Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Nettle: Medical Uses

Nettle is used for allergy symptoms and anemia. It also is used to prevent hair loss, stimulate hair growth, promote weight loss, and strengthen the liver.

Historical Uses

Nettle is the Anglo-Saxon word for “needle.” In folklore, nettle was used as a footbath for rheumatism, a spring tonic, a diuretic, and a remedy for asthma.

Growth

Nettle grows 2 to 3 feet high and has dark green leaves with stinging hairs. Touching or brushing against the leaves sometimes causes a severe local irritation.

Parts Used

• Leaves

• Roots

Major Chemical Compounds

Flavonoids

Acetylcholine

• Histamine

Serotonin

• Chlorophyll

• Carotenoids

• High amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin C, and silica.

Nettle: Clinical Uses

Nettle is used for allergy symptoms and anemia. It also is used to prevent hair loss, stimulate hair growth, promote weight loss, and strengthen the liver. It is used as a nutritive tea for pregnant and breast-feeding women. It can also be used for arthritis pain and for its anti-HIV effects.

Mechanism of Action

This herb has antihistamine and diuretic effects. It increases production of breast milk. It has antiprostatic, androgenic, keratogenetic, and testosteronigenic effects. Its anti-HIV effects result from a virus-cell fusion process of N-acteyl-glucosamine-speciflc lectin.

Nettle: Dosage

Do not administer raw nettle.

Tincture: 2 to 5 mL (1/2 to 1 teaspoon) three times a day.

Decoction for root: 1 teaspoon dried root in 1 cup water, boiled for 10 to 15 minutes and then strained and drunk.

Infusion for nettle leaves: 2 to 5 grams (2 to 3 teaspoons) of leaves in 150 mL of boiling water, steeped for about 5 to 10 minutes. Tea may be administered three times a day.

Side Effects

Nettle may increase blood glucose levels slightly.

Contraindications

Nettle is contraindicated in patients who are allergic to it.

Herb-Drug Interactions

Monitor blood glucose levels in patients who take diabetic medications. Taking herb with diclofenac may increase anti-inflammatory effects.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

No restrictions are known.

Summary of Studies

Marks et al. (2000). This American study was a controlled, 6-month trial using 44 subjects who took a blend of saw palmetto extract, nettle root extract, and pumpkin seed oil (Nutrilite product of Amway) for symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Results: Symptoms were improved, but not to a statistically significant level. The growth of prostate tissue was slowed via a nonhormonal mechanism without affecting serum prostate-specific antigen levels.

Chrubasik et al. (1997). This open, randomized study included 40 patients with acute arthritis. Of the 40, 20 patients took diclofenac (Voltaren) 200 mg and 20 patients took 50 mg of diclofenac with 50 grams of stewed nettle leaf. Results: A combination of 50 grams of nettle leaf with 20 mg diclofenac was just as effective in relieving pain as the full dose of diclofenac.

Warnings

Nettle may slightly increase blood glucose levels. Monitor your blood glucose levels closely if you have diabetes or take an antidiabetic medication.

• Don’t use nettle if you are allergic to it.

• Don’t use nettle if you take diclofenac.

Nettle: Recipes

Prepare nettle as you would spinach. You also may saute young nettle shoots with onions and carrots or add nettle to soups. Do not eat raw nettle.

Hair Rinse

To prevent hair loss if you have cancer, finely chop ‘/> lb fresh nettle leaves. Boil in 1 pint water and 1 pint vinegar for 20 minutes. Strain and place in bottles to use as a hair rinse.

Spring Tonic

Combine equal parts of cooked nettle leaves and dandelion leaves for a wonderful spring tonic to purify the blood. Drink 3 cups a day to help combat anemia.