Nettle Herb: What Is It and What Is It Good For

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

“Stinging Nettle” is what this common backyard weed is called. So, what does it do? Does it sting you when you touch it? The name “Stinging Nettle” sounds like the name of a rock band. There was a baseball player named Nettles formerly of the New York Yankees but there probably is no relationship between the player and the weed.

What is the Stinging Nettle Herb

Some claim it has been used for medicinal purposes since the Middle Ages and others say it goes back historically much further than this. It is a plant that grows strictly in the summer time and becomes dormant in winter. The plant will grow from 3 to 7ft. Tall in the summer. It acquired the name “stinging nettle” because some species will sting to the touch. Other species will not sting at all but they are stilled called “stinging nettles” The scientific name of the species is called “Urtica dioica” and it is a dioecious, herbaceous, perennial plant which will always sport flowers. It has widely spreading rhizomes (a continuously growing horizontal underground stem that puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals.) and stolons (a creeping horizontal plant stem or runner that takes root at points along its length to form new plants.) which are bright yellow as the roots are. The leaves are soft and green and grow to be from 1 to 6 inches in length.

The stinging part is attributed to hairs, on the leaves, that will that will come off if they are touched. Once they are detached from the leaves they became needles that shoot chemicals such as : acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes, and possibly formic acid. Once these combination of chemicals are sprayed on the skin they will give a burning or stinging sensation. The plant is widespread in in northern Europe and much of Asia, usually found in the countryside. It also grows in North America. Now, that we know what it is let’s find out what it is used for.

Nothing but the Nettle

Let it be noted that there have been few studies conducted to confirm the benefits of this plant so the benefits may or may not work. The nettle herb plant is able to keep the skin glow and looking flawless.

Acne Busters

Nettle leaves are used topically on facial skin to treat acne and blemishes. Dried nettle leaves are a dermatologist’s best friend. The dried leaves are used on oily,acne-prone skin to reduce acne. It  gets rid of acne without leaving scars or blemishes.

Astringent  Angels

Nettle herb plants have astringent properties

Nettle herb plants have astringent properties that may help to treat such skin conditions as eczema, insect bites, and chicken pox. It is rare that herbal plant can treat the effects of chickenpox.  Remember, there is no scientific evidence that nettle herbs can treat chickenpox. It is said that a concoction or extract of nettle leaves can be applied topically to treat eczema.

Anti-Inflammatory Heroes

It is believed that nettle herb plants have anti-inflammatory properties that would go right along with treating skin burns and healing burn scars. It would act like a soothing ointment once applied to the burn scars. Whether this is a realistic benefit remains to be seen.

Eczema Watch out

As was mentioned before nettle herbs are effective in treating eczema but this time the treatment comes through drinking nettle herbal tea. Drink about 2 to 3 cups of the tea a day for cleansing purposes which will make your system much healthier. You may be able to apply the nettle tea topically to the affected areas that eczema has touched. It will help clear up the patchy rashes left on the skin by eczema. Apply the tea in a tincture form to the skin.

Hair Help

Hair Loss No More

It is claimed that nettle herbs have helped to reverse hair loss for a long time. Stinging nettle can be taken in capsule form and by drinking nettle tea to combat hair loss internally. Externally, if you massage the hair with nettle oil it will help hair loss. None of these benefits have been supported by any studies. So if they really work is unknown.

Hair Regrow

Nettle is supposed to help stop hair loss it will also stimulate the hair to grow back after it has been lost. The leaves are rich in silica and sulfur which is supposed to make the hair shinier and healthier. The nettle herb extracts water and is supposed to help the hair to regrow. It will restore the original color of the hair.

Dandruff Drops

If you massage your hair with coconut oil or mustard seed oil and infuse either oil with nettle seed extract and you need to leave it in the hair overnight. Rinse it off the in the morning because this combination is supposed to treat dandruff effectively.

Health Care

Arthritic Repair  

Prevents Arthritis

Stinging nettle has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties that are supposed to be effective in reducing arthritic pain. It is known to treat joint related diseases like rheumatism, gout, bursitis, and tendonitis. Nettle juice or nettle oil rubbed over the joints is claimed to relieve the joint pain. Nettle tincture and tea taken internally is supposed to soothe joint pain as well.

