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Stinging Nettles May Help Treat Arthritis and Enlarged Prostate : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Wednesday Sep 19, 2012 | BY |
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They’ll sting you if you touch them without gloves, but they’re full of health benefits.

Touch one and you’re likely to regret it the rest of the day. Stinging nettle leaves and stems have hairs that act like needles, injecting histamine, formic acid, and other chemicals that create a stinging sensation when you touch them.

It’s a wonder that our ancestors ever figured out the health benefits of this plant, but they did. Nettle leaf has long been used as a diuretic and to treat joint pain.

Today, new studies are showing even more potential for stinging nettle in the treatment of enlarged prostate, hay fever, osteoarthritis and more.

What is Stinging Nettle?
Stinging nettle is a perennial member of the nettle family (Urticaceae). Native to Europe and Asia, it now grows widely in the U.S., reaching 2–4 feet high in moist, rich soil and partial shade, typically in woodlands and along riverbanks.

Other names for this plant include common nettle, ortie, devil’s leaf, and chichicaste. Considered a weed or a pest by many, it may also be found in lawns, gardens, and constructions sites where the original plant species were destroyed. The plant has upright, rigid stems with heart-shaped leaves that are toothed and tapered at the ends. Blooms include yellow or pink flowers. The leaves, stems, and roots are used for medicinal reasons.

Historical Uses
Stinging nettle has been used for centuries to make sailcloth, sacking, cordage, and fishing nets. During World War I, when textile shortages became an issue, Germany used nettles as a substitute for cotton. In World War II, the British government used nettles to create a green dye for camouflage. The same dye was used as a food-coloring agent in Germany.

Ancient societies also used nettle for medical treatments, for the relief of arthritis, lethargy, coma, typhus, cholera, and tired, painful legs. In the second century A.D., the Greek physician Galen recommended nettle as a diuretic and laxative, for dog bites, gangrenous wounds, swellings, nose bleeding, pneumonia, asthma, and mouth sores. From the fifth to tenth centuries, nettle was also used to treat shingles, constipation, and skin conditions.

Today, modern science has found that stinging nettle has many potential uses in promoting health and wellness.

Edible Benefits
Wearing gloves, you can harvest stinging nettle and enjoy its dietary benefits. Experts recommend collecting the leaves in the spring when they’re young and tender. The plant is a good supply of magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamins A and C, and protein. Because of the magnesium and calcium content, many use nettle as a great herb for promoting bone health.

Cooking or drying the plant tames the stinging properties. Use it as a tasty spinach substitute that packs a good fiber punch. Dried stinging nettle can also be sprinkled on salads, soups, vegetables, and other foods, as it imparts a subtle salty flavor. Cooked nettles taste great with just salt, pepper, and butter, or you can use them in soups and to make tea. Adding stinging nettles raw to smoothies will also help deactivate the sting, and you can sauté them as well.

For more ways to eat these raw, check out Kevin’s video, “How to Eat Stinging Nettles.”

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
According to the University of Maryland, stinging nettle is used widely in Europe to treat BPH, which is an enlargement of the prostate gland common in elderly men. The condition causes symptoms like reduced urinary flow, incomplete bladder emptying, and the constant urge to urinate.

Laboratory studies have found that stinging nettle is comparable to finasteride (drug commonly prescribed for BPH) in slowing the growth of certain prostate cells. Unlike the drug, however, the plant doesn’t decrease prostate size. Stinging nettle does reduce symptoms, though. Human studies from Iran also showed that nettle root is more effective than a placebo on all major measures of BPH severity.

At this time, the suggested dosage is 120 mg of concentrated root extract in capsules two times per day.

Osteoarthritis
People have historically used stinging nettle to treat joint pain and sore muscles. Small scientific studies have suggested that topical application of nettle leaf can help reduce pain in joints. Other studies show that taking an oral extract of stinging nettle along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs like aspirin and Motrin can help people to reduce the amount of NSAIDs they take.

A few clinical trials have also suggested that nettle may be helpful in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, and hand.

