Alternative names: Itch weed.
Stinging nettles, both leaves and root, are quite medicinally active, despite their unpleasant attributes.
Stinging nettle root (Urticae radix) consists of the underground parts of Urtica dioica, Urtica urens and/or their hybrids, as well as preparations from nettle root at an effective dose.
Stinging nettle is quite useful as a medicinal plant, although gathering it can be quite tricky. Under each leaf and along the stem of the nettle plant are rows of stinging hair that act like hypodermic needles. These small sac-like structures contain amines such as histamine, as well as folic acid. Contact with these stinging hairs can cause a burning and itching sensation which can last up to an hour.
Stinging nettle is available in tinctures and capsules.
Nettle leaf powder has been described as diuretic, antispasmodic, antiallergic, and hemostatic. Nettles leaf has been shown to be effective as a treatment for allergic rhinitis (hay fever). This is probably due to antiinflammatory properties of nettles leaf, and the relationship of allergic reactions to the inflammatory process.
Research has shown that Nettle boosts our immunity and as such is a vitalizing nutrient and plays a role against both cancer and infection.
Extracts of stinging nettle root have been used, singly or in combination with other botanicals for the condition of BPH (Benign prostatic hyperplasia). Nettles root extracts are approved by the German government as an official treatment for BPH. While the mechanism has not been fully elucidated, two activities have been identified in nettle root extracts that may be responsible for the activity. The first is the inhibition of prostate Na+/K+ ATPase enzymes. By inhibiting this crucial enzyme, prostate cells are prevented from proliferating; and inhibiting this crucial enzyme inhibits hyperplasia. The second activity is an interference of the human sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG is responsible for the estradiol-induced androgen sensitive prostatic growth. A common mixture of 120mg of nettles root extract with 160mg of saw palmetto is used for many of the clinical trials.
Stinging Nettle has been used for over 200 years in Germany particularly for inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. In the last 50 years it has been used additionally for allergies to include hay fever.
It also has been used as a prevention for symptoms of prostate enlargement similar to saw palmetto.
It has been used externally for oily hair and scalp and the treatment of dandruff.
Nettles are traditionally used for hay fever and may be drunk as an infusion, 2 cups a day.
Radix urticae is another plant investigated for its beneficial properties in treating benign prostate hyperplasia. Much less information is available on radix urticae compared to saw palmetto and what little there is comes from Eastern Europe, but there are a few reports that suggest radix urticae extracts may help improve symptoms. [Romics 1987]
It is possible that radix urticae influences the activity of sex hormone binding globulin and its binding to testosterone [Blutplasmas 1983]. Because of this small amount of evidence some people have taken radix urticae as an alternative treatment for androgenetic alopecia. The true potential of radix urticae to treat pattern baldness is unknown.