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Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

pokrzywanspThe stinging nettle is something you certainly recall from your childhood. You must have suffered more than once from the pain and the itch after accidentally touching the plant. Apart from these unpleasant characteristics, the stinging nettle also has a wide variety of therapeutic effects.

What does the stinging nettle look like and where can it be found?

The stem is straight and long (up to 3 metres). It is not round, but angular in cross section with a great number of stinging outgrowths called trichomes. The leaves are arranged in a cross, and their stalks are also covered with stinging trichomes. The shape of leaves may vary, yet their leaf roots is always heart-shaped, the edges are serrated and the end of the blade is distinctively pointed. The leaves alone can also sting, because they feature the trichomes on the top and bottom sides. The flowers form loose clusters which grow out of the axils. The fruits resemble nuts.

The stinging nettle can occur in wild habitats of damp woods and bush, as well as in home gardens. The plant is found in Europe, North Africa, Asia and North America.

Active ingredient contents in the stinging nettle

The pharmaceutical raw materials (used in medicine) are the leaves and root of the nettle. Nettle leaves contain plant dyes, e.g. a- and b-chlorophyll, beta-carotene, xanthophyll, as well as vitamin K, B group vitamins, flavonoids, tannins, histamine and siliceous acid. The nettle root contains lectins, polysaccharides and sitosterols.

Due to the rich composition of leaf, root or herb extract, the stinging nettle has found many medicinal uses. Chlorophylls obtained from the plant are used in radiation sickness therapy. Phytosterols, lectins and polysaccharides are favourable to the health of the prostate. Lectin, together with polysaccharides, affects the synthesis of testosterone (the male sex hormone) and thus inhibits prostatic overgrowth. The extract of the stinging nettle also has the following features:

  • lowers the blood sugar level;
  • diuretic action;
  • anti-inflammatory action;
  • improves metabolism and intestinal peristalsis;
  • increases fitness of the body;
  • improves the body's immune functions;
  • detoxifying action;
  • cholagogic action;
  • regulates blood pressure.

Therapeutic indications for the stinging nettle extract

The extract of the stinging nettle can be used in the treatment of the two most frequently diagnosed of all civilisational diseases: arterial hypertension and diabetes mellitus. Another important indication for administration of the nettle is support in the treatment of prostate hypertrophy.

An interesting use of the nettle leaf extract is its combination with extract of garlic (the medicine Alliofil). Another use of Alliofil is supporting the functioning of the immune system which protects the upper airways from penetration by pathogens that cause infection and inflammation in the body.

A traditional application of the nettle extract is support in the treatment of wounds and boils. It is possible that these anti-inflammatory and partially antiviral properties of the extract accelerate the processes of skin regeneration.

Of interest is the suggestion that the stinging effect of the nettle may find use in the treatment of rheumatic and joint-affecting disorders. Scientists have shown that treatment with the stinging trichomes of the nettle improves blood circulation, increases the pain threshold and facilitates removal of toxins from the system, which may be one of the causes of rheumatic and joint pain.