Perhaps the oldest evidence of Nettle being used for medicinal purposes is in Ancient Egypt where they prepared a Nettle infusion for arthritis and lumbago pains. They used the sting of Nettle in self-flogging as it was believed it helped with rheumatism, lethargy, coma, paralysis, and even typhus and cholera. Self-flogging was also practiced by Roman soldiers to stimulate blood circulation on cold days in Northern Europe and to treat tired painful legs on long marches.
Hippocrates had around 61 different Nettle preparations. The Greek medical scripture ‘De Simplicibus’ suggests Nettle for ‘a diuretic and laxative, for dog bites, gangrenous wounds, swellings, nose bleeding, excessive menstruation, spleen-related illness, pleurisy, pneumonia, asthma, tinea, and mouth sores.’ Later additions included Nettle mixed with Hemp plant for relief from shock as well as Nettle on its own being used for shingles and constipation.
With Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH), affecting many men as they get older, recent studies has found that Nettle is effective in reducing prostate size. It not only reduces the prostate size, it also relieves the symptoms such as the frequent urge to urinate, painful urination and incomplete emptying of the bladder.
It is thought that the bioactive compounds in Nettle bring a series of complex effects on the prostate. These active ingredients can inhibit the binding of the male hormones steroid hormone to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
SHBG is a glycoprotein that preferably binds to testosterone and oestrogen, although it also binds to other sex hormones. It is involved in the transportation of these sex hormones through the plasma and their delivery to receptors in various target organs including the prostate.
When testosterone is unable to bind to this glycoprotein, the prostate receives far lower amounts of the hormone. In addition, testosterone metabolites such as DHT (dihydrotestosterone, also implicated in the enlargement of the prostate), cannot get to the prostate. As a result, excess hormone stimulation of the prostate is prevented and the symptoms of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) are relieved. The bioactive plant compounds present in Nettle Root Extract are believed to be responsible for this effect.
Nettle leaf works well for inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) and other inflammation whilst the Nettle root is much better for BPH.
A small, placebo-controlled British study looked the effectiveness of Nettle for the relief of osteoarthritis pain. Participants who applied stinging Nettle to painful joints for one week reported significantly greater reductions in pain than those who used the placebo.
In another study, scientists used a Nettle Leaf extract to observe its effects on dendritic cells. Dendritic cells play an active role in the initiation of rheumatoid arthritis. Nettle Leaf extract was able to keep these cells from growing, but did not kill the cells. It also reduced the number of protein genes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The most significant observation in this study was that Nettle Leaf extract had a positive effect against the genes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Nettle was also able to curb rapid increase of white blood cells, reducing infection.
Kidney and Gallbladder Health
Nettle has long been known as an effective diuretic, however it also can help to break down stones in the kidney and gallbladder, preventing these painful conditions from worsening or requiring those stones to be either passed or surgically removed. Also, as a diuretic, stinging nettle helps to eliminate toxins quickly, thereby protecting against bladder infections.