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  Nettle (Urtica urens)  
 
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Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat rheumatism (disorders of the muscles and joints), eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), for urinary tract infections, for kidney stones, for hay fever (allergic rhinitis), or in compresses or creams for treating joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites. In fact, some small but well designed studies are beginning to confirm that certain traditional uses have scientific validity, particularly osteoarthritis especially when used in conjunction with anti-inflammatory medications, and BPH.

In animal studies, nettle has been shown to relieve pain, have mild anti-inflammatory effects, and to lower blood sugar levels. Active compounds in stinging nettle may act as an expectorant (meaning that it can loosen and break up a cough) and have anti-viral properties.

Nettle may also be effective for treating certain individuals with allergic rhinitis (hay fever). This traditional use has had a lot of historical value for individuals. However, while the studies thus far have been favorable, they have not been overwhelmingly so. More research would be helpful.

An adult dose may be taken in the following forms and ranges:

  • Tea: prepare a cup by pouring 2/3 cup of boiling water over 3 - 4 tsp of dried leaves or dried root and steeping for 3 to 5 minutes. Drink three to four of these cups a day. An infusion can also be made with fresh nettle leaves. Always drink additional water along with the tea (at least 2 quarts per day).
  • Dried leaf: 2 to 4 grams, three times a day.
  • Fluid extract (root,1:1): 1.5 ml, three to four times daily.
  • Fluid extract (leaf, 1:1): 2 to 5 ml three times daily.
  • Tincture (root, 1:5): 5 to 7 ml three to four times daily.
  • Creams: as recommended by a health care provider.

 

 
 

Nettle (Urtica urens) can help with the following:
 
 
Allergy  Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever
 Nettles are traditionally used for hay fever and may be drunk as an infusion, 2 cups a day.

Autoimmune

  Autoimmune Tendency
 German researchers discovered that a traditional European herbal remedy for rheumatism, nettle leaf extract, inhibits TNF-alpha and IL-1 beta. [Arzneimittelforschung. 1996 Apr;46(4): pp.389-94] Nettle “may inhibit the inflammatory cascade in autoimmune diseases and rheumatoid arthritis,” concluded a team of researchers. [J Rheumatol. 1999; 26(12): pp.2517-2522]

It is interesting to note that the prescription drug Enbrel®, approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, acts by suppressing TNF-alpha.

Hormones

  Low Testosterone Level
 A highly concentrated extract from the nettle root provides a unique mechanism for increasing levels of free testosterone. European research has identified constituents of nettle root that bind to SHBG in place of testosterone, thus reducing SHBG's binding of free testosterone.

As the authors of one study state: "these constituents of nettle root may influence the blood level of free, i.e. active, steroid hormones by displacing them from the SHBG bindings site"

  Elevated SHBG
 Nettle root, as a highly concentrated extract, has shown to be effective at binding to SHBG and therefore permiting more free testosterone to circulate in the the system. It also acts as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. This is the enzyme, responsible for the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent form of the male sex hormone, which causes prostate enlargement. A methanol extract of nettle can also reduce SHBG levels, which has the effect of elevating free testosterone in the blood stream.

Organ Health

  Enlarged Prostate
 Reports claim that as many as 80% of European men with BPH are given the option of herbal remedies for their symptoms, including saw palmetto and stinging nettle roots, rather than medication or surgery. Studies in people suggest that the root of the stinging nettle, in combination with other herbs especially saw palmetto, may be an effective treatment for BPH, relieving urinary symptoms such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of the bladder, post urination dripping, and the constant urge to urinate. These symptoms are due to the enlarged prostate gland pressing on the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). Laboratory studies have shown stinging nettle to be comparable to finasteride (a medication commonly prescribed for BPH) in slowing the growth of certain prostate cells. However, unlike finasteride, the herb does not decrease prostate size.

A metabolite of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) stimulates prostate growth, leading to enlargement. Nettle root inhibits the binding of DHT to attachment sites on the prostate membrane.
 
 


KEY
May do some good
Likely to help







GLOSSARY

Allergic Rhinitis:  Also known as hay fever, this is an inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes that is caused by specific allergen(s). It is an allergy characterized by sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, a runny or stuffy nose, coughing and a burning/scratchy sensation of the palate and throat.

Anemia:  A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.

Anti-inflammatory:  Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms, without directly acting on the cause of inflammation, e.g., glucocorticoids, aspirin.

Arthritis:  Inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and stiffness, and resulting from infection, trauma, degenerative changes, metabolic disturbances, or other causes. It occurs in various forms, such as bacterial arthritis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, is characterized by a gradual loss of cartilage and often an overgrowth of bone at the joints.

Benign:  Literally: innocent; not malignant. Often used to refer to cells that are not cancerous.

Eczema:  Swelling of the outer skin of unknown cause. In the early stage it may be itchy, red, have small blisters, and be swollen, and weeping. Later it becomes crusted, scaly, and thickened.

Expectorant:  A substance that promotes the removal of mucous from the respiratory tract.

Gout:  A disease characterized by an increased blood uric acid level and sudden onset of episodes of acute arthritis.

Gram:  (gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.

Kidney Stone:  A stone (concretion) in the kidney. If the stone is large enough to block the tube (ureter) and stop the flow of urine from the kidney, it must be removed by surgery or other methods. Also called Renal Calculus. Symptoms usually begin with intense waves of pain as a stone moves in the urinary tract. Typically, a person feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen. Sometimes nausea and vomiting occur. Later, pain may spread to the groin. The pain may continue if the stone is too large to pass; blood may appear in the urine and there may be the need to urinate more often or a burning sensation during urination. If fever and chills accompany any of these symptoms, an infection may be present and a doctor should be seen immediately.

Prostate:  The prostate gland in men that surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra and produces a secretion that liquefies coagulated semen.

Rheumatism:  General term applied to conditions of pain, or inability to articulate, various elements of the musculoskeletal system.

Teaspoon:  (tsp) Equivalent to 5cc (5ml).

Tincture:  An alcohol or water-alcohol solution, usually referring to a preparation from herbal materials.