Latest Posts

Nettle: Characteristics, Properties And Its Benefits

Botanical Characteristics

Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) is a perennial herbaceous plant widespread in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America. However, its origins date back to the colder regions of Europe and Asia. The plant can be between 30 and 250 centimeters tall and has an erect and hairy stem. The leaves are large, ovate, opposite, lanceolate, serrated, and sharp; dark green on the upper side; lighter and fuzzier on the lower side. 

Urtica dioica indicates that female and male flowers are present on separate plants. The female flowers are collected in long, hanging spikes, while the male flowers are gathered in erect spikes. It is usually found in fields and uncultivated land, preferring humid and nitrogen-rich places, preferably shady, such as woods and waterways.

Its flowering occurs from June to September. The stinging action of the herb remains the biggest problem. Still, if you take advantage of its great qualities, it is recommended to dry and boil the leaves after collecting them with special gloves that avoid direct contact with the skin. 

Nettle comprises thin, hollow needles communicating with tiny sacs full of irritating substances, which release their contents when the leaves are rubbed. The presence of toxins present in the liquid, such as histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, acetic acid, butyric acid, and leukotrienes, causes irritation. The pain can persist for up to 12 hours and sometimes last longer. An ancient grandmother’s remedy against the irritating effects of Nettle involves using peppermint, which contains menthol and has anesthetizing properties.


The leaves contain sterols, glycoproteins, acids, flavonoids, minerals (calcium and potassium), amines, tannins, etc. The roots contain polysaccharides, lectins, sterols, glycosides, lignans, fatty acids, and scopoletin.

Nettle: A Plant That Has Always Been Used

In ancient times, Nettle was used for medicinal purposes, and its anti-poison properties were attributed to it. The juice was used to treat snake and scorpion bites or as an antidote against poisonous plants, even if, in reality, Nettle does not possess these virtues. When the properties of the plant were not yet known, the first herbalists recommended nettle infusion as a remedy against coughs and tuberculosis to treat hemorrhages, scurvy, and even asthma.

Over the years, the plant’s application fields grew, and nettle juice earned a reputation as a hair growth stimulant. American Indian women were convinced that the infusion of the herb brought benefits to pregnant women, facilitating childbirth and making the fetus strong, but this, too, turned out to be a simple belief. They also used nettles to stop postpartum uterine hemorrhages. The first settlers, based on what they learned from Indian women, used nettles to increase milk secretion. 19th-century American eclectic physicians recommended it primarily as a diuretic in treating urinary, bladder, and kidney disorders.

Properties And Benefits

From all the components of the nettle plant (leaves, roots, and stem), valuable substances for the body that have medicinal powers can be obtained. Many properties that Nettle was believed to have in ancient times have been widely confirmed over the centuries and many others have been denied. Recent studies conducted on Nettle confirm the effectiveness of the plant as a diuretic, identifying it as a valid remedy, especially for the reduction of disorders such as arthritis and benign prostatic hypertrophy. Let’s look specifically at the primary health problems for which Nettle is an excellent natural remedy:

