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Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

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Also listed as: Urtica dioica, Nettle
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Attribution

Related Terms
  • 3-4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran, Bazoton®, big string nettle, Brennessel (German), bull nettle, chichicaste, common nettle, dog nettle, extract of Radicis Urticae (ERU), Fragdor®, garden nettle, gerrais, grand ortie (French), grande ortie, great stinging nettle, great nettle, greater nettle, gross d'ortie, Hostid®, isirgan, kazink, Kleer®, nabat al nar, nessel (German), nettle, nettles, ortiga (Spanish), ortie, ortic (Italian), pokrywa grosse brenessel, Prostaforton®, Prostagalen®, racine d'ortie small nettle (Urtica urens), stingers, urtica, Urtica dioica, Urtica dioica agglutinin (UDA), Urtica herba/folium (dried leaves or aerial parts of U. dioica and U. urens), Urtica major, Urtica radix (root), Urticaceae, urtiga, zwyczajna (Polish).
  • Selected combination products: Phytalgic® (fish oil, vitamin E, and Urtica dioica), Pluvio® (avocado, soya oil, and Urtica dioica) Prostagutt forte® (saw palmetto and nettle), Prostatonin Pharmaton® (pygeum and nettle)

Background
  • The genus name Urtica comes from the Latin verb urere meaning, "to burn," because of its urticate (stinging) hairs that cover the stem and underside of the leaves. The species name dioica means "two houses" because the plant usually has male or female flowers.
  • The most common uses for stinging nettle are treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, enlarged prostate), arthritis, allergies, cough, pain, tuberculosis, urinary tract disorders, and externally as a hair and scalp remedy for oily hair and dandruff. It is also frequently used as a diuretic to increase the flow of urine, as an astringent, and to loosen mucus in lungs.
  • Nettle is generally regarded as safe because the plant is also used as a green, leafy vegetable. Other than urticaria ("hives") from the stinging hairs, stomach discomfort is the only reported adverse effect.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


For many years, a freeze-dried preparation of Urtica dioica has been prescribed by physicians and sold over-the-counter for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. However, additional study is needed to support the use of nettle in the treatment of allergic rhinitis.

C


Nettle is widely used as a folk remedy to treat arthritic and rheumatic conditions throughout Europe and in Australia. Early evidence suggests that certain constituents in the nettle plant have anti-inflammatory and/or immunomodulatory activity. More study is needed to confirm these findings.

C


In Anatolia, an herbal mixture called Ankaferd Blood Stopper (ABS), made up of Thymus vulgaris, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Vitis vinifera, Alpinia officinarum, and Urtica dioica, is used for bleeding. ABS has become an alternative agent in Turkey for hard to control bleeding that is resistant to the usual anti-bleeding agents. The effect of Urtica dioica alone is unclear. Further studies are needed before conclusions can be made.

C


According to a human study, a combination of amica and stinging nettle liquid and gel treated grade two burns faster than placebo. The effect of stinging nettle alone is unclear. Further studies are needed before conclusions can be made.

C


According to one human study, stinging nettle lacked a significant difference compared to placebo in insulin sensitivity, body mass index (BMI), or waist size. Further studies are needed before conclusions can be made.

C


Stinging nettle is used rather frequently in Europe in the treatment of symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate). Early evidence suggests an improvement in symptoms, such as the alleviation of lower urinary tract symptoms associated with stage I or II BPH, as a result of nettle therapy. Additional study is needed in this area.

C


One study has examined the effect of a mouthwash containing nettle on plaque and gum disease in healthy adults, and did not find any benefit. Further studies are required before a strong recommendation can be made.

C


According to one human study, stinging nettle had a significant difference compared to placebo in lowering inflammatory markers; however, further studies are needed before conclusions can be made.

C


Early studies have examined the effect of a combination product containing nettle applied on the skin. Early results do not appear to confirm nettle as an effective therapy for itching caused by insect bites. Additional study is warranted in this area.

C


Nettle has historically been used in several different forms to treat pain of varying origins. However, there is a lack of available scientific evidence to confirm this use and additional study is needed.

