Urtica dioica, commonly referred to as Stinging Nettles or simply Nettles, is a perennial herb native to the moist, shaded forests of Europe and North America. It can be found quite easily at low-to-middle-elevations, thanks to its stinging hairs. The hairs, which contain formic acid, also found in fire ants, are just one aspect of why this plant should be in your medicine cabinet.[i]
Nettles are high in protein, iron, trace minerals, fat and chlorophyll.[ii] The high protein content makes it a great choice for vegetarians to eat as a potherb in the spring when the leaflets first are fresh for harvest.
Nettle leaf, root and seed offer surprising benefits to ailments for the 21st century man. According to recent statistics from the CDC, Gout, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular disease are primarily indigenous to men. Nettle is great for these conditions and others afflicting men. Dr. John Sherman writes in The Complete Prescriber that it can be used safely and effectively to ease the symptoms of cystitis, impotence, pre-diabetes, hypoglycemia, and heart conditions.[iii]
Specifically, the leaves can be used in extracts internally to ease symptoms of hay fever (encapsulated freeze-dried nettle leaf is ideal), asthma, gouty arthritis, and edema. It is also used as a classic spring tonic[iv], rejuvenator, and vitality inducer.[v]
The root is used in modern herbal medicine to soothe symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis[vi]. It is often combined with Saw Palmetto fruit in herbal supplements for this condition, although it may be used by itself for BPH.[vii] The seed is used in botanical formulas to nourish the kidneys and support healthy function.[viii]
Chronic pain is a common ailment among men. Nettles offer both internal and external support for men who suffer from stubborn aches and pains. Traditionally, the whole plant was harvested for urtication therapy[xi] around the affected joint or on the skin nearest to the under functioning or diseased organs. The formic acid in the nettles stinging hairs is released into the dermis layers of the skin creating a localized soothing effect in the joint or affected organ. The urtication treatment stings for 1-3 days and can offer help for up to 1-week.[xii] It helps eases inflammation and stiffness in the joints and has been used for conditions such as arthritis, gout, lumbago, sciatica, joint sprains and strains, and sore muscles.
After a brief survey of the uses for nettle root, leaf, and seed, now you can use it during the winter months to keep you energetic and healthy for the holidays into the spring. It is a safe-and-easy-to-use herb. It is great to harvest and cook in your foods in the spring, and even juice and a key addition to your medicine cabinet.
[i] Pojar, Jim, & Andy Mackinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska. B.C. Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Pulbishing. Edmonton, Canada, 1994.
[ii] Wood, Mathew. The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1997. 479-489.
[iii] Sherman, John A. The Complete Prescriber 3rd edition. Copyright 1993 John A. Sherman. 205.
[iv] “Tonic herbs stimulate nutrition by improving the assimilation of essential nutrients by the organs, improve systemic tone giving increased vigor, energy, and strength to the tissues of either specific organs or to the whole body.” Green, James. The Male Herbal. The Crossing Press, Berkeley, CA. 68.
[v] Tigner, Sharol. Herbal Medicine: From the Heart of the Earth. Wise Acres Press, Creswell, OR, 1999. 90.
[vi] Protatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland.
[vii] HerbalGram, 2008;77:31. American Botanical Council. Clinical Trial Follow-up Evaluates Safety and Effectiveness of Saw Palmetto and Stinging Nettle Extracts in Men with BPH.
[viii] Mitchell, William A. Celebrating William A. Mitchell, Jr., ND 1947-2007: A gift from the American Association fo Naturopathic Physicians. 5:10-7:26 mins. Rec. August 2006. AANP, 2008.
[ix] Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen in men and especially with excess use of alcohol, under high stress, and other influences.
[x] Andropause is a medical term for when men suffer from symptoms of low testosterone around ages 45-55 and may experience symptoms of fatigue, erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, decreased strength & endurance, and decreased exercise recovery time.
[xi] Urtication therapy is the flagellation of the nettle stalk against your skin for medical benefit in a whipping motion while grabbing the nettle stalk with a gloved hand.
[xii] Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, VT, 2003. 591.
Writer Dr. Sam Madeira completed his doctorate degree in Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University in 2012. His areas of specialty are botanical medicine, men’s health, endocrinology, environmental medicine, and physical medicine with a focus in pain management. He currently specializes in men’s health and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy in Seattle. Dr. Madeira enjoys helping people find their unique path to health. For more information, visit his web site at http://apollohealthclinic.com/about-us/.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.