What Is Stinging Nettle?
Stinging nettle is a plant that grows in North America, Europe, and Africa. It has been used as an herbal remedy for thousands of years.
The name comes from the stinging sensation that you get when you brush against the plant's hairy stem and leaves.
Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle
People take stinging nettle to try to treat health problems, including:
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): Stinging nettle root is a common treatment in Europe for symptoms of BPH. This is a noncancerous condition that causes the prostate gland to enlarge, making urination difficult.
Some research shows that stinging nettle root may be helpful in treating this problem. Experts are not sure which components in the plant may have an effect on BPH, if any. More research is needed to show that the treatment is indeed effective. Don’t try it without talking to your doctor first.
Allergies: Stinging nettle leaf may be useful in reducing the symptoms of hay fever by acting as an anti-inflammatory. Some research has linked treatment with stinging nettle leaf to relief of symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. But more well-designed studies are needed to confirm this effect.
Joint pain: Research has found some evidence that rubbing stinging nettle leaves on painful joints can provide pain relief. One small study also found that eating stewed nettle leaves was a helpful addition to the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac.
Diabetes: There’s some evidence that stinging nettle can help control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes The research is mixed, however. Other studies have found it can raise blood sugar. You should check your blood sugar levels regularly if you have diabetes and take stinging nettle.
High blood pressure: Some research, done mostly in animals, suggests that stinging nettle can lower blood pressure. Doctors need to do more research to know if it works in people. People have also used stinging nettle as a diuretic -- a treatment used for high blood pressure that causes the body to shed more water in the urine. Research has found this effect from stinging nettle in rats.
Reduced bleeding and wound healing: Some recent but early research in rats shows stinging nettle shortens bleeding times and helps wounds heal faster.
Stinging Nettle Doses
Optimal doses of stinging nettle have not been set for any condition. Quality and active ingredients in supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it hard to set a standard dose.
Natural Sources of Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle can be eaten on its own or as an ingredient in foods. Nettle leaves must first be cooked or steamed to destroy the hairs on them, which contain a number of irritating chemicals.
Most medicinal uses of stinging nettle use more of the plant than you would typically eat.
Stinging Nettle Side Effects and Risks
Side effects. Exposure to plant hairs or juice typically causes:
Stinging nettle may cause:
It may also encourage bleeding and cause uterine contraction.
Risks. Avoid stinging nettle if you're allergic or sensitive to nettle or plants in the same family.
Use with caution if you're elderly because of the potential of causing low blood pressure.
And use stinging nettle with caution if you have diabetes because of the potential that it may lower or raise blood sugar levels.
Interactions. Stinging nettle may interact with some medications, so use with caution if you're taking:
Stinging nettle may also interact with alpha-blockers, finasteride, and other drugs. And it may interact with other herbs and supplements.
Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.
Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.