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Stinging Nettles

What are stinging nettles?

Stinging nettle is the name given to two types of round, green bushes found throughout the world. Fully grown, stinging nettle bushes can reach a height of three feet. The plant gets its name from the small hair-like projections that cover it, especially the leaves and stem. The hairs contain chemicals inside them that irritate a person’s skin and can be quite painful to the touch.

Why do we need stinging nettles? What are they used for?

Traditionally, stinging nettles have been used to stimulate circulation. Many cultures have used nettle branches as part of a whipping technique called flagellation, which allegedly activates paralyzed muscles and stimulates organs. In previous centuries, it has also been used to treat a variety of conditions, ranging from rheumatism and eczema to arthritis, gout and anemia.

Today, stinging nettles are most commonly used to treat urinary problems associated with the early stages of an enlarged prostate gland. It is also used as a remedy for kidney stones, rheumatism and some cases of inflammation, and has diuretic effects if taken with enough fluid. Stinging nettles leaves have sometimes been employed as a topical compress or cream for gout, sprains, sciatica, tendonitis, burns, hemorrhoids and insect bites.

How many stinging nettles should I take?

For lower urinary tract inflammation and kidney stones, many practitioners recommened between 8-12 grams of tea made from stinging nettle leaves, along with at least two liters of liquid a day. For enlarged prostate conditions, 4-6 grams of root tincture (1:10 ratio) daily is recommended. Remember to always consult with your health care provider first before taking nettle root for prostate or urinary problems.

What forms of stinging nettles are available?

Stinging nettles are available in the form of dried leaves, which can be crushed and used in teas or capsules. Tinctures containing stinging nettle root are also available (a tincture is a solution of the herb in alcohol).

What can happen if I take too many stinging nettles? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Stinging nettle is safe when used as directed; however, excessive use may interfere with the actions of hypoglycemic, hyperglycemic, antidiabetic and depressive drugs. If your skin touches the plant, you may feel a stinging sensation or contract hives.

In addition, stinging nettle may alter a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take stinging nettle products and should contact their health care provider with any questions or concerns.

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• Belaiche P, Lievoux O. Clinical studies on the palliative treatment of prostatic adenoma with extract of urtica root. Phytotherapy Research 1991;5:267-269.
• Chrubasik S, Enderlein W, Bauer R, Grabner W. Evidence for antirheumatic effectiveness of herba urticae dioica in acute arthritis: A pilot study. Phytomedicine 1997;4:105—108.
• Krzeski T, Kazon M, Borkowski A, Witeska A, Kuczera J. Combined extracts of urtica dioica and pygeum africanum in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: double-blind comparison of two doses. Clin Ther 1993;15:1011—1020.
• Oliver F, Amon E, Breathnach A, Francis D, Sarathchandra P, Black A, Greaves M. Contact urticaria due to the common stinging nettle (urtica dioica) - histological, ultrastructural and pharmacological studies. Clin Exp Dermatology 1991;267:1—7.
• Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine, 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1998:228—238.


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