Stinging Nettle: Benefits, Uses and Side Effects of Nettle Leaf

Stinging nettle plant

What Is Stinging Nettle?

The traditional use of Nettle leaves, also known as Urtica dioica, has been around for thousands of years. Stinging nettle gets its name from the stinging hairs found on its stems and leaves. It can be taken as a dried leaf, or extracted to make teas, juices, and pills.

Many of the healing properties traditionally attributed to nettle have been supported by scientific research. It is a plant native to Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa and was extensively used in the Mediterranean region by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Health Benefits of Nettle Leaves

Stinging nettle contains vitamins A, C, K, and a number of B vitamins. It also contains a large amount of antioxidants that can help to reduce the amount of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are associated with aging and certain health conditions.

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that supports immunity and may offer protection against the formation of different types of cancer. Vitamin A is believed to be essential for healthy eyes.

Nettle leaf is rich in minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. This can reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis, kidney disease, and other serious health problems.

Additionally, nettle has a variety of other health benefits, such as:

Relieves Arthritis

Research has shown that nettle leaf is helpful in reducing arthritic inflammation and joint pain. One study found that volunteers suffering from arthritic pain in their fingers experienced relief by applying nettle leaf to the affected area every day for a week.

Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels

UD-1, a compound found in nettle leaves, appears to work similarly to Insulin in the human body. Scientists believe that nettle may be able to control diabetes-related blood sugar levels. However, more research is necessary.

Reduces Seasonal Allergies

The use of nettle in traditional medicine has been long valued for its ability to combat hay fever, seasonal allergies and minor respiratory conditions. Research involving the use of freeze-dried nettle leaf found it offered substantial benefits to participants.

Improves Prostate Health

Some conditions of the prostate gland may be treated effectively with nettle leaf, including benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is the age-related swelling of the prostate gland. Although more research is necessary, a clinical study involving men with BPH showed a substantial reduction in their prostate size after treatment with nettle leaf.

May Support Testosterone Levels

According to research, nettle leaf may support healthy testosterone levels in a number of ways.

For instance, one study showed that nettle leaf was effective in preventing testosterone from being bound by SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin). As a result, more free testosterone is made available to the body.

According to one study, stinging Nettle may have aromatization inhibitor qualities. Aromatization is the process by which testosterone can be converted into estrogenic compounds. Natural testosterone levels can be increased by preventing this aromatization process and testosterone from being turned into estrogen.

Additionally, nettle leaf may decrease 5-Alpha Reductase levels. 5-alpha-reductase is a compound that promotes the conversion of testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone) or estrogen.

When there is an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone, it can lead to problems like gynecomastia (man boobs). DHT is also linked to male pattern baldness.

Studies showed that nettle leaf supplementation decreases 5-alpha reductase levels and promotes higher testosterone levels.

May Lower Blood Pressure

The nettle leaf has been used traditionally to lower blood pressure.

One way it can do this is by stimulating production of nitric dioxide, which promotes vasoliation. This helps relax and widen blood vessels, allowing them to expand

Additionally, nettle leaf contains compounds could act as calcium channel blockers. These compounds decrease the force of heart contractions, thereby having a relaxing effect on the heart.

Nettle leaf was also shown to not only lower blood pressure but increase the antioxidant defenses of the heart. However, the effects of nettle leaf on blood pressure in humans is still not certain, and more human studies are necessary.

Other Possible Benefits

Other health benefits of stinging nettle include:

  • May be able to reduce excess bleeding, especially after surgery.
  • May protect the liver against damage by toxins, heavy metals and inflammation.
  • May have diuretic effects, helping your body to eliminate excess sodium and water, which could temporarily lower blood pressure.
  • May promote the healing of wounds and burns when applied topically.

Potential Side Effects

It is generally safe to eat dried or cooked stinging nettle. Side effects are rare if any.

You should be cautious when handling fresh nettle leaves as the hair-like barbs could cause skin irritations, potentially resulting in itching, hives, bumps, and/or rash.

Rarely, severe allergic reactions can lead to life-threatening complications.

Pregnant women should not consume stinging nettle as it can trigger uterine contractions which can increase the chance of miscarriage.

If you are taking any of the following medications, talk to your doctor before consuming nettle leaf:

  • Blood thinning medication
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Diabetes medication
  • Diuretics, aka water pills
  • Lithium

These medications could be affected by stinging nettle.

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