10 Science-Backed Benefits of Stinging Nettle

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Sarah Pledger (M.S., R.D.)

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The important health benefits of stinging nettle include its ability to detoxify the body, ease seasonal allergies, boost immunity, increase circulation, improve energy levels, manage menstruation, minimize menopausal symptoms, and aid in skin care.

This herbaceous flowering plant may be considered an annoyance to many when they brush against its sharp, stinging leaves leaving a rash, but for thousands of years, people around the world have used stinging nettle to treat a variety of health conditions.

What Is Stinging Nettle?

The stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica) is one of the six subspecies within the Urtica genus. The native range of stinging nettle, also known as common nettle in some places, is extensive and includes Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. Stinging nettle root and leaves have different medicinal properties. Stinging roots can be taken as a tablet, tea, tincture, extract, capsule, or pill.

Some cultures even make nettle soup or include it in cheese-making to add some healthy boost to their meals. The leaves are most commonly brewed as tea, which captures many of the essential health benefits, but the plant can also be applied topically in the form of an oil extract. However, be sure to combine this natural oil with carrier oils, as it can be extremely potent.

Stinging Nettle Rash: The plant itself is relatively small, rarely growing past five feet in height. The leaves and stems in some of the subspecies have long stinging hairs that inject an array of chemicals when touched, including histamine, formic acid, serotonin, and acetylcholine. This produces an irritating, uncomfortable sensation in the skin, which is why other common names for stinging nettle are burn weed and burn nettle. However, once you boil these stems and leaves or extract the powerful oils, the stinging substances are neutralized and so that the real benefits of the plant can be enjoyed.

A red-colored bowl full of stinging nettle leaves kept on a wooden table

Stinging nettle leaves have long been used as a medicinal aid. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Stinging Nettles, blanched (Northern Plains Indians)
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]87.67
Energy [kcal]42
Energy [kJ]175
Protein [g]2.71
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.11
Ash [g]2.03
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]7.49
Fiber, total dietary [g]6.9
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.25
Sucrose [g]0.1
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.07
Fructose [g]0.07
Calcium, Ca [mg]481
Iron, Fe [mg]1.64
Magnesium, Mg [mg]57
Phosphorus, P [mg]71
Potassium, K [mg]334
Sodium, Na [mg]4
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.34
Copper, Cu [mg]0.08
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.78
Selenium, Se [µg]0.3
Thiamin [mg]0.01
Riboflavin [mg]0.16
Niacin [mg]0.39
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.1
Folate, total [µg]14
Folate, food [µg]14
Folate, DFE [µg]14
Choline, total [mg]17.4
Betaine [mg]21.4
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]101
Carotene, beta [µg]1150
Carotene, alpha [µg]114
Vitamin A, IU [IU]2011
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]4178
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]498.6
Sources include : USDA

Stinging Nettle Nutrition

Stinging nettle roots and leaves contain vitamins A, C, and K as well as B vitamins. The leaves are rich sources of terpenoids, carotenoids, fatty acids, essential amino acids, chlorophyll, and minerals. They also contain important polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties.

According to the USDA, a cup of blanched nettle leaves contains 37.4 calories, 6.6 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.4 grams of protein.

Health Benefits

Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of stinging nettle.

Detoxifies the Body

The wide range of beneficial nutrients found in stinging nettle makes it an ideal detoxifier for the body and it has been known to gently cleanse the body of toxins. As a diuretic, it can also ensure that the toxins being neutralized in the body are eliminated quickly, says the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. It helps improve the nutrient uptake efficiency of the gut and ensures that the digestive processes run smoothly, thereby preventing the accumulation of dangerous toxins. It also stimulates the lymphatic system, helping rid the body of excess toxins in the kidneys as well.

May Promote Feminine Health

Stinging nettle has several active components that affect feminine health. For painful premenstrual symptoms, it is known to give relief from cramping and bloating, while also minimizing blood flow during menstruation due to its astringent capabilities. For women undergoing menopause, stinging nettle has been prescribed as a herbal remedy to smooth the transition, so the hormonal shift isn’t as dramatic in the body. However, scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy of “natural” therapies is limited.

Prevents Kidney Stones

Stinging nettle has long been known as a diuretic and has been therapeutically used for urinary ailments and kidney stones. Phytochemicals present in the plant, such as flavonoids, anthocyanins, and saponins, aid in preventing calcium and oxalate deposition and crystals growth in the body. An animal model showed that the methanolic extract U. dioica helped lower urinary creatinine levels in rats with kidney stones. Stinging nettle could prevent those painful conditions from worsening or requiring those stones to be either passed or surgically removed.