C


According to a human study, Urtica dioica in combination with Serenoa repens, curcumin, and quercitin prevented recurrence of chronic bacterial prostate inflammation. The effect of Urtica dioica alone is unclear. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Abortion, aging, anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction), anemia, animal bites, antidote to poisons (hemlock and henbane), antifungal, antioxidant, antiviral, asthma, astringent, bladder disturbances, blood purification, breast milk stimulation, bruises, cancer, cardiac abnormalities, chest pain, chicken pox, childbirth facilitation/induction, cholera (infection of small intestine), colitis (inflamed colon), coma, cough, dandruff, diarrhea, diuretic (increase urine flow), dysentery (bloody diarrhea), eczema, excessive menstrual bleeding, exhaustion, expectorant (loosen mucus in lungs), food uses, gall bladder disorders, gangrene, goiter, gout, hair loss, hair tonic, hemorrhoids, herpes, high blood pressure, HIV, immune system stimulation, insect repellant, iron deficiency, kidney disorders, kidney inflammation, kidney or bladder stones, labor induction, laxative, menstrual stimulant, mouth sores, muscle aches, nasal inflammation, neuralgia (nerve pain), nosebleeds, paralysis, parasites (worm infections), poor circulation, pregnancy problems, rash, rheumatism, scabies, sciatica (back and leg pain), scurvy (deficiency in vitamin C), seborrhea (inflammatory skin disorder), sexual arousal, shivering, shortness of breath, sinus problems, skin disorders, snakebites, sore throat, spleen disorders, sprains, stiff joints, stings (scorpion), stomach ache, stomach acid reduction, swelling, systemic lupus erythematosus (immune system disease), tennis elbow, tonic, tuberculosis, typhus, urinary tract infection, venous disorders, wheezing, wound healing.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older):

  • For allergies, 600 milligrams of freeze dried nettle capsules have been taken by mouth at the onset of symptoms for one week.
  • For arthritis, 50 milligrams of stewed nettle leaves have been taken in combination with 50 milligrams of diclofenac by mouth daily for 14 days.
  • For enlarged prostate, 1-2 capsules of Bazoton® containing 300 milligrams extract of Radix urticae (ERU) has been taken by mouth twice daily for up to six months. 459 milligrams dry extract Bazoton® uno has been taken for one year, and Bazoton® Liquidum has also been studied in doses of three milliliters by mouth twice daily for three months. 30-150 of nettle extract drops have been taken by mouth daily for six months. 120 milligrams of Urtica dioica root extract has been taken by mouth three times daily with meals for six months.
  • For diabetes, 100 milligrams per kilogram of stinging nettle extract (45% ethanol, 55% water, and 2.7 grams dry matter per liter) has been dissolved in a glass of water and taken by mouth in three portions daily for eight weeks.
  • For inflammation, 100 milligrams per kilogram of stinging nettle extract (45% ethanol, 55% water, and 2.7 grams of dry matter per liter) has been dissolved in a glass of water and taken by mouth in three portions daily for eight weeks.
  • For osteoarthritis, the underside of a leaf cut from fresh nettle plant has been applied to the skin to the painful area with gentle pressure for 10-30 seconds, moving the leaf twice, and applied twice daily for one week. A stinging nettle cream has been applied to the skin twice daily for two weeks, which was contained 13.33% by weight of stinging nettle extract (Liquid Phyto-Caps Nettle Leaf®) in a Lipobase® oil-in-water emulsion.

Children (younger than 18 years):

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for nettle in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to nettle, the Urticaceae family or any constituent of nettle products.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Stinging nettle is likely safe in recommended doses to treat the following: mild-to-moderate enlarged prostate for two years; allergies for one week; arthritis for two weeks; and when applied to the skin to treat pain for one week.
  • Stinging nettle may cause blood in the urine, fever, headache, hyponatremia (low sodium levels in blood), urinary obstruction, and urinary tract infections.
  • Stinging nettle may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Stinging nettle may affect blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Stinging nettle may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Use cautiously in people taking disulfiram-like medications such as disulfiram or metronidazole, due to the potential to elicit a disulfiram reaction when combined with nettle extracts containing alcohol.
  • Use caution in those taking agents for cancer, agents for enlarged prostate, such as alpha-1 blockers like prazosin, doxazosin, and terazosin, anti-inflammatory agents, and viral agents.
  • Use cautiously in people with heart disease, skin disorders, stomach and intestine disorders, and headache.
  • Avoid use in people with a known allergy or sensitivity to nettle, the Urticaceae family, or any parts of the nettle plant.
  • Avoid use in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to the potential to stimulate uterine contractions and due to a case of hives in a neonate from application of nettle to the nipple.
  • Avoid use in children, as research is lacking.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Nettle is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence. In theory, nettle may induce uterine stimulation.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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