Stinging nettle - properties, benefits and how to use
Stinging nettle is a commonly used natural drug to relieve allergies and its benefit for the skin, bones and urinary tract has been proved long ago. Its application in medicine dates back since Ancient Greece. It is mostly popular with its stinging reaction when touched but exactly this stinging effect has many benefits for human health.
Most products from stinging nettle are made of its stem and leaves. The herb has anti-inflammatory properties, which may have impact on the treatment of many health problems. Its ground parts usually help relieve allergies and other problems related to breathing. Its roots provide relief in case of urination disorders and enlarged prostate.
Why does stinging nettle sting?
Stinging nettle contains many chemicals, such as serotonin, histamine and acetylcholine. These chemicals are located in the base of the fine stinging hairs on the leaves of the plant (known as trichomes) and cause skin irritation. When touched, trichomes detach and get attached to the skin and the chemicals they contain transfer onto the skin. This causes a reaction, which may cause pain, rash, swelling, itching and tingling.
Irrespective of its stingy reputation, stinging nettle is used to relieve many disorders. Studies show that it has anti-oxidation, anti-microbe, tightening and analgesic properties. According to the medical centre at the University of Maryland, this plant is most often used as diuretic and for the treatment of pains in the muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout and anaemia. Nowadays, it is used mainly to treat problems related to urination, allergies and pains in the joints. Below you will find all proven benefits of the stinging nettle:
1. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and urinary problems
The symptoms of BPH are caused by the increased pressure of the prostate on the urethra. People suffering from BPH feel to a different degree increased urinary frequency, incomplete emptying of the urinary bladder, painful urination, drop left after urination and reduced urine flow. Although, the reason why stinging nettle relieves some of these symptoms is not clear, many clinical studies conclude that it contains chemicals, which influence the hormones, which cause BPH. The root of the plant is used mostly with problems with urination, including infections of the lower urinary tract. Stinging nettle is used as a successful diuretic because it contributes to the removal of urine. It is used in many traditional homemade medications to treat infections of the urinary bladder.
2. Osteoarthritis and joints pains
People suffering from arthritis often feel pains in their joints, usually in the arms, knees, hips and the vertebra. Stinging nettle is applied together with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) to help the patients reduce their use because long-term application may cause serious of side effects. Studies show also that the application of leaves of stinging nettle locally reduces the pain in the joints and may treat arthritis. When taken orally, stinging nettle provides ease of pain.
3. Hay fever
The production of histamine on the organism creates the unwanted reactions related to allergies. The anti-inflammatory properties of stinging nettle have impact on several key receptors and enzymes, related to allergic reactions, thus protecting against the symptoms of hay fever, provided that the intake of stinging nettle starts immediately after first symptoms appear. Although the leaves of stinging nettle contain histamine, its use for the treatment of heavy allergic reactions is positive.
Products containing stinging nettle show that when applied on the skin it may reduce bleeding during operation. A product has been created which includes alpinia, liquorice, thymus and stinging nettle, which comes as another proof that this herb helps reduce bleeding after dental surgery.
Eczema is a dry, itching rash on the skin, which may last too long. Due to the anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory qualities of the stinging nettle, it may be used for the natural treatment of eczemas. It may be used both as oral intake to treat eczemas internally and in the form of an ointment to provide relief of the itching and reddening of the rash.
It is not scientifically proven but stinging nettle has effect on the following conditions:
- Provokes the extraction of milk during breastfeeding
- Stimulates hair growth
- Supports the control of the blood sugar levels with people suffering from diabetes
- Reduces bleeding, resulting from gingivitis
- Treats renal and urinary tract disorders
- Contributes to the removal of the water detained in organism
- Protection against and treatment of diarrhoea
- Reduces the menstrual flow
- Relieves the symptoms with asthma
- Treats open wounds
- Treats haemorrhoids
- Stimulates contractions with pregnant women
- Treats stings from insects
- Treats tendonitis
- Treats anaemia
How to use stinging nettle?
You can pick or buy it; it is offered either fresh during the season or dry. You can find fresh stinging nettle on the markets, shops, in the mountains and in the fields at the beginning of spring. Before buying or picking stinging nettle, it is important to identify the reason you need it and what part of it you need, because its ground parts and roots have different pharmacological properties.
Furthermore, stinging nettle is offered in the form of extract, capsules, tablets and tincture of root, juice or tea.
Some of the most common uses of stinging nettle include:
1. Tea of stinging nettle
The leaves and flowers of the stinging nettle are dried and used for tea. To have more flavour and aroma, the dried stinging nettle may be combined with other herbs such as leaves of raspberry, echinacea or golden seed. Stinging nettle may be used also in other drinks, and there is even stinging nettle beer!
2. Cooking with stinging nettle
Roots, stems and leaves of stinging nettle are suitable for consumption. They may be prepared like spinach – steamed, in soups or with rice, stew, salads and pesto. Do not eat the leaves raw and unprocessed because they still have stinging hairs until they are dried or boiled. When cooked, stinging nettle has aroma similar to that of spinach, mixed with cucumber. Boiled stinging nettle is an excellent source of vitamins А, С, proteins and iron.
3. Extract from stinging nettle
Extract and tincture of stinging nettle may be applied directly on the joints and the painful areas of the body. It is offered in the form of a cream.
4. Capsules and tablets of stinging nettle
There is unconvincing evidence that nettle capsules and tablets, which are taken to relieve allergies, are better taken on an empty stomach. However, if you have a sensitive stomach, take them with food.