Despite its reputation for pain, stinging nettle is used to help a number of ailments. Studies have shown stinging nettle has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-ulcer, astringent and analgesic capabilities. (3)
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the plant has been used most commonly throughout history as a diuretic and for treating painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, it’s used primarily to treat urinary issues, as well as allergies and joint pain.
The most proven health benefits of using stinging nettle help with the following:
1. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and Urinary Issues
BPH symptoms are caused by an enlarged prostate gland pressing on the urethra. BPH sufferers experience varying levels of increased urges to urinate, incomplete emptying of the bladder, painful urination, post urination dripping and reduced urinary flow.
Doctors are still not entirely sure why stinging nettle alleviates some of these symptoms, but many clinical studies infer that it contains chemicals that affect the hormones that cause BPH. When taken, it also directly affects prostate cells. Stinging nettle root extract has also been shown to slow or stop the spread of prostate cancer cells. (4) It’s usually used in combination with saw palmetto and other herbs. The root of the plant is primarily used in connection with urinary issues.
Stinging nettle is used as a successful general diuretic and can help urine flow as well. It’s also used in home remedies for bladder infections.
2. Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain
Arthritis sufferers often experience joint pain, typically in the hands, knees, hips and spine. Nettle works alongside nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to allow patients to decrease their NSAID use. Because prolonged use of NSAIDs can cause a number of serious side effects, this is an ideal pairing.
Studies also show that applying nettle leaf topically at the site of pain decreases joint pain and can treat arthritis. Nettle can also provide relief when taken orally. Another study published in the Journal of Rheumatology shows stinging nettle’s anti-inflammatory power against other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. (5)
3. Hay Fever
Histamine production in the body creates the adverse reactions related to allergies. Allergies cause uncomfortable congestion, sneezing, itching and more.
Stinging nettle’s anti-inflammatory qualities affect a number of key receptors and enzymes in allergic reactions, preventing hay fever symptoms if taken when they first appear. (6) The leaves of the plant contain histamine, which may seem counterproductive in allergy treatment, but there is history of using histamines to treat severe allergic reactions. (7)
There is also evidence that in severe reactions, low plasma histamine levels (as opposed to high levels) are present. Another global study from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine found that stinging nettle use for allergy relief was rated higher than placebos in a 98-person, randomized, double-blind study. (8)
Certain products containing stinging nettle have shown, when applied to the skin, can reduce bleeding during surgery. The product, called Ankaferd blood stopper, is made up of alpinia, licorice, thyme, common grape vine and stinging nettle, and has also shown evidence of reducing bleeding after dental surgery. (9)
Eczema is a dry, itchy rash that can last on sufferers for a very long time. Because of stinging nettle’s antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities, it can be a natural treatment for eczema, as the Penn State University College of Medicine study referenced above notes. Sufferers can use a combination of nettle taken orally to tackle the eczema internally, as well as a cream to provide relief from the rash’s itch and redness