Treats Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH)

Stinging nettle is used in medicines that treat benign prostate hyperplasia and other prostate related diseases. Nettle will not treat an already enlarged prostate effectively. But it is said it will treat the condition in its early stages when the prostate is just beginning to enlarge. The herb is able to stop cell division and growth around the affected prostate and improve the health of the prostate.

Urinary Tract Infection Beware

Stinging nettle has diuretic properties that can help with urination issues. It is able to help with urinary tract infections, bladder infections, and other urinary problems. Urinary problems caused by kidney and bladder stones and it breaks down the the stones to manageable sizes. The stones are flushed out through the urine. It helps with diarrhea and dysentery. There may not be any recorded studies to confirm these health claims.

Allergy Relief

The stinging nettle leaves are used to treat allergies. It is claimed that consuming stinging nettle leaves before meals will help to alleviate food allergies. Nettle has antihistamine properties that are supposed to act against the histamine in the body. It may help with allergic rhinitis as well. These leaves are helpful in treating seasonal allergies, hay fever, coughs, sneezing, hives and asthma.

Libidio Booster

Stinging nettle is supposed to be a libidio stimulant and is able to increase testosterone levels. It is supposed to help the male body sustain libido for longer period of time and will increased the sex drive.

Bleeding Buster

Nettle has styptic properties that is able to arrest local bleeding. It helps to control internal bleeding from excessive menstruation, vaginal bleeding, hemorrhoids, lung and stomach bleeding, and bleeding piles formed in the body. These benefits are not known to be proven.

Blood Generator

Nettle leaves are supposed to be high in iron so they can treat anemia

Nettle leaves are supposed to be high in iron so they can treat anemia. (which is low levels of red blood cells in the body) Consuming a bowl of nettle soup routinely will help to treat anemia and lower blood sugar levels. In all honesty there is no perceived logical relationship between consuming nettle soup and having  the anemia reversed or blood sugar levels lowered. There is no clinical support or any studies conducted to support these health benefits. They seem to be based more in folklore and myth than solid scientific evidence.  

Friend to Females

This is a very personal claim but nettle herbs are supposed to help with feminine problems such as relieving PMS pain and strain, as well as menopausal pain. It is also known to help in easing labor and can be used by women to help with breastfeeding by increasing lactation. These again are some very bold health claims that have no supporting evidence to prove they are valid. It is able to help the skin and hair as well as we discussed earlier.

Natural Diet Supplement

Besides being an antioxidant nettle has other health benefitting properties as well. It has beta-sitosterol compounds which absorb dietary fats that are present in the blood. This will keep the cholesterol levels under control. This in turn keeps cardiovascular, stroke, and heart disease problems from developing.

DNA Deflector

Our diets introduce foods that contain toxins. Once these toxins enter the body they are able to damage the DNA and cellular membranes. This theory has not been heard of before. It really is not certain whether there is a relationship between DNA and Cellular damage caused by toxins. But apparently there is an association between free radical damage and cell toxicity. The antioxidants in the nettle herb can eradicate free radicals thereby protecting DNA and cellular membranes. The last thing we want is for free radicals to run havoc in our bodies and destroy the bodies at a cellular level let alone destroy essential DNA.  

Pain Relieving  Master

Nettle herbs are supposed to contain notable healing and rejuvenating properties. There are sports figures who assert that consuming stinging nettle helps to keep them in top shape.They say it helps muscle strain caused by stretching and over exertion.

Urinary Tract Relief

People who have urinary tract disorders may benefit from drinking nettle tea. According to a study published in the “Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy”, nettle leaves contain certain  healthy components that wash out toxins from the body and help to support the medication used to treat urinary tract disorders. So it sounds like the nettle herb itself will support urinary tract health but it don’t directly affect it.

Prostate 2

We discussed before how mettle may help with enlarged prostate issues in their beginning stages. Nettle tea is said to be effective in treating prostatic hypertrophy that commonly affects adult men. A study conducted on animals theorized that nettle tea may slow down the proliferation of cancer in the prostate of these animal subjects. These studies have not been conducted on humans but there is promise they may be able to help men with prostate cancer and other related prostate problems.

