthritis.
has historically been used for joint pain. Topical application with the intent of causing stings to relieve joint pain has been assessed in preliminary and double-blind trials. The results found intentional nettle stings to be safe and effective for relieving the pain of osteoarthritis. The only reported adverse effect is a sometimes painful or numbing rash that lasts 6 to 24 hours.
Refer to label instructions
Stinging nettle enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.
Numerous herbs are used traditionally around the world to promote production of breast milk.4 Herbs that promote milk production and flow are known as galactagogues. Stinging nettle(Urtica dioica) enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.5Vitex(Vitex agnus castus) is one of the best-recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that 15 drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing. Vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.6 Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) also has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding. Taking 1 teaspoon of goat’s rue tincture three times per day is considered by European practitioners to be helpful in increasing milk volume.7 Studies are as yet lacking to support the use of goat’s rue as a galactagogue. In two preliminary trials, infants have been shown to nurse longer when their mothers ate garlic than when their mothers took placebos.8, 9 However, some infants may develop colic if they consume garlic in breast milk.
0.5 to 8 grams daily
Taking nettle leaf may ease symptoms, including sneezing and itchy eyes.
In an isolated double-blind trial, nettle leaf led to a slight reduction in symptoms of hay fever—including sneezing and itchy eyes.10 However, no other research has investigated this relationship. Despite the lack of adequate scientific support, some doctors suggest taking 450 mg of nettle leaf capsules or tablets two to three times per day, or a 2–4 ml tincture three times per day for people suffering from hay fever.
Pregnancy and Postpartum Support
Refer to label instructions
Nettle leaf is rich in calcium and iron and is mildly diuretic. It enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.
Many tonic herbs, which are believed to strengthen or invigorate organ systems or the entire body, can be taken safely every day during pregnancy. Examples include dandelion leaf and root, red raspberry leaf, and nettle. Dandelion leaf and root are rich sources of vitamins and minerals, including beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron. Dandelion leaf is mildly diuretic (promotes urine flow); it also stimulates bile flow and helps with the common digestive complaints of pregnancy. Dandelion root is traditionally used to strengthen and invigorate the liver.11
Nettle leaf is rich in the minerals calcium and iron, is mildly diuretic, and is diuretic. Nettle leaf is rich in the minerals calcium and iron, is and mildly diuretic. Nettle enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.12
Refer to label instructions
Nettle has been used historically as a treatment for arthritis. It is applied topically, with the intent of causing stings to relieve arthritis pain.
The historic practice of applying nettle topically (with the intent of causing stings to relieve arthritis) has been assessed by a questionnaire study.13 The nettle stings were reported to be safe except for causing a sometimes painful, sometimes numbing rash lasting 6 to 24 hours. Further studies are required to determine whether this practice is therapeutically effective.
Urinary Tract Infection
Refer to label instructions
Nettle may relieve UTI symptoms by increasing urinary volume and helping to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis), birch (Betula spp.), couch grass (Agropyron repens), goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea),horsetail, Java tea (Orthosiphon stamineus), lovage (Levisticum officinale), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), spiny restharrow (Ononis spinosa), and nettle are approved in Germany as part of the therapy of people with UTIs. These herbs appear to work by increasing urinary volume and supposedly helping to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.14Juniper is used in a similar fashion by many doctors. Generally, these plants are taken as tea.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Nettle has a long history of use. The tough fibers from the stem have been used to make cloth and cooked nettle leaves were eaten as vegetables. From ancient Greece to the present, nettle has been documented for its traditional use in treating coughs, tuberculosis, and arthritis and in stimulating hair growth.
How It Works
How It Works
There has been a great deal of controversy regarding the identity of nettle’s active constituents. Currently, it is thought that polysaccharides (complex sugars) and lectins are probably the active constituents. Test tube studies suggest the leaf has anti-inflammatory actions. This is thought to be caused by nettle preventing the body from making inflammatory chemicals known as prostaglandins.15 Nettle’s root affects hormones and proteins that carry sex hormones (such as testosterone or estrogen) in the human body. This may explain why it helps benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).16 Although less frequently used alone like saw palmetto or pygeum, some limited clinical trials suggest benefit of nettle root extract for men with milder forms of BPH.17
Nettle leaf also contains a variety of flavonoids, which may have antihistamine effects. A preliminary trial reported that capsules made from freeze-dried leaves reduced sneezing and itching in people with hay fever.18 Further studies are needed to confirm this finding, however.
