Nettle family (Urticaceae)
This information is largely based on De la Foret (n.d.) except where noted. See References section for details of all references.
Nettle is a natural multivitamin, packed with minerals and vitamins, detoxifying, and also medicinal. It has inflammation-modulating effects, with impacts on many ailments that entail inflammation - ranging from metabolic disorders to arthritis. In fact, its Latin name comes from urtication - which refers to the slapping of the plant on painful joints to relieve the pain. The tiny hollow hairs that cover much of the nettle plant have silica tips that easily break off on contact and inject formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin (Compound Interest, 2015). The latter three of these are thought to cause inflammation and pain, which while irritating, can paradoxically alleviate joint pain (Compound Interest, 2015). Aside from its nutritional and medicinal uses, its fibrous stalks have been used for cordage, paper, and cloth. Nettle also provides habitat and food for many species of insects, including caterpillars of several butterfly species.
Contains iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin K, carotenoids, and protein.
The calcium and magnesium can relieve cramping that is resulting from deficiency in these. Vitamin K helps regulate blood clotting, which is important for preventing excess bleeding (The Nutrition Source, n.d.).
According to herbalist David Winston, nettle seed used to help restore the health of older, worn-out horses, and can have an an energising effect on humans as well. For some people, nettle seed may actually be too stimulating to consume much of later in the day.
The best way to obtain the nutrients is by drinking nourishing (several-hour long) infusions.
Nettle stimulates urination, which helps to flush out waste from the body. This diuretic effect can help with eczema and gout, as well as premenstrual water retention.
Used to alleviate seasonal allergy responses - This may be due to the natural histamine content in nettle helping to calm the body’s response to allergens. Nettle’s astringency (tightening of tissues) may also help reduce a runny nose. To minimise seasonal allergies, it’s best to take a strong infusion of nettle daily in the months leading up to allergy season.
For acute relief of allergies, one can take increasing amounts of nettle leaf powder (or in capsules), gradually increasing the amount from 1-2 grams upward until relief is achieved. Alternatively, a tincture made of fresh nettle leaf can be taken, which is enhanced if combined with fresh plantain tincture.
Traditionally, nettle has been applied topically by slapping the fresh plant on painful joints; the temporary irritation stimulates circulation at the joint and reduces the pain. This process is called urtication, which is where its Latin name comes from.
The inflammation-modulating effects of nettle can also help to relieve arthritic pain.
The iron and other vitamins and minerals provide nourishment during menstruation, and may also help with cramping caused by deficiency of some minerals. As a diuretic, nettle helps to alleviate water retention.
The high level of calcium in nettle can help muscle pain after childbirth, its iron helps with blood loss, and nettle can help increase milk production.
Nettle root may alleviate symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition in which the prostate gland enlarges and presses against the urethra, the tube which empties out urine from the bladder. Although nettle root can alleviate the symptoms - incomplete urination; reduced urination; constant urge to urinate - it does not reduce the size of the gland. It is important that men with such symptoms get a proper diagnosis to ensure that they do not have prostate cancer (Mount Sinai, n.d.)
Nettle is considered a safe herb for most people. However, because it is a diuretic and it can affect blood sugar, there are some precautions for some people (Mount Sinai, n.d.).