Another study published in Elsevier’s Phytomedicine journal suggested that nettle preparations exert many promising in vitro and in vivo effects for complaints associated with urinary tract infections, but further studies are needed in humans to understand the effects better.

Anti-inflammatory

Stinging nettle is a stimulant and rubefacient substance, making it effective against various inflammatory conditions. Nettle tea has been used in home remedies in medieval Europe for joint pain, eczema, arthritis, and gout.

Researchers from Germany in their study suggest that the herb can treat rheumatoid arthritis and chronic muscle pain. A clinical trial report, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, revealed that applying stinging nettle onto areas affected with osteoarthritis significantly reduced the pain as compared to the placebo treatment. Another study showed that people suffering from arthritis pain found it beneficial when they took a natural supplement containing nettle. They felt they could decrease the need for analgesics and NSAIDs.

Helps Ease Respiratory Issues

Stinging nettle has also been connected to the complementary treatment of a variety of respiratory conditions, including hay fever, asthma, and other seasonal allergies. Also, certain extract combinations from stinging nettle can significantly reduce allergic reactions. This is confirmed in a study conducted by Dr. Randall Alberte, et al., Chief Scientific Officer of HerbalScience Group LLC, US. Regular consumption of its tea has been associated with easing asthmatic symptoms in Australia for generations.

May Lower Blood Pressure

Research has revealed that regular consumption of stinging nettle tea can help to lower systolic blood pressure and relieve tension and stress on the cardiovascular system.

Improves Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Prostate gland enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) and other prostate problems are a serious issue to all men as they age and stinging nettle has proven to be an effective means of preventing prostate growth. However, due to the chemical pathways that this treatment takes, stinging nettle root can only prevent prostate enlargement, not reverse or reduce it.

Data from clinical trials show that palmetto along with nettle root can also reduce the urge of frequent urination and post-urination dripping, .which are symptoms caused by the enlarged prostate gland pressing on the urethra. A Penn State report states that stinging nettle may have these effects because it contains chemicals that affect hormones (including testosterone and estrogen).

May Help Control Blood Sugar Levels

Urtica Dioica is a plant known to reduce blood glucose levels upon oral ingestion, according to researchers. A three-month study showed that 46 participants who took a 500 mg stinging nettle capsule three times a day every eight hours significantly reduced their blood sugar levels as compared to a placebo.

Health benefits of stinging nettle infographic

Some cultures even make nettle soup or include it in cheese-making to add some healthy boost to their meals.

Skin Care

When the extracts are applied to the skin, stinging nettle has been proven to reduce the severity of acne and can even prevent bacterial infections. Due to its antioxidant properties, it can also speed wound healing, reduce the appearance of scars and blemishes, and promote anti-aging effects to reduce wrinkles and age spots. It is also used in ointments for treating burns.

Hair Care

Nettle leaves are rich in silica and sulfur, both of which help in hair growth as well as preventing hair loss. Studies show that Urtica dioica can block DHT, a hormone that if overproduced, can damage hair follicles. The leaves have anti-inflammatory properties that can potentially reduce inflammation of the scalp.

Other Benefits

  • Stinging nettle seed oil may help reduce colonic inflammation, according to the results of a rat model.
  • It may soothe ulcers and hemorrhoids.
  • Furthermore, it will help stimulate the production of milk and make lactation easier for new mothers.
  • Boron has been linked to maintaining calcium content in our bones, which means that stinging nettle, rich in boron and calcium, may help to slow the onset of osteoporosis.

Side Effects

Stinging nettle is generally considered to be safe when used as directed. It is important to be careful while handling nettle leaves as they can cause hives or a rash. Common side effects include diarrhea and sweating. Because of its diuretic effect, people with kidney and bladder problems should exercise caution while using the herb.

Is Stinging Nettle Safe For Pregnant Women?

Stinging nettle tea is often used in many pregnancy teas and prescribed by herbalists and midwives as it is nutrient-rich. The American Pregnancy Association says the safety may be contingent upon whether the nettle root or leaves are used as well as the correct dosage. On the other hand, certain doses could cause uterine contractions. It is advised to discuss with your health-care provider before using this herb during pregnancy.

Drug Interactions

The leaves and roots can interfere with the following drugs:

  • Blood thinners
  • Medications for blood pressure
  • Lithium
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Drugs for diabetes

Do not self-treat with stinging nettle supplements as the correct dosage is important. Before adding such a potent herbal remedy to your diet, be sure to consult a physician and ensure that you won’t be complicating any ongoing treatments.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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