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6 Evidence-Based Benefits of Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been a staple in herbal medicine since ancient times. Ancient Egyptians used stinging nettle to treat arthritis and lower back pain, while Roman troops rubbed it on themselves to help stay warm. Its scientific name, Urtica dioica, comes from the Latin word uro, which means “to burn,” because its leaves can cause a temporary burning sensation upon contact. The leaves have hair-like structures that sting and also produce itching, redness and swelling. However, once it is processed into a supplement, dried, freeze-dried or cooked, stinging nettle can be safely consumed. Studies link it to a number of potential health benefits.
Here are 6 evidence-based benefits of stinging nettle:-
Contains Many Nutrients- Stinging nettle’s leaves and root provide a wide variety of nutrients, including: Vitamins: Vitamins A, C and K, as well as several B vitamins. Minerals: Calcium, iron,magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Fats: Linoleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid. Amino acids: All of the essential amino acids, Polyphenols: Kaempferol, quercetin, caffeic acid, coumarins and other flavonoids. Pigments: Beta-carotene, lutein,luteoxanthin and other carotenoids
What’s more, many of these nutrients act as antioxidants inside your body. Antioxidants are molecules that help defend your cells against damage from free radicals. Damage caused by free radicals is linked to aging, as well as cancer and other harmful diseases. Studies indicate that stinging nettle extract can raise blood antioxidant levels
- May Reduce Inflammation– Inflammation is your body’s way of healing itself and fighting infections. However, chronic inflammation can inflict significant harm. Stinging nettle harbors a variety of compounds that may reduce inflammation. In animal and test-tube studies, stinging nettle reduced levels of multiple inflammatory hormones by interfering with their production.
In human studies, applying a stinging nettle cream or consuming stinging nettle products appears to relieve inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. For instance, in one 27-person study, applying a stinging nettle cream onto arthritis-affected areas significantly reduced pain, compared to a placebo treatment. In another study, taking a supplement that contained stinging nettle extract significantly reduced arthritis pain.
Additionally, participants felt they could reduce their dose of anti-inflammatory pain relievers because of this capsule. That said, research is insufficient to recommend stinging nettle as an anti-inflammatory treatment. More human studies are needed.
- May Treat Enlarged Prostate Symptoms– Up to 50% of men aged 51 and older have an enlarged prostate gland. An enlarged prostate is commonly called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Scientists aren’t sure what causes BPH, but it can lead to significant discomfort during urination. Interestingly, a few studies suggest that stinging nettle may help treat BPH.
Animal research reveals that this powerful plant may prevent the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone — a more powerful form of testosterone. Stopping this conversion can help reduce prostate size. Studies in people with BPH demonstrate that stinging nettle extracts help treat short- and long-term urination problems — without side effects. However, it’s unclear how effective stinging nettle is compared to conventional treatments.
Hay fever is an allergy that involves inflammation in the lining of your nose.
- May Treat Hay Fever– Hay fever is an allergy that involves inflammation in the lining of your nose. Stinging nettle is viewed as a promising natural treatment for hay fever. Test-tube research shows that stinging nettle extracts can inhibit inflammation that can trigger seasonal allergies. This includes blocking histamine receptors and stopping immune cells from releasing chemicals that trigger allergy symptoms.
However, human studies note that stinging nettle is equal to or only slightly better at treating hay fever than a placebo. While this plant may prove a promising natural remedy for hay fever symptoms, more long-term human studies are needed.
- May Lower Blood Pressure– Approximately one in three American adults has high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a serious health concern because it puts you at risk of heart disease and strokes, which are among the leading causes of death worldwide. Stinging nettle was traditionally used to treat high blood pressure. Animal and test-tube studies illustrate that it may help lower blood pressure in several ways. For one, it may stimulate nitric oxide production, which acts as a vasodilator. Vasodilators relax the muscles of your blood vessels, helping them widen.
- May Aid Blood Sugar Control– Both human and animal studies link stinging nettle to lower blood sugar levels. In fact, this plant contains compounds that may mimic the effects of insulin. In a three-month study in 46 people, taking 500 mg of stinging nettle extract three times daily significantly lowered blood sugar levels compared to a placebo. Despite promising findings, there are still far too few human studies on stinging nettle and blood sugar control. More research is necessary.
The Bottom Line- Stinging nettle is a nutritious plant popular in Western herbal medicine. Studies suggest that it may reduce inflammation, hay fever symptoms, blood pressure and blood sugar levels — among other benefits. While fresh stinging nettle may cause irritation, cooked, dried or freeze-dried stinging nettle is generally safe to consume. If you’re curious, try adding this leafy green to your diet today (Healthine.com).