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Anyone who lives in a locale where nettle grows wild will eventually discover the powers of this dark green plant. Depending on the species, the fine hairs on its leaves and stem cause burning pain that lasts from hours to weeks. But this well-protected herb has also been used as medicine. Nettle juice was used in Hippocrates' time to treat bites and stings, and European herbalists recommended nettle tea for lung disorders. Nettle tea was used by Native Americans as an aid in pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Nettle?
The evidence is much better for nettle root and prostatic enlargement than for nettle leaf and allergies.
Nettle root as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia has not been as well studied as saw palmetto , but the evidence is still substantial
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed in Iran, 558 people were given either placebo or nettle root for 6 months. 1 The results indicated that nettle root is significantly more effective than placebo on all major measures of BPH severity. Benefits were seen in three other double-blind studies as well, enrolling a total of more than 150 men. 2 There are theoretical reasons to believe that nettle root's effectiveness might be enhanced when it is combined with another herb used for prostate problems: pygeum . 3 Nettle has also been studied in combination with saw palmetto, with mixed results. 4 Nettle root contains numerous biologically active chemicals that may influence the prostate indirectly by interacting with sex hormones, or directly by altering the properties of prostate cells. 5
One preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled study following 69 people suggests that freeze-dried nettle leaf may at least slightly improve allergy symptoms. 6 One small double-blind study suggests that direct application of stinging nettle leaf to a painful joint may improve symptoms. 7
Dosages of nettle root extract vary according to preparation, and we recommend following label instructions. Some nettle root products are standardized to their content of the substance scopoletin, but since this substance is not established as an active ingredient, the significance of this standardization remains unclear.
For allergies, the studied dosage is 300 mg twice a day of freeze-dried nettle leaf.
- Safarinejad MR. Urtica dioica for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. J Herb Pharmacother. 5(4):1-11.
- Vontobel HP, Herzog R, Rutishauser G, et al. Results of a double-blind study on the effectiveness of ERU (extractum radicis Urticae) capsules in conservative treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia [translated from German]. Urologe A. 1985;24:49-51.
- Hartmann RW, Mark M, Soldati F. Inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase and aromatase by PHL-00801 (Prostatonin), a combination of PY 102 (Pygeum africanum) and UR 102 (Urtica dioica) extracts. Phytomedicine. 1996;3:121-128.
- Sökeland J. Combined sabal and urtica extract compared with finasteride in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia: analysis of prostate volume and therapeutic outcome. BJU Int. 86(4):439-42.
- Hryb DJ, Khan MS, Romas NA, et al. The effect of extracts of the roots of the stinging nettle ( Urtica dioica ) on the interaction of SHBG with its receptor on human prostatic membranes. Planta Med. 1995;61:31-32.
- Mittman P. Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med. 1990;56:44-47.
- Randall C, Randall H, Dobbs F, Hutton C, Sanders H. Randomized controlled trial of nettle sting for treatment of base-of-thumb pain. J R Soc Med. 93(6):305-9.