The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Medicinal Herb Monographs

Stinging Nettle

Botanical Name 
Urtica dioica


Urtica dioica
(Stinging Nettle)

The information on this page compiled by
Beth Burch N.D.
(click on the keywords)


Stinging nettle is a very valuable plant, used for food, medicine and fiber. King’s American Dispensatory gives specific indications of chronic diarrhea and mucous colitis, as well as chronic eczema. Recent uses include freeze-dried nettle leaf for allergies, in particular, hay fever; and the root for prostate enlargement. Because nettle is high in vitamins and minerals, it has long been used as a nutritive green- as a tonic in the spring and also to prevent scurvy. Fresh nettle juice is hemostatic and has been used for nosebleed and excessive uterine bleeding. Weiss’ Herbal Medicine recommends nettle or nettle juice for gout; research has shown nettle increases uric acid excretion by the kidneys. Even the stings of the nettle plant can be used externally as a counterirritant for arthritis and neuritis. King’s reports the nettle sting may have use in cases of paralysis. The plant has also been used as a dye and the fibers from the mature stalks make a strong thread for weaving or for cor dage or rope.


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  • Stinging nettles are widespread throughout the world, preferring wet areas including wastelands, woodlands and gardens. It is a perennial herb about 2-4 feet high with a 4 angled stem and opposite serrated leaves. The flowers are small and green in trailing clusters. The plant has minute rigid hairs, which when brushed result in a sting causing an initial itching and burning with a welt, which over some minutes to hours transforms into a tingling, somewhat numb sensation.


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  • In the fresh plant stinging hairs-
  • Histamine
  • Serotonin
  • Acetylcholine
  • Formic acid
  • Leaves-
  • Flavonoids including rutin
  • Silicic acid
  • Volatile oils including ketones
  • Potassium ions
  • Root-
  • Sterols- B-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol
  • Lectins
  • Polysaccharides with immune stimulating effects
  • Hydroxycoumarins
  • Ceramides
  • Lignans


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  • Leaves-
  • Nutritive
  • Tonic
  • Anti-inflammatory(1)
  • Anti-allergy
  • Root-
  • Inhibits binding of sex hormone globulin to prostatic tissue receptors (6,7)
  • Inhibits prostate cell metabolism and growth (4)
  • May inhibit viral activity

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Conditions used for

  • Leaves-
  • Hay fever (2)
  • Eczema
  • Hemorrhage-nosebleed, excessive uterine bleeding
  • Arthritis (1)
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Root-
  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy- stages I & II (3,4,5)


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  • Leaves-
  • Extract- 1/2- 2 teaspoons three times a day
  • Freeze-dried- 300 mg three times a day
  • Juice- 1-3 teaspoons three times a day
  • Root-
  • Extract- 1/2- 2 teaspoons three times a day
  • Dry extract- 150-300 mg three times a day
  • Food Use
  • Harvest fresh nettles in the spring when they are less than 1 foot high (use gloves unless you want to be stung), steam like spinach or other greens or juice them.


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Side Effects

  • Nausea (rare)


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  • Diabetes- may elevate blood sugar levels (8)
  • Allergy to nettles
  • Fluid retention from reduced cardiac or kidney function

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Interactions with medications

  • No known interactions

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Use in pregnancy & lactation

  • Dried nettle or nettle extract is widely used as a nourishing tonic for pregnant women, however the fresh nettle has uterine stimulant action and is contraindicated in pregnancy.
  • May help increase milk production in lactating women.

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1. Obertreis B et al, Anti-inflammatory effect of Urtica dioica folia extract in comparison to
caffeic malic acid, Arzneimittelforschung 1996;46(1):52-6
2. Mittman P, Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the
treatment of allergic rhinitis, Planta Med 1990;56(1):44-7
3. Lichius JJ et al, The inhibiting effects of Urtica dioica root extracts on experimentally
induced prostatic hyperplasia in the mouse, Planta Med 1997;63(4):307-10
4. Hirano T et al, Effects of stinging nettle root extracts and their steroidal components on
the Na+,K(+)-ATPase of the benign prostatic hyperplasia, Planta Med 1994;60(1):30-3
5. Krzeski T et al, 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(6):1011-20
6. Schottner M et al, Lignans from the roots of Urtica dioica and their metabolites bind to human
sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), Planta Med 1997;63(6):529-32
7. Hryb DJ et al, The effect of extracts of the roots of the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
on the interaction of SHBG with its receptor on human prostatic membranes, Planta Med 1995;61(1):31-2
8. Roman Ramos R et al, Hypoglycemic effect of plants used in Mexico as antidiabetics, Arch Med Res 1992;23(1):59-64

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* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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