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    Bryce Wylde, BSc, DHMHS, Homeopath
  • on Nov 30, 2018 |

The Latin name for this plant derives from the Latin verb urere, meaning “to burn.” You’ll understand why if you’ve ever encountered nettle leaves! Sometimes you will be walking in the country and feel like you’ve stung by a wasp or a bee, but there is no bug in site: you may instead have been “burned” by the stinging hairs of a nettle bush.

Native to Europe, Asia, and North America, the nettle is equipped with tiny hairs filled with stinging chemicals that are released when you touch them. Surprisingly, these compounds can actually bring relief to painful areas of the body. They have other promising medicinal uses, too, but in these cases you’ll want to cook or dry the plant to remove the sting before you touch it!

Nettle juice was prescribed as an external treatment for snakebites and scorpion stings some 2,000 years ago. It has also been used as a kidney tonic, menstrual relief, a diuretic, and a treatment for certain respiratory disorders. Today it is generally used as a pain reliever for arthritis, for hay fever relief, and as a treatment for enlarged prostate.

A hundred or more chemicals have been identified in the nettle plant, including the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, serotonin and histamine. If you’ve got arthritis, slapping your joints with these tiny needles that inject these chemicals into your skin induces a positive healing response. Nettle leaf can also relieve allergies because it contains a variety of flavonoids that have antihistamine effects.

The root of stinging nettle contains lectins and sterols, which may help with benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH). If the enlarged prostate gland presses on the tube that empties urine from the bladder (the urethra), symptoms can include reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of the bladder, post-urination dripping, and the constant urge to urinate. Studies have shown stinging nettle is comparable to finasteride, a medication commonly prescribed for prostate enlargement. However, scientists aren’t sure why nettle root reduces symptoms, since unlike finasteride, nettle does not decrease prostate size.