As an annoying garden weed, stinging nettle tends to give you an accidental painful bite. In short, to many of you this is simply a nuisance. However, you may not know that its young leaves can be eaten as a cooked vegetable as they are rich in protein, iron and minerals. What’s more, medically its leaves, stems, and sometimes the roots can offer numerous health benefits. Today, it is available in the forms of tea, tincture, capsule to treat a variety of health problems in both a homeopathic remedy and an herbal treatment.
Also known as urtica dioica and common nettle, this is an herbaceous perennial flowering plant. It is worth mentioning that this is one of nitrogen-rich foods. Medicinally, its most popular use is to brew tea. This highly fragrant, nutrient-rich nettle tea is especially good for treating female health problems, alleviating hay fever, getting rid of acne, and losing weight. Besides, stinging nettle products like capsules are usually used to treat arthritis, anemia, eczema, gout, and muscle and joint pain.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) thinks that this herb is bitter, acrid, warm, and slightly toxic in nature. The whole plant of nettle can be used as medicine. When it is ingested, it mainly treats rheumatoid arthritis, postpartum seizures, convulsions in children, polio sequelae, hypertension, indigestion, and constipation. When it is applied to the skin, it is quite effective for the treatment of snake bites and rheumatoid arthritis.
Similarly, in the past the west often used nettle leaf for refreshing, increasing the production of waste fluids, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Sometimes, it is also used to treat irregular menstruation. In recent years, studies have found that rubbing its leaves on skin could relieve joint pain, and the dosage would be reduced by using it and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in combination. However, further study is still needed although some credible results have been made. In addition, in an unrelated study nettle capsules have been found to help alleviate a fever.
Sometimes nettle leaves are used to relieve pain too. As you know, the fine hairs on the leaves and stems will be capable of injecting formic acid, serotonin, histamine and other chemicals that cause pain or irritation. However, for patients with arthritis, this is good news since the penetration of the mentioned chemicals can promote anti-inflammatory response of the body and then relieve pain.
Some research results based on benign prostatic hyperplasia have shown that this herb could help those with difficulty urinating. This is because it has a similar effect of finasteride, which is commonly used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia clinically. However, the research focused on nettle root revealed that its roots and leaves could have a different effect.
This plant can be processed into tea, cooked directly, and made into dried herb. It is important to note that the fine hairs on the stems and leaves can cause allergies. When the hairs get on the skin of human, pigs, sheep, cattle, horses, birds, mice and other animals, they will cause stingy pain and lead to irritant dermatitis. The main symptom is dry, red, itchy skin. Similarly, when it is taken orally, it has some side effects and often causes vomiting and diarrhea, which look like appendicitis symptoms. Besides, drug interactions with stinging nettle leaf and some drugs have been noted due to its powerful effect. So, it is necessary to consult a physician before using.