Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Urtica dioica, often known as common nettle, stinging nettle (although not all plants of this species sting) or nettle leaf, or just a nettle or stinger, is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant in the family Urticaceae. Originally native to Europe, much of temperate Asia and western North Africa, it is now found worldwide, including New Zealand and North America.

Nettles are the larval food plant for several species of butterflies, such as the peacock butterfly, comma (Polygonia c-album), and the small tortoiseshell. It is also eaten by the larvae of some moths including angle shades, buff ermine, dot moth, the flame, the gothic, grey chi, grey pug, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, mouse moth, setaceous Hebrew character, and small angle shades. The roots are sometimes eaten by the larva of the ghost moth (Hepialus humuli).

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Dried Nettle Leaf is in Mother Jai’s Detox Tea & Allergy Relief Tea, shop below.

Stinging nettle is considered a common weed. It is found in gardens, waste areas, near where animals live, and around moist areas such as creeks. All nettles are plants with sharp hairs on their leaves. If you touch them, these hairs inject irritants into the skin, making it itchy, red and swollen.

Exposure to fresh nettles leaves can cause local symptoms such as burning, itching, redness, swelling (occasionally small blisters will form) and local numbness. Symptoms are usually self-limiting and resolve within a few days. In cases where a large area of the body has been exposed to the nettles, or you have been exposed to the nettles for a longer period of time it is possible further symptoms such as inco-ordination, tremor, muscle weakness and faintness may occur.

The root and above ground parts are used as medicine. Stinging nettle is used for diabetes and osteoarthritis. It is sometimes used for urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones, enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), muscle pain, and other conditions.

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Stinging nettle leaf has a long history of use. It was used primarily as a diuretic and laxative in ancient Greek times.

In foods, young stinging nettle leaves are eaten as a cooked vegetable. In manufacturing, stinging nettle extract is used as an ingredient in hair and skin products.

Stinging nettle’s leaves and root provide a wide variety of nutrients:

Vitamins: Vitamins A, C and K, as well as several B vitamins

Minerals: Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium

Fats: Linoleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid

Amino acids: All of the essential amino acids

Polyphenols: Kaempferol, quercetin, caffeic acid, coumarins and other flavonoids

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Pigments: Beta-carotene, lutein, luteoxanthin and other carotenoids

Many of these nutrients act as antioxidants inside your body. Antioxidants are molecules that help defend your cells against damage from free radicals. Damage caused by free radicals is linked to aging, as well as cancer and other harmful diseases.

Uses & Effectiveness

Blood Pressure. Stinging nettle may help lower blood pressure by allowing your blood vessels to relax and reducing the force of your heart’s contractions.

Diabetes. Taking stinging nettle leaf preparations for 8-12 weeks seems to reduce blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. The effect of stinging nettle on A1c in people with diabetes is unclear.

Osteoarthritis. Taking stinging nettle leaf preparations by mouth or applying it to the skin might reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis. Taking stinging nettle leaf preparations by mouth might also reduce the need for pain medications.

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Hay fever. Early research suggests that using stinging nettle above ground parts at the first signs of hay fever symptoms may help provide relief.

Enlarged Prostate. Stinging nettle may help reduce prostate size and treat symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland in men with BPH.

Stinging nettle may offer other potential health benefits:

Reduced bleeding: Medicines containing stinging nettle extract have been found to reduce excessive bleeding, especially after surgery.

Liver health: Nettle’s antioxidant properties may protect your liver against damage by toxins, heavy metals and inflammation.

Natural diuretic: This plant may help your body shed excess salt and water, which in turn could lower blood pressure temporarily. Keep in mind that these findings are from animal studies.

Wound and burn healing: Applying stinging nettle creams may support wound healing, including burn wounds.

How to Consume Stinging Nettles

You can buy dried/freeze-dried leaves, capsules, tinctures and creams. Stinging nettle ointments are often used to ease osteoarthritis symptoms.

The dried leaves and flowers can be steeped to make a delicious herbal tea, while its leaves, stem and roots can be cooked and added to soups, stews, smoothies and stir-frys.

However, avoid eating fresh leaves, as their barbs can cause irritation.

Dosing:

The following doses for ADULTS have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:

For diabetes: 500 mg of stinging nettle leaf extract has been taken three times per day for 12 weeks. Also, 3.3 grams of stinging nettle leaf has been taken three times daily for 8 weeks. A combination product containing 200 mg of stinging nettle, 200 mg of milk thistle, and 200 mg of frankincense taken three times per day for 3 months has also been used.

For osteoarthritis: 9 grams of crude stinging nettle leaf has been used daily. Also, an infusion containing 50 mg of stinging nettle leaf has been taken along with 50 mg of diclofenac daily for 14 days. A specific combination product containing stinging nettle, rose hip, devil’s claw, and vitamin D taken by mouth as 40 mL daily has been used for 12 weeks.

APPLIED TO THE SKIN:

For osteoarthritis: Fresh stinging nettle leaf has been applied to painful joints for 30 seconds once per day for one week. Also a specific cream containing stinging nettle leaf extract has been applied twice daily for 2 weeks.

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Stinging nettle is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth for up to 2 years. It might cause diarrhea, constipation, and upset stomach in some people.

When applied to the skin: Stinging nettle is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin in appropriate amounts. Touching the stinging nettle plant can cause skin irritation.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Stinging nettle is LIKELY UNSAFE to take during pregnancy. It might stimulate uterine contractions and cause a miscarriage. It’s also best to avoid stinging nettle if you are breast-feeding.

Diabetes: There is some evidence that stinging nettle above ground parts can decrease blood sugar levels. This might increase the chance of blood sugar levels becoming too low in people being treated for diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar carefully.

Low blood pressure: Stinging nettle above ground parts might lower blood pressure. In theory, stinging nettle might increase the risk of blood pressure dropping too low in people prone to low blood pressure. If you have low blood pressure, discuss stinging nettle with your healthcare provider before starting it.

Kidney problems: The above ground parts of stinging nettle seem to increase urine flow. If you have kidney problems, discuss stinging nettle with your healthcare provider before starting it.

Moderate Interactions: Be cautious with this combination

Lithium interacts with STINGING NETTLE: Stinging nettle might have an effect like a water pill or “diuretic.” Taking stinging nettle might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.

Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with STINGING NETTLE: Stinging nettle above ground parts might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking stinging nettle along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed. Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs) interacts with STINGING NETTLE: Stinging nettle above ground parts seem to decrease blood pressure. Taking stinging nettle along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

Sedative medications (CNS depressants) interact with STINGING NETTLE: Large amounts of stinging nettle above ground parts might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking stinging nettle along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness. Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.

Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with STINGING NETTLE: Stinging nettle above ground parts contain large amounts of vitamin K. Vitamin K is used by the body to help blood clot. Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. By helping the blood clot, stinging nettle might decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin). Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.

References:

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