The historical practice of intentionally applying nettle topically with the intent of causing stings to relieve arthritis has been assessed by a questionnaire in modern times.19 The results found intentional nettle stings safe, except for a sometimes painful, sometimes numb rash that lasts 6–24 hours. Additional trials are required to determine if this practice is therapeutically effective.
How to Use It
During the allergy season, two to three 300 mg nettle leaf capsules or tablets or 2–4 ml tincture can be taken three times per day. For BPH, 120 mg of a concentrated root extract in capsules can be taken two times per day.20 Many products for BPH will combine nettle root with saw palmetto or pygeum extracts. Intentional stinging with nettles should only be undertaken after consultation with a physician knowledgeable in botanical medicine.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
In a controlled human study, people who took stinging nettle with diclofenac obtained similar pain relief compared to people taking twice as much diclofenac with no stinging nettle.21 More research is needed to determine whether people taking diclofenac might benefit from also taking stinging nettle.
Potential Negative Interaction
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Nettle may cause mild gastrointestinal upset in some people. Although allergic reactions to nettle are rare, when contact is made with the skin, fresh nettle can cause a rash secondary to the noted stings.22 Nettle leaf is considered safe for use in pregnancy and breast-feeding.
1. Koch E, Biber A. Pharmacological effects of sabal and urtica extracts as a basis for a rational medication of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Urologe 1994;334:90-5.
2. Metzker H, Kieser M, Hölscher U. Efficacy of a combined Sabal-Urtica preparation in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Urologe B 1996;36:292-300.
3. Safarinejad MR. Urtica dioica for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. J Herb Pharmacother 2005;5:1-11.
4. Bingel AS, Farnsworth NR. Higher plants as potential sources of galactagogues. Econ Med Plant Res 1994;6:1-54 [review].
5. Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1993, 177.
6. Mohr H. [Clinical investigations of means to increase lactation.] Dtsch Med Wschr 1954;79:1513-6 [in German].
7. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1988, 318.
8. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Maternal diet alters the sensory qualities of human milk and the nursling's behavior. Pediatrics 1991;88:737-44.
9. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior. Pediatr Res 1993;34:805-8.
10. Mittman P. Randomized double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica diocia in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med 1990;56:44-7.
11. Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993, 176.
12. Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1993, 177.
13. Randall C, Meethan K, Randall H, Dobbs F. Nettle sting of Urtica dioica for joint pain—an exploratory study of this complementary therapy. Compl Ther Med 1999;7:126-31.
14. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 428.
15. Obertreis B, Giller K, Teucher T, et al. Antiphlogistic effects of Urtica dioica folia extract in comparison to caffeic malic acid. Arzneimittelforschung 1996;46:52-6.
16. Hirano T, Homma M, Oka K. Effects of stinging nettle root extracts and their steroidal components on the Na+,K+-ATPase of the benign prostatic hyperplasia. Planta Med 1994;60:30-3.
17. Vontobel H, Herzog R, Rutishauser G, Kres H. Results of a double-blind study on the effectiveness of ERU (extractum radicis urticae) capsules in conservative treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Urologe 1985;24:49-51 [in German].
18. Mittman P. Randomized double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica diocia in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med 1990;56:44-7.
19. Randall C, Meethan K, Randall H, Dobbs F. Nettle sting of Urtica dioica for joint pain—an exploratory study of this complementary therapy. Compl Ther Med 1999;7:126-31.
20. Brown D, Austin S, Reichert R. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and Prostate Cancer Prevention. Seattle: NPRC, 1997, 9-10.
21. Chrubasik S, Enderlein W, Bauer R, Grabner W. Evidence for antirheumatic effectiveness of Herba Urticae dioicae in acute arthritis: a pilot study. Phytomedicine 1997;4:105-8.
22. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 216-7.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.
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