Allergies
Researchers think that nettle can reduce the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen. More studies are needed, but one small human study suggested that nettle could help reduce hay fever symptoms like sneezing and itching. The suggested dose was two to three 300 mg stinging nettle capsules or tablets taken three times a day.

Diuretic/Detox
German animal studies in the 1980s found that those animals fed stinging nettle excreted more chlorides and urea than controls, illustrating a diuretic effect. Another human study found that nettle juice given to patients with heart disorders or chronic venous insufficiency for two weeks experienced increased urine flow.

The diuretic properties of this herb have also made it a good addition to cleansing and detox diets.

Antioxidant Protection
A 2005 animal study found that stinging nettle supplementation decreased free radical concentrations in the brain. Turkish laboratory studies also found that stinging nettle had powerful antioxidant activities comparable to quercetin and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E).

Potential Against Cancer
Laboratory studies have indicated that stinging nettle may have potential in slowing the growth of cancerous tumors. A 1999 study found that extract of stinging nettle roots inhibited the growth of prostate cancer. A second study in 2000 found similar results. A 2012 animal study found that nettle extract could help reduce the toxicity of cancer treatment cisplatin, helping study participants to better tolerate it.

Overall Dosage and Possible Drug Interactions
If you’re considering trying stinging nettle, the typical dosage for most medical uses is 150-300 mg per day of nettle extract, 4-12 grams per day of the dried herb, and 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb in a tea.

Also, beware of potential drug interactions:

  • Blood clotting: Stinging nettle contains large amounts of vitamin K, which actually encourage clotting. Taking stinging nettle may interfere with the effectiveness of blood-thinning drugs like warfarin (Coumadin) and Pradaxa.
  • Blood pressure: Stinging nettle may also lower blood pressure, which can affect drugs like ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers. Check with your doctor.
  • Diuretic: Stinging nettle can act as a diuretic, encouraging the body to get rid of fluids. If you’re already taking a diuretic drug for heart disease or edema, check with your doctor. Taking stinging nettle on top of the drug may increase the risk for dehydration.
  • Blood sugar: Stinging nettle may also lower blood sugar, so if you’re taking diabetes medications, monitor your drug sugar levels to avoid risk of hypoglycemia.
  • Pain: Stinging nettle can enhance the activity of NSAIDs, so if you’re taking the herb, you may want to cut back on your dose of pain-relieving medication.

There also have been some studies that have indicated pregnant women should not use stinging nettle, as it can contribute to miscarriage.

How do you use stinging nettle?

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Sources
Kassie Vance, “Stinging Nettle,” Herbal Legacy, http://www.herballegacy.com/Vance_History.html.

University of Maryland Medical System, “Stinging Nettle,” http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/stinging-nettle-000275.htm.

NYU Langone Medical Center, “Nettle,” http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21815.

“Stinging nettle root, stinging nettle benefits, stinging nettle side effects,” Zhion.com, 2011, http://www.zhion.com/herb/Stinging_Nettle.html.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, “About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products,” http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/nettle.

Steven Foster, “Herbs for Health: Stinging Nettle,” The Herb Companion, June/July 1996, http://www.herbcompanion.com/health/herbs-for-health-benefits-of-stinging-nettle.aspx?page=2.

Denise Reynolds RD, “Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle,” EmaxHealth, October 8, 2009, http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/19/34056/health-benefits-stinging-nettle.html.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

4 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Elisabeth says:

    i make tea from it :)

  2. Jasmine says:

    After a long hiatus from the renegade health “show” (due to a decision to return to school for naturopathic medicine), I’ve returned now to find a long, long, long, very long list of articles. Where are all the SHOWS? It’s more of a renegade health blog now, which is great, still a lot of good and useful information, but bring back the videos!

    plz.

    love ya

  3. Jana says:

    I drink nettle infusion 3-4 times per week. The other days of the week I drink oatstraw infusion. Learned about these from Susun Weed. She has youtubes showing how to make the infusions.

  4. Brianna says:

    Ok wooow. I always thought that was “burning weed”. And, it certainly does, but, jeepers! That’s great! I’m gonna harvest some before the snow comes! I’ll dehydrate it in my dehydrator. Coooool cool cool!

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