Nettle, Stinging – Urtica dioica

Urtica ure 1Family: Urticaceae

Botanical synonyms: U. gracilis, U. lyallii

Part used: leaf, root, seed.

Herbal action: nutritive, alterative, antirheumatic, antiallergenic, hemostatic, uterine tonic (leaf); prostatic decongestant, pelvic decongestant (root); kidney trophorestorative (seed)

Indications: anemia, weakness, nutrient deficiency, chronic urticaria, eczema, psoriasis, respiratory catarrh, bronchitis, asthma, hayfever, arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory joint disease, muscle and joint injuries, menorrhagia, bladder irritability, urolithiasis, nephritis, chronic renal failure; Topically: wounds and burns, dried plant ointments and salves; arthritis, fresh plant maceration or poultice.

Contraindications and cautions: known hypersensitivities

Medicinal uses: Nettle leaf is among our most valuable herbal remedies, not because it is exceptionally potent or fast acting, but because it is none of these things: it is a slowly acting nutritive herb that gently cleanses the body of metabolic wastes. Nettle leaf is thus one of the safest and happiest of the alteratives, especially in the treatment of chronic disorders. One famous Herbalist (David Hoffmann) has often said; “when in doubt, give nettle”

Nettle leaf is perhaps best used for this purpose as a kind of herbal food, eaten as a green vegetable (check out our Nettles Spanakopita), spice, condiment, or drunk in generous amounts as a herbal infusion. Taken in such a way nettle is highly reputed in the treatment of chronic metabolic disorders, providing a gentle stimulant effect upon the lymphatic system, seeming to enhance the excretion of wastes through the kidneys. Among Herbalists, Nettle is well known to help people get off dialysis.

Weiss suggests that nettle acts similarly to dandelion leaf, promoting the elimination of uric acid from joints with a gentle, alkalizing diuretic activity. Nettle is thus indicated in most kinds of joint diseases, and doubly so in degenerative conditions, not only for its ability to arrest inflammatory states and enhance the excretion of wastes, but due to its high nutrient content, especially in the minerals calcium and magnesium required for bone-remodelling.

Stinging nettle tops have a variety of pharmacological effects including analgesic, anti-inflammatory, local anesthetic, hemostatic, antibacterial, and antiviral. Nettle leaf is also an exceptionally useful plant to correct symptoms of gastrointestinal excess, such as hyperchlorhydria with sour eructations and nausea, chronic diarrhoea, and mucus colitis. Similarly, the styptic properties of both nettle leaf and root make it useful in infectious diarrheas, bloody diarrheas and in bleeding hemorrhoids, although it cannot be considered as an emergency remedy

As a nutritive agent, nettle is very much esteemed in the treatment of anemia and asthenic states generally, especially in women, appearing to promote the process of protein transanimation in the liver, effectively utilizing digested proteins, while simultaneously preventing them from being discharged through the body as waste products. For this reason nettle, as well as in its role as a gentle uterine tonic, is a highly valued beverage during pregnancy and post-partum to enhance milk production. In the treatment of hayfever, the freeze-dried encapsulated herb is generally thought to be best, two capsules taken every 5 minutes until symptoms have diminished.

More recently, the root has undergone a significant degree of investigation in the treatment of prostatic congestion. A combined analysis of its traditional uses and demonstrated activities in clinical trials suggests that the root is a good pelvic decongestant, justifying its usage in any condition that is affected by such a state, including hemorrhoids, passive menorrhagia, fibroids and dysmenorrhea.

Topically the leaves are considered to be a useful styptic in wounds, and when the whole plant is picked fresh and thrashed on arthritic joints they will promote an urticaria that indicates a profound rubifacient property that will eventually leave the treated joint very much relieved, and by some accounts, cured. The seeds were used by the Eclectic physicians as a remedy for goiter and in parasitic diseases. Equally the seeds appeared to figure importantly in obstinate skin conditions and in renal disease, a use that has been more recently confirmed by respected Cherokee herbalist David Winston. Nettle leaf can be considered a good remedy for chronic urinary irritation, and the seeds in nephritis and chronic renal failure. Ground into a powder and combined with a little sea salt and ground sesame seed, the addition of Nettle seed is a tasty and healthy variation on gomashio, a popular Japanese condiment.