Principal Proposed Uses
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 Nettle Used for Today?
Currently, nettle root
is more commonly used medicinally than the above-ground portion of the herb. In Europe, nettle root is widely used for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
, or prostate enlargement. Like saw palmetto, pygeum, and beta-sitosterol, nettle appears to reduce obstruction to urinary flow and decrease the need for nighttime urination. However, the evidence is not as strong for nettle as it is for these other treatments. Note
: Before self-treating prostate symptoms with nettle root, be sure to get a proper medical evaluation to rule out prostate cancer. Nettle leaf has become a popular treatment for allergies (hay fever)
based on one preliminary double-blind study. Nettle leaf is highly nutritious and, in cooked form, may be used as a general dietary supplement.
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
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. 21 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. 7 -9 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 . 12,13 Nettle has also been studied in combination with saw palmetto, with mixed results. 14,15,22 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. 1-5,18-20Nettle Leaf One preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled study following 69 people suggests that freeze-dried nettle leaf may at least slightly improve allergy symptoms. 10 One small double-blind study suggests that direct application of stinging nettle leaf to a painful joint may improve symptoms. 11