  1. Urinary Infections Commission E, the expert committee responsible for evaluating herbal medicines, approves nettle leaf preparations to prevent urinary infections and kidney stones. The diuretic action of Nettle facilitates the elimination of the bacteria responsible for urinary infections, toxins, and acidic residues of metabolism, implementing its alkalizing action on the blood. Diuretics are often used to treat severe conditions, such as high blood pressure. Diuretics are linked to the fact that they reduce sodium levels and blood volume, i.e., the overall quantity of blood present within the circulatory system. An increase in blood volume corresponds to a rise in pressure, and it is easy to understand the danger of this. We can imagine the level of risk by imagining a blood vessel as a balloon and the blood as the water flowing inside it. Increasing quantities of water exert enough pressure to burst the balloon. Diuretics have the function of eliminating excess fluids avoiding these dangers.
  2. Premenstrual syndrome Even if premenstrual syndrome is not considered an actual pathology, the symptoms with which it manifests cause apparent difficulties. Women who suffer from this syndrome can benefit from using nettles to relieve the feeling of bloating caused by fluid retention during the menstrual cycle.
  3. Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) Benign prostatic hypertrophy represents a clinical condition caused by a benign enlargement of the prostate. This condition occurs in middle-aged men and manifests itself with symptoms such as decreased urine flow, difficulty starting and stopping urination, and the need to get up at night to urinate. Although the causes are not yet apparent, the onset of this condition is linked to advancing age and a change in hormonal balance, especially the level of testosterone. Various studies have been conducted on Nettle’s effectiveness in treating benign prostatic hypertrophy since the end of the 1970s, and multiple theories have been formulated on the matter. For example, it is thought that the inhibition of the metabolism and growth of the epidermis at its prostatic receptor is the work of the lectins present in the Nettle (root). Other hypothesized mechanisms include an anti-inflammatory action that occurs through inhibiting the enzyme involved in genitourinary tract infections, leukocyte elastase, and the inhibition of prostatic aromatase (the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen). This inhibition favours the restoration of the average estrogen/androgen ratio, which is elevated in patients suffering from BPH.
  4. Hair and skin Nettle exerts a weak inhibition on 5-reductase, the enzyme responsible for the conversion of testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), the androgenic metabolite responsible for the miniaturization of the hair and, consequently, common baldness. Nettle can be a panacea against hair loss, naturally, where it does not depend on genetic factors but on external agents (such as stress or thyroid disorders); it also has sebum-regulating power both against dandruff and against excessive grease from greasy hair. Compresses, decoctions, pills, and ointments made with Nettle are consumed to alleviate skin problems on the head and the body. Many nettle creams or lotions are, in fact, highly effective against acne and inflammation of the skin. In addition to applying compresses with a specific frequency, in cases of alopecia or eczema, it is advisable to also take Nettle orally, always under the supervision of a doctor.
  5. Remedies for arthritis and joint pain: Arthritis and joint inflammation are among the most common diseases, especially in people over 60. Knowing that, besides the usual medicines, an excellent ally against such disorders can also be found in nature is very important for those who suffer from them. Twenty participants were administered approximately 200 milligrams of Diclofenac daily (routine medicine in cases of arthritis), and the other 20 took 50 milligrams of the drug combined with 60 milligrams of stewed nettle leaves. The experiment revealed a 70% improvement in painful symptoms in patients who followed pharmacological therapy associated with nettle decoction. 
  6. A remedy for some anaemias: Nettle is an excellent remedy for combating various types of anemia, given that it contains mineral salts necessary for the body (silicon, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium, and magnesium), vitamins A, C, and K, iron, and chlorophyll. Given its rich composition of essential elements to strengthen the body, its use is widespread, even in cases of recovery and malnutrition. Therefore, Nettle can stimulate the production of red blood cells and is an excellent remineralizer and tonic.
  7. Astringent and digestive power
  8. Since it contains a small amount of creatine, a hormone in our intestine, Nettle can stimulate the digestion and absorption of food. At the same time, in addition to relieving the stomach, it also acts on the intestine in cases of diarrhea or colitis with its astringent action.

Hemostatic Properties

Thanks to its hemostatic and vasoconstrictive properties, Nettle stops bleeding, especially nasal and uterine bleeding, and wounds. It is widely used for hemorrhoids.

Lowering The Glycemic Index

This plant also manages to lower blood sugar, so in addition to being very suitable for people with diabetes, Nettle is also perfect for people who need to lose weight, as it helps reduce fat mass. The natural supply of vitamin C Nettle is rich in vitamin C, confirming its traditional use in the treatment of scurvy caused by the deficiency of this vitamin.

Excellent Adjuvant For The Production Of Milk In New Mothers

Nettle has a galactosemic action, meaning it can increase breast milk production. Trying to summarize the benefits of Nettle, it has properties such as demineralizing, diuretic, antirheumatic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-ulcer, astringent, and analgesic. Before including Nettle in your general treatment plan, it is best to consult your doctor beforehand.

Particular Uses And Curiosities About Nettle

In addition to the benefits for humans we have extensively discussed, it is interesting to know that Nettle is also used for many other purposes.

  1. natural fertilizer and pesticide for plants;
  2. Food supplements for animals that produce food for humans, such as egg-laying hens.
  3. Nettle plants have been used since ancient times by humans in the textile, medical, and food sectors. Fibers similar to hemp or flax are obtained from the maceration, dehydration, and beating of the woody stems of the Nettle. Thanks to the chlorophyll inside, Nettle is perfect for naturally coloring fabrics.
  4. Nettle is now also widely used in the food sector. Leaves and sprouts are perfect for risottos, minestrone, omelets, soups, and savory pies.
  5. The plant is used as an ingredient in the preparation of cosmetic products. For example, shampoo with nettle extract is ideal for making hair splendid by reducing the production of sebum and dandruff.

Herbal teas and decoctions based on Nettle give the body beneficial and healthy properties, as we have underlined several times, but they are also delightful to consume. For a pleasant diuretic infusion, use 4 grams of dried herb in a cup of boiling water and leave it to infuse for 10 minutes. It is recommended to take at most 3 cups per day.


Finally, there are also some tiny contraindications associated with the use of nettles. Let’s see which ones:

  1. The first contraindication is the best known, namely the burning sensation it causes; Nettle significantly irritates the skin when you come into direct contact with it.
  2. Since Nettle stimulates the motility of the uterus, its use is widely not recommended for pregnant women.
  3. Those who use diuretic drugs should not take Nettle in any form, as it has diuretic properties. The simultaneous use of Nettle and diuretics could even cause sudden drops in blood pressure.
  4. Excessive use of nettle-based herbal teas can cause a burning sensation in the stomach. As with everything, this herb must also be well thought out.

Nettle could create problems for diabetic patients, who often have sudden changes in blood levels as it lowers the glycemic index. For this reason, we recommend moderate use and always under medical supervision.


Latest Posts

Don't Miss