The most important health benefits of stinging nettle include its ability to detoxify the body, improve metabolic efficiency, boost immunity, increase circulation, improve energy levels, manage menstruation, minimize menopausal symptoms, and aid in skin care. Stinging nettle has the power to protect the kidney and gallbladder health, lower inflammation, increase muscle mass, regulate hormonal activity, prevent diabetes, lower blood pressure, soothe hemorrhoids, and improve respiratory conditions.
What is Stinging Nettle?
This herbaceous flowering plant may be considered as an annoyance to many when they brush against its sharp, stinging leaves, but for thousands of years, people around the world have used stinging nettle to treat a variety of health conditions. Its scientific name is Urtica dioica and the plant is one of six subspecies within the Urtica genus. The native range of stinging nettle, also known as common nettle in some places, is extensive, including Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. 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 the real benefits of the plant can be enjoyed. Some cultures even make nettle soup or include it in cheese-making to add some healthy boost to their meals. Stinging nettle 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.
Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle
As more and more research is done on stinging nettle, it is becoming even more popular because of the diverse range of its proven medicinal effects. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits.
Detoxifies the Body
The wide range of beneficial nutrients found in stinging nettle make it an ideal detoxifier for the body and it has been known to gently cleanse the body of toxins. As a diuretic, stinging nettle can also ensure that those toxins being neutralized in the body are then eliminated quickly. It is known as an alternative, meaning that it can improve the nutrient uptake efficiency of the gut and ensure 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.
Aids in Pregnancy
Stinging nettle tea is often suggested for women who are undergoing excessively painful labor, and it helps to protect against excessive bleeding, as it can act as a coagulant. Furthermore, it will help stimulate the production of milk and make lactation easier.
Promotes Feminine Health
Stinging nettle has a number of active components that affect feminine health. For painful premenstrual symptoms, it can soothe cramps and bloats, while also minimizing blood flow during menstruation due to its astringent capabilities. For women undergoing menopause, stinging nettle can smooth the transition and act as a restorative, so the hormonal shift isn’t as dramatic in the body.
The combination of high vitamin C and iron content in stinging nettle makes it ideal for stimulating red blood cell production. Vitamin C optimizes iron uptake in the gut, while the iron is a crucial component of hemoglobin. By increasing the RBC count in the body, blood circulation increases, wound healing speeds up, and the body’s extremities receive essential oxygenation to boost energy levels. For the same reason, stinging nettle is often recommended to relieve fatigue or anemia, which is characterized by general muscle weakness, exhaustion, cognitive difficulties, and headache.
Prevents Kidney Stones
Stinging nettle has long been known as a diuretic, but it also affects the kidneys in a different way. It has nephritic qualities, meaning that it can help break down stones in the kidney and gallbladder, preventing those painful conditions from worsening or requiring those stones to be either passed or surgically removed. Also, as a diuretic, stinging nettle helps eliminate toxins quickly, thereby protecting against bladder infections and excess fluid retention (edema).
Stinging nettle is a stimulant and rubefacient substance, making it very effective against various inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or chronic muscle pain. Research has shown that stinging nettle tea or herbal supplementation can effectively treat gout, soothe muscle pain, and reduce symptoms of arthritis.
Osteoporosis and Bone Health
Although we don’t hear much about boron, it is still an important mineral found in stinging nettle. Boron has been scientifically linked to maintaining calcium content in our bones, which means that stinging nettle can help to slow the onset of osteoporosis. When you combine that effect with the hormone-regulating impact that stinging nettle has, which helps to regulate and monitor bone health as well, it seems like this herb truly can do it all.
Treats Respiratory Issues
Stinging nettle has also been connected to the treatment of a variety of respiratory conditions, including hay fever, asthma, and other seasonal allergies. Studies have shown that certain extract combinations from stinging nettle can significantly reduce allergic reactions. Regular consumption of its tea has been associated with curing asthma in Australia for generations.
Protects Heart Health
It only makes sense that this amazing cure-all herb would also be able to positively affect the heart. 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 Prostate Health
Prostate enlargement and cancer are both serious factors to consider as men 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 can only prevent the growth, not reverse it once the growth factor and testosterone-stimulation have occurred.
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 healing, reduce the appearance of scars and blemishes, and promote anti-aging effects to reduce wrinkles and age spots.
Word of Caution: While many of these benefits seem miraculous, it is important to remember that some of these remedies for high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and menstruation can also have a flip-side. For example, if you have low blood pressure, low blood sugar or are early in your pregnancy, this plant can be dangerous. Before adding such a potent and comprehensive herbal remedy to your diet, be sure to consult a physician and ensure that you won’t be complicating any ongoing treatments.