Stinging Nettle use while Breastfeeding
Stinging Nettle Levels and Effects while Breastfeeding
Summary of Use during Lactation
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica and Urtica urens) preparations have been used in nursing mothers orally as a postpartum as a "tonic" for treating anemia; and is a purported galactogogue; however, no scientifically valid clinical trials support the safety and efficacy in nursing mothers or infants for any use. Galactogogues should never replace evaluation and counseling on modifiable factors that affect milk production. Although stinging nettle is generally well tolerated in adults, topical use can cause urticaria when applied topically, and application on one mother's nipple resulted in allergic skin rash in her breastfed infant. It is probably best not to apply stinging nettle topically to the breast while breastfeeding.
Dietary supplements do not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers are responsible to ensure the safety, but do not need to prove the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements before they are marketed. Dietary supplements may contain multiple ingredients, and differences are often found between labeled and actual ingredients or their amounts. A manufacturer may contract with an independent organization to verify the quality of a product or its ingredients, but that does not certify the safety or effectiveness of a product. Because of the above issues, clinical testing results on one product may not be applicable to other products. More detailed information about dietary supplements is available elsewhere on the LactMed Web site.
Maternal Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
Infant Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
Effects in Breastfed Infants
A 17-day-old exclusively breastfed infant was admitted to the hospital with an urticarial rash on the chest, back, and upper extremities. The infant's mother had reportedly applied water boiled with stinging nettles for cracked nipple twice a day before and after each breastfeeding for 2 days. Total IgE and specific IgE levels for stinging nettle were high in the mother and infant. The infant's rash improved upon cessation of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was resumed 2 days later without the use of stinging nettle on the nipple and the rash did not recur. At 2 months of age, skin prick testing in the infant was positive for stinging nettle, but no other allergen tested positive. Stinging nettle exposure was the probable cause of the rash.
Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk
Single cases of gynecomastia in a man and galactorrhea in a woman were reported after ingesting nettle as a tea for 4 weeks prior to seeking medical advice. Serum hormones were normal in the man, but serum estradiol was very high, prolactin was slightly elevated, and LH and FSH were low in the woman. Both conditions reversed 4 to 6 weeks after stopping the tea. The case reports were from Turkey where ingestion of nettle is common. No analysis of the tea was performed to test for foreign substances.
The relevance of these findings with respect to breastfeeding are not known. The prolactin level in a mother with established lactation may not affect her ability to breastfeed.
1. Dennehy C, Tsourounis C, Bui L, King TL. The use of herbs by California midwives. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2010;39:684-93. PMID: 21044150
2. Scott CR, Jacobson H. A selection of international nutritional and herbal remedies for breastfeeding concerns. Midwifery Today Int Midwife. 2005;75:38-9. PMID: 16320878
3. Petrie KA, Peck MR. Alternative medicine in maternity care. Prim Care. 2000;27:117-36. PMID: 10739460
4. Belew C. Herbs and the childbearing woman. Guidelines for midwives. J Nurse Midwifery. 1999;44:231-52. PMID: 10380443
5. Yarnell E . Botanical medicine in pregnancy and lactation. Altern Complement Ther. 1997;3 (April):93-100.
6. Abascal K, Yarnell E. Botanical galactagogues. Altern Complement Ther. 2008;14:288-94.
7. Winterfeld U, Meyer Y, Panchaud A, Einarson A. Management of deficient lactation in Switzerland and Canada: A survey of midwives' current practices. Breastfeed Med. 2012;7:317-8. PMID: 22224508
8. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM clinical protocol #9: use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting the rate of maternal milk secretion (First revision January 2011). Breastfeed Med. 2011;6:41-9. PMID: 21332371
9. Uslu S, Bulbul A, Diler B eet al. Urticaria due to Urtica dioica in a neonate. Eur J Pediatr. 2011;170:401-3. PMID: 20953796
10. Sahin M, Yilmaz H, Gursoy A et al. Gynaecomastia in a man and hyperoestrogenism in a woman due to ingestion of nettle (Urtica dioica) . N Z Med J. 2007;120:U2803. PMID: 18264183
Stinging Nettle Identification
Urtica dioica Urtica urens
LactMed Record Number
Last Revision Date
Information presented in this database is not meant as a substitute for professional judgment. You should consult your healthcare provider for breastfeeding advice related to your particular situation. The U.S. government does not warrant or assume any liability or responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the information on this Site.