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Nettles

Medically reviewed: June 7, 2018

What are Nettles?

Nettles are perennial plants native to Europe and found throughout the United States and parts of Canada. The plant has dark green serrated leaves that grow opposite one another along the stalk. The leaves contain bristles that transmit irritating chemicals upon contact.

Scientific Name(s)

Urtica dioica and Urtica urens

Common Name(s)

Nettles are also known as stinging nettles and soii (Kashmiri).

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

This plant is known for its stinging properties. However, it has been used in traditional medicine to increase the amount of urine excreted, suppress muscle spasms, promote the discharge of phlegm from the respiratory tract, and treat for asthma. The juice was said to stimulate hair growth when applied to the scalp. Extracts of the leaves have been used on the skin for the treatment of rheumatic disorders. Other folk medicine applications include wound healing, treatment of dandruff and greasy hair, and gastric juice secretion. Claims of activity against diabetes, cancer, eczema, hair loss, rheumatism, and aging have not been proved. The tender tips of young nettles have been used as a cooked pot herb in salads. It is considered to be a nourishing plant and has been used to treat scurvy. A combination product includes nettle to treat stomach inflammation.

General uses

The primary use of nettles is in the management of symptoms due to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), diabetes, and arthritis. However, limited clinical trials are available.

What is the recommended dosage?

Freeze-dried nettle leaf 600 mg has been used in a clinical trial for allergic rhinitis. Clinical trials for BPH have used aqueous extracts of U. dioica root 360 mg daily over 6 months and methanol root extract 600 to 1,200 mg daily for 6 to 9 weeks. Commercial preparations are often not standardized.

Contraindications

Nettle preparations should not be used in pregnancy and lactation or in children younger than 12 years.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Documented adverse effects.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Nettles are known primarily for causing skin irritation following contact. Radix urticae extracts and other nettle preparations are generally well tolerated, with minor, short-term stomach effects, including diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea.

Toxicology

The oral toxicity of nettle preparations is considered to be very low. DNA damage and cancer induction studies were negative for the aqueous extract.

References

1. Nettles. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; October 2015.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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