10 Science-Backed Benefits of Stinging Nettle

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

The important health benefits of stinging nettle may 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 roots and leaves have different medicinal properties. Stinging roots can be taken as a tablet, tea, tincture, extract, capsule, or pill. [1]

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. [2]

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 so that the real benefits of the plant can be enjoyed. [3] [4]

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 :
Water [g]87.67
Energy 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 [5]

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. [6] [7]

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.
[8] [9]

Health Benefits

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

Might Detoxify 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 per animal studies, the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that it can act as a diuretic and ensure that the toxins being neutralized in the body are eliminated quickly. It might help improve the nutrient uptake efficiency of the gut and ensure that the digestive processes run smoothly, thereby preventing the accumulation of dangerous toxins. It can also stimulate the lymphatic system, possibly helping rid the body of excess toxins in the kidneys as well. The current evidence suggests potential benefits, but further research is needed to determine the full range of risks and benefits for humans. [10]

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 an 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. [11] [12]

Might Prevent 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 crystal 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. [13] [14]

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. [15]

Possibly Anti-inflammatory

Stinging nettle is a potentially 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. [16]

In a noteworthy study featured in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the application of stinging nettle to areas afflicted by osteoarthritis demonstrated significant pain reduction compared to a placebo treatment. A study from Germany found that stinging nettle extract was effective in reducing inflammation and pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, a separate study unveiled that individuals grappling with arthritis pain experienced relief by incorporating a natural supplement containing nettle into their regimen, allowing them to reduce their dependency on analgesics and NSAIDs.

It contains a variety of compounds that are thought to contribute to its anti-inflammatory effects, including: [17] [18] [19]

  • Flavonoids: Flavonoids are antioxidants that can help to reduce inflammation and protect against cell damage. [20]
  • Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll is a green pigment that helps to cleanse the blood and reduce inflammation. [21]
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help to reduce inflammation and protect against cell damage. [22]

Might Help 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. Research conducted on 74 patients suggests that stinging nettle may be effective in reducing the symptoms of hay fever – a type of allergic rhinitis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the nose caused by an allergen. Stinging nettle contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. These compounds may help to reduce inflammation in the nose and block the production of histamine, a chemical that is released during an allergic reaction. [23] [24]

However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the best dose and formulation of stinging nettle for use in the treatment of various respiratory conditions

May Lower Blood Pressure

Research has revealed that regular consumption of stinging nettle tea can help lower systolic blood pressure and relieve tension and stress on the cardiovascular system. Stinging nettle contains compounds that have vasodilating and calcium channel-blocking effects as per animal studies. [26] [27]

Vasodilators like Nitric Oxide relax the muscles of the blood vessels, which helps to widen the blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers work by blocking the flow of calcium into the heart and blood vessels, which also helps to lower blood pressure.

However, more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of stinging nettle for the treatment of high blood pressure. [28] [29]

Might Improve Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Prostate gland enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) and other prostate problems are serious issues 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 roots can only prevent prostate enlargement, not reverse or reduce it. [30] [31]

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. [32]

May Help Control Blood Sugar Levels

Urtica Dioica is a plant known to reduce blood glucose levels upon oral ingestion, according to researchers. It contains compounds that may improve insulin sensitivity, and increase insulin production. 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. [33] [34] [35]

However, a 2020 meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) found that stinging nettle supplementation significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, but had no significant effect on insulin levels, insulin resistance, or glycosylated hemoglobin. [36]

Hence, more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the best dose and formulation.

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.

May Aid in Skin Care

When the extracts are applied to the skin, stinging nettle has been proven to possibly reduce the severity of acne and can even prevent bacterial infections as tested in a study. According to an animal study,  it can also speed wound healing.  It is also used in ointments for treating burns. [37] [38] [39]

Might Aid in 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 potentially 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. [40]
  • It may soothe ulcers and hemorrhoids.
  • Furthermore, it will help stimulate the production of milk and make lactation easier for new mothers. [41]

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. [42]

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 this with your healthcare provider before using this herb during pregnancy. [43]

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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