If you happen to touch a stinging nettle plant while out for a walk, you will experience a sudden, intense pain that feels like needles are pricking into your skin. While this might make you think you want nothing to do with it, stinging nettle is very beneficial for your health.
In fact, what many call a pesky weed has actually been an important component of health remedies and even pharmaceuticals for ages.
It has diuretic, laxative, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, and immunomodulatory properties. This herb is also a good source of iron, and it contains vitamin A (retinol), B vitamins, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin K. Other nutrients in it are calcium, silica, carotene, magnesium, chromium, potassium, and zinc.
It is available as dried leaves, freeze-dried leaves, an extract, a root tincture, juice or tea. You can also get it in the form of an ointment or cream that can be applied to the skin. Stinging nettle supplements are available as capsules or tablets.
To make stinging nettle tea:
- Add 1 tablespoon of dried stinging nettle root or leaves to a cup of hot water.
- Cover and let it steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain, add honey for taste and drink it.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of stinging nettle.
1. Helps with Arthritis and Other Joint Pain
Stinging nettle is beneficial for people who have arthritis or any kind of joint pain. Its function is very similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
This herb is rich in anti-inflammatory properties, along with minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium, that all help ease joint pain as well as strengthen bones.
After just one week of applying a stinging nettle leaf daily, people with osteoarthritic pain at the base of the thumb or index finger experienced reduced intensity of pain, according to a 2000 study published in the Journal of the Royal Study of Medicine.
Also, a 1999 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology highlights the antirheumatic effect of the stinging nettle leaf extract IDS 23 in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Apply nettle leaf juice directly over the painful joints once daily.
- Drink stinging nettle tea 1 or 2 times daily.
- You can opt to take supplements, after consulting your doctor.
2. Treats an Enlarged Prostate
Stinging nettle can benefit people suffering from an enlarged prostate. It can also help deal with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) symptoms that are caused by an enlarged prostate gland pressing on the urethra.
The essential bioactive phytochemicals in it help shrink the prostate tissue. Being a natural diuretic, it also encourages the elimination of inflammatory wastes through urination.
A 2000 study published in Planta Medica highlights the positive antiproliferative effect of ME-20 of stinging nettle roots on human prostate cancer cells in both an in vivo model and an in vitro system.
A 2007 review published in Phytomedicine indicates that nettle root extract is effective in improving BPH complaints. However, more studies are needed.
- Take a stinging nettle supplement of 300 mg daily. Always consult your doctor before taking a supplement for the correct dosage for your condition.
Note: Before using this herb to treat an enlarged prostate, see your doctor to rule out the possibility of prostate cancer.
3. Cures Hay Fever
Stinging nettle is highly effective for treating hay fever as well as allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies. Being a natural antihistamine, nettle can reduce inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and provide comfort from symptoms like nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing and itching.
A 2009 study published in Phytotherapy Research reports that the bioactive compounds in nettle extract contribute to the inhibition of pro-inflammatory pathways related to allergic rhinitis.
- If you are prone to seasonal allergies, talk to your doctor about taking a nettle supplement regularly for one month before the allergy season to prevent the problem.
- Also, drinking nettle tea twice daily at the first signs of hay fever symptoms will help provide relief.
4. Treats Eczema
Stinging nettle is also beneficial for eczema, a chronic skin disorder that causes dry skin, redness, swelling, flaking, blisters, cracking, crusted sores and constant itching.
Due to the antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities of stinging nettle, it works as a natural treatment for eczema and helps reduce the inflammation of the skin tissues and the painful itching sensation.
Also, this herb helps cleanse the blood, thereby removing toxins responsible for this irritating skin problem.
- Extract the juice of a few nettle leaves and apply it directly on the affected skin. Repeat 1 or 2 times a day to alleviate pain and itching.
- Also, you can drink stinging nettle tea 2 or 3 times a day to get relief from symptoms.
5. Treats Urinary Tract Infections
Stinging nettle can also relieve symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and help clear it up faster.
The active compounds in stinging nettle function as a mild diuretic. This will make you urinate more and help flush harmful bacteria out of your system. Also, it helps relieve inflammation.
In addition, the potassium in it plays a key role in inhibiting growth of the bacteria that cause UTIs.
- Drink 2 or 3 cups of nettle tea a day. This will make you urinate more often, which is essential for dealing with this kind of infection.
6. Aids Detoxification
Toxin accumulation in the body can damage vital organs and systems, and cause chronic illnesses. To remove toxins, stinging nettle is very effective.
This herb acts as a diuretic and is high in nutrients, making it the perfect tool for a detox. It detoxifies the blood and encourages the elimination of inflammatory wastes from the body.
It also stimulates the lymphatic system, helping to rid the body of excess toxins in the kidneys. In fact, this herb supports the kidneys along with your liver in eliminating waste.
Plus, the magnesium and vitamin C in it support the different phases of detoxification.
- To help detox your body, you can drink a cup of nettle tea a few times a day or include the leaves in green smoothies.
7. Promotes Kidney Health
Stinging nettle also helps cleanse your kidneys. As a natural detoxifier, blood purifier and diuretic, nettle aids the removal of impurities like bacteria, calcium crystal deposits, and kidney stones from your kidneys. It also reduces the risk of kidney infections.
A 2000 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology highlights the diuretic and natriuretic effects of stinging nettle, suggesting an action on the renal function.
- To promote kidney health, you can take this herb in different forms – extracts, dried leaves, tinctures, juices, pills or tea. Consult your doctor about which form will suit you the best.
Note: If you have prior kidney issues, speak with your health care provider first.
8. Strengthens Bones
Stinging nettle is a good source of calcium and magnesium, as well as silica and boron, all of which are important for bone health.
It also has vitamins C and D, which improve calcium absorption in the body, and vitamin K that helps make your bones strong.
By keeping the bones strong, this herb can even help slow the onset of osteoporosis.
A 2016 study published in the Archives in Oral Biology reports that systemic administration of stinging nettle may be effective in accelerating new bone formation and reducing inflammation in the maxillary expansion procedure.
9. Fights Anemia
For those who are anemic or have a low iron level in the body, nettle can play a key role in raising the hemoglobin level.
Nettle has high iron content, which is needed for the formation of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to every cell of the body. In fact, people who do not consume enough iron are at risk of developing iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia.
Also, this herb is a good source of B vitamins, vitamin C and other vitamins that can help increase hemoglobin and stimulate red blood cell production.
10. Soothes Asthma
Stinging nettle is an excellent treatment for asthma, due to its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
It helps open up constricted bronchial and nasal passages to relieve asthma symptoms. Plus, the vitamin C and butyric acid in it help maintain a healthy immune system and metabolism to prevent asthma attacks.
- Drinking a few cups of warm nettle tea per day is recommended to reduce the severity of asthma symptoms and promote quick recovery.
Additional Tips and Cautionary Notes:
- Always wear gloves when handling stinging nettle leaves, as the dark green leaves are covered with fine spines that can irritate your bare hands.
- This herb is not suitable for pregnant women or young children.
- It may raise blood sugar and interfere with diabetes management. Diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely when using this herb.
- It may also interfere with blood thinners and heart medications, and lower blood pressure.
- Do not continue drinking nettle tea for long periods of time since it is a diuretic.
- Do not drink more than 3 cups of nettle tea in a day.
- Stinging nettle leaves can also be stemmed and cooked similar to spinach. Once cooked, add them to soup or stew.