Historically, the daily use of nettles have been essential to numerous cultures from around the globe – both topically and internally. This can be traced back to the earlist know documentations of human writings. The ancient and American Indians, Greek, Romans and other armies used nettles (Urtica diocia) extensively; not only as a food source, but also for much of their medicinal needs.
Throughout time, civilizations have taken advantage of nettles by flailing the skin with the growing plant – a process know as “Urtication”. Urtication has been known to eliminate or reduce pain associated with inflamed joints, muscles, arthritis, gout, wounds and much more. TRY IT NOW, YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT!
Today, the use of the common nettle plant (Urtica dioica) continues as a painkiller and a diuretic to treat swelling, aches and discomforts.*
In Europe, it was used as a spring tonic, a treatment for scurvy, as a diuretic, and a treatment for joint pain. Nettle is rich in Vitamin C and the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E. It is also high in chlorophyll, iron, potassium, magnesium, chromium, and zinc.
Other possible health benefits for nettle include anti-inflammatory effects, relief of benign prostatic hyperplasia and urinary tract infections, and the lowering of blood pressure and blood sugar. Nettle tea also has a mild laxative effect, which could be useful for the treatment of constipation.
The stinging sensation of the leaf hairs is caused by several plant chemicals including formic acid, histamine, serotonin, and choline. In addition to these chemicals, nettle leaf is rich in minerals, chlorophyll, amino acids, lecithin, carotenoids, flavonoids, sterols, tannins and vitamins. Other chemicals (flavonoids in the leaves and a lectin in the root) have been documented with interesting immune stimulant actions in preliminary research which led researchers to suggest that the lectin might be useful in the treatment of systemic lupus.
Nettle’s main plant chemicals include: acetophenone, acetylcholine, agglutinins, alkaloids, astragalin, butyric acid, caffeic acids, carbonic acid, chlorogenic acid, chlorophyll, choline, coumaric acid, folacin, formic acid, friedelins, histamine, kaempherols, koproporphyrin, lectins, lecithin, lignans, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, neoolivil, palmitic acid, pantothenic acid, quercetin, quinic acid, scopoletin, secoisolariciresinol, serotonin, sitosterols, stigmasterol, succinic acid, terpenes, violaxanthin, and xanthophylls.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
Nettle’s long-standing use as an anti-inflammatory aid for rheumatism and arthritis has been confirmed with clinical research. In several clinical studies (including a randomized double-blind placebo trial) nettle leaf extracts were documented with anti-inflammatory actions as well as to be beneficial (and better than placebo) at relieving arthritis pain and inflammation in humans. Research suggests that nettle’s anti-inflammatory actions are attributed to its ability to interrupt the production and actions of inflammation-producing immune cells in the body (cytokines, prostaglandins and leukotreines). Another randomized double-blind study was performed on nettle in 1990 which confirmed its traditional uses for allergies and rhinitis (a common inflammatory disorder causing sneezing, nasal congestion and discharge and itchy skin and often triggered by allergies). In this study with 69 patients, nettle extract again rated higher than placebo: 58% reported it relieved most all their symptoms and 48% stated it was more effective than other over-the-counter medications. It was still being confirmed as a beneficial treatment for rhinitis 10 years later when researchers then suggested the same sort of inflammatory immune cell suppression was responsible for the documented effects.
Other recent animal studies with rats (in 2000 and 2002) reported that water extracts of nettle lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and had notable diuretic actions. One of the studies reported that a nettle root extract performed better than the control drug they used (furosemide) at reducing blood pressure, increasing urine output, and increasing sodium excretion. Earlier studies reported nettle had no effect on blood pressure in rats but demonstrated a notable hypotensive effect in cats. It was also shown to have an pain-relieving effect in mice, a sedative effect in rats and mice, as well as to inhibit drug-induced convulsions and lower the body temperature of rats.