Other Health Measures   

One single cup of nettle tea is said to contain many health-boosting components. Health professionals advise to consume it to prevent the flu and the common cold. If you can consume a few cups of hot nettle tea you may keep yourself a little bit healthier.

More Health Benefits

  • Nettle may be  beneficial in boosting the endocrine system.
  • Nettle leaf is a good source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, which make it anti-tumor and and an effective agent treating neoplastic diseases.
  • Nettle leaves  can be helpful in treating neurological disorders like sciatica and neuralgia.
  • It is also known as a spring tonic and improves blood circulation.
  • It is known to stimulate digestive glands and helps in treating indigestion and gastric-related problems.
  • Nettle tea is used to gargle for treating mouth and throat infections.
  • It is used to cure Alzheimer’s disease. This is not proven as there has been no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. This health claim is unfounded.
  • It is beneficial in treating congestion, cough, bronchitis and other chronic cardiovascular diseases.
  • It may be  known to kill intestinal worms and parasites.
  • Rinsing mouth with nettle water acts as antibacterial and prevents gingivitis and mouth and other gum diseases.
  • Nettle leaf also improves immunity and may help to cure hypertension.

 

Nettle Side Effects

It is said that stinging nettle has reached folklore levels in some cultures. It is known as a wonder drug but there really is no solid evidence to support most of the health benefits mentioned above. But nettle has its side effects as well. Here are some of them:

  • Nettle herbs can increase blood pressure.  So it would be harmful for people with high blood pressure to consume this herb in any form. It could be fatal for them
  • Nettle has extensive diuretic properties but when it is combined with other diuretic drugs it can cause dehydration
  • There are studies that have concluded that nettle herbs can interfere with blood-thinning drugs and prevent them from clotting the blood. This could be fatal in some cases
  • An obvious side effect is getting stung by the hairs on the nettle leaves. It is highly advisable to wear gloves and long sleeve clothing when you pick these nettle herb leaves.
  • This herb is supposed to be great for hair, health, skin, and overall well-being. You should consult a doctor before consuming nettle capsules. You should also consult a doctor before consuming nettle tea or nettle herbs in any form. The herb could have adverse side effects for your health.
  • Generally because a lot of the health benefits claimed for the nettle herb are not proven to work it is recommended to talk to a doctor about their potential health benefits.

Nettle Recipes and then Some

 

Nettle Tea

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon dried nettle leaves
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon honey or turbinado sugar, if desired

Method:

Steep the dried nettles directly in the water and strain, or use a tea ball or cheesecloth. Sweeten, if you wish. You may also add a sprig of mint and a slice of lemon or splash of fresh juice.

Savory Ricotta Pie with Leeks & Nettle

Savory Ricotta Pie with Leeks & Nettle

Ingredients:   

  • 1 refrigerated piecrust
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large leek, washed, trimmed and sliced into thin pieces
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ½ cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried nettle leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375’ F
  2. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the prepared piecrust. Trim any excess.
  3. Heat the butter or margarine in a skillet and sauté the leek until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Whisk together the eggs and cream until blended.
  5. In another bowl, combine the leeks with the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses.
  6. Add the egg mixture to the leeks and cheese. Add the dried nettle, salt and pepper and stir to combine all.
  7. Pour the filling into the piecrust and bake 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Nettle Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons dried nettle leaf
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Method:

  1. Combine the dried nettle and olive oil in a bowl. Cover and set aside for one hour.
  2. Place nettle-oil mixture, cheese and garlic in a food processor and pulse until just blended. Add a bit more olive oil, if necessary. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Concluding Thoughts

listed here about the health benefits of nettle herbs

There are some bold assertions listed here about the health benefits of nettle herbs. Some of them are just not valid such as the one that claims nettle herbs can cure Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are working diligently to find a cure to this unpleasant neurological disease. There are medicines available that will slow down the progression of this disease but there is none that will outright cure it. Nettle herbs will not cure Alzheimer’s disease. There is no evidence that nettle herbs will even help reduce the risk of the disease or that there are any studies investigating it as a potential cure for the disease. The bottom line is talk to your doctor before you use nettle herbs for any health condition or for any use for that matter.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.