Stinging Nettle

This genus includes 50 species of annuals and perennials, widespread in temperate regions. Urtica dioica is a familiar weed of human habitation, thriving in the nitrogen-rich soil of cultivated land; as Culpeper wrote, stinging nettles "need no description; they may be found by feeling in the darkest night" (The English Physician Enlarged, or the Herball, 1653). The nettle is a fibrous plant and was used in cloth manufacture from the Bronze Age to the early 20th century. It is rich in vitamins, notably A and C, minerals, especially iron; it also contains amines (mainly histamine and serotonin), plant sterols, and large amounts of cholorophyll. Urtica urens, (annual nettle) and U. pilulifera (Roman nettle) have properties similar to U. dioica. Urtica is the original Latin name, used by Horace and Pliny, for the plant. It comes from urere, "to burn", and refers to the stinging hairs, which in some species are so virulent that stings may be fatal.

This tall, hairy, innocuous-looking weed with tiny greenish white flowers can be found growing along the banks of streams and rivers throughout Europe and the United States. But beware-it causes a nasty sting when you touch it with your bare skin, thanks to the formic acid on the hairs that cover the plant. Used as a medicine in Europe for over two thousand years, teas made from the stems and leaves of the stinging nettle have been used as diuretics, as treatments for prostate problems, and to stop bleeding.

Coarse Perennial with creeping, yellow roots and ovate, pointed, deeply toothed leaves, to 8cm (3in) long, which are covered with bristly, stinging hairs. Minute green flowers, with males and females on separate plants, are borne in pendulous clusters, to 10cm (4in) long, in summer.

Common Name:
Stinging Nettle
Other Names:
Bad-Man's-Plaything, Common Nettle, Devil's Apron, Hoky-Poky, Indian Spinach, Nettle, Ortie, Small Nettle
Botanical Name:
Urtica dioica
Native Location:
Moist, nitrogen-rich soil in sun or dappled shade. Cut stands of nettles to the ground in summer to provide a second crop of new leaves. Nettles are invasive, but easily controlled by pulling out dormant rhizomes. They provide food for the caterpillars of various butterflies, e.g., red admirals.
By seed sown in spring; by division in spring.
Whole plants for medicinal use are cut as flowering begins in summer and dried for use in infusions, liquid extracts, ointments, powders, and tinctures. For culinary use, pick young leaf tips from plants less than 10cm (4in) high, before they develop oxalate crystals.
1.5m (5ft)
Blame (or hail) Julius Caesar's Roman soldiers for helping spread nettle—and one of the more curious practices associated with the plant—throughout the western world. Ancient history tells us that Caesar's soldiers brought the plant with them when they invaded Britain. Why? The better to beat themselves about the limbs with the plant's stinging nettles (threadlike hairs on the leaves)—a practice guaranteed to bring instant and intense heat to the skin. Apparently the soldiers had heard about Britain's notoriously damp, cold weather, and nettle was their insurance against frostbite. The Romans also gave the plant its genus name, Urtica, from the Latin urere, for "to burn". The tips of the hairs on the leaves act like a needle when they come in contact with the skin and "inject" a burning, acid-like substance under the skin. Not surprisingly, nettle's common name is from the Old Germanic noedl, for "needle".
Self-flagellation with nettle, painful as it is, was a common practice through the Middle Ages and even had a formal medical name—urtication. Rheumatism suffers were advised to beat themselves with nettle, a theory being that the pain inflicted by the plant would take their minds off the pain in their stiffened joints. It's more likely that the increased blood flow and heat brought on by the plant's nettles provided the real relief. Beating oneself with nettle below the navel was frequently recommended (if unimaginable) cure for impotence. Happily, these masochistic exercises fell out of favor, and nettle was recognized as an excellent herbal medicine (cooking or drying the plant destroys its venom) and an alternate source for commercial fabric (the stems are converted into hemplike fiber). In recent years, with the discovery that nettle contains histamines, the herb has enjoyed renewed popularity as a natural allergy medicine.
Parts Used:
Whole Plant, Leaves, Roots.
An astringent, diuretic, tonic herb that controls bleeding, clears toxins, and slightly reduces blood pressure and blood sugar levels (leaves). The root has similar properties and in addition reduces prostate enlargement.
Vitamin Content:
Vitamin A, Thiamin
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for anemia (leaves), hemorrhage (especially of the uterus), heavy menstrual bleeding, hemorrhoids, arthritis, rheumatism, gout, skin complaints (especially eczema), and allergies (roots, leaves); prostate enlargement (roots). Combines well with Arctium lappa (See burdock) for eczema. Externally for arthritic pain, gout, sciatica, neuralgia, hemorrhoids, scalp and hair problems, burns, insect bites, and nosebleed.
To treat infections of the urinay tract and kidney; bladder stones, prostatitis, rheumatism, and gout. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of stinging nettle flowering plant to treat rheumatism, urinary tract infections, and bladder and kidney stones, and the use of stinging nettle root to treat irritable bladder and prostate problems.
Nettle has antihistamine, astringent, diuretic, and tonic properties. It also stops internal and external bleeding and promotes milk production in nursing mothers. Nettle is taken internally for allergies, bladder and kidney ailments, diarrhea, dysentery, hay fever, heavy menstrual bleeding, hemorrhoids, indigestion, and vaginitis. Nettle is applied externally for arthritic and rheumatic pain, insect bites, and joint pain and stiffness. Some folk herbalists recommend applying nettle to the scalp to prevent hair loss and premature graying. Nettle is often used as a general tonic; the plant is rich in calcium, iron, potassium, silica, sulfur, and vitamins A and C.
Nettle is available as dried herb and in capsules, teas, and tinctures. To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried herb and steep for 10 minutes. Strain, adn drink up to 3 cups a day.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of stinging nettle may range from 8 to 12 gm of the flowering plant or 4 to 6 gm of the root.
Never use fresh nettle. It may cause kidney damage and other symptoms of poisoning. Both the fresh leaves and "stinging nettles" of this plant can cause severe skin irritation and blistering. Handle with extreme care. If you have been diagnosed with low blood sugar, consult a practitioner before taking nettle, which is known to lower blood sugar levels. Overconsumption of nettle may irritate the stomach, deplete the body of minerals, and cause dehydration.
Possible Side Effects:
Stinging nettles side effects include gastric irritation, and allergic reactions.
Drug Interactions:
Taking stinging nettle plant with these drugs may increase the risk of excessive sedation and mental depression and impairment:
Acetaminophen and Codeine, (Capital and Codeine, Tylenol with Codeine)
Alfentanil, (Alfenta)
Alprazolam, (Apo-Alpraz, Xanax)
Amimtriptyline, (Elavil, Levate)
Amobarbital, (Amytal)
Amobarbital and Secobarbital, (Tuinal)
Amoxapine, (Asendin)
Aspirin and Codeine, (Coryphen Codeine)
Belladonna and Opium, (B&O Supprettes)
Bromazepam, (Apo-Bromazepam, Gen-Bromazepam)
Brotizolam, (Lendorm, Sintonal)
Buprenorphine, (Buprenex, Subutex)
Buprenorphine and Naloxone, (Suboxone)
Bupropion, (Wellbutrin, Zyban)
Buspirone, (BuSpar, Nu-Buspirone)
Butabarbital, (Butisol Sodium)
Butalbital, Acetaminophen, and Caffeine, (Esgic, Fioricet)
Butalbital, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Fiorinal)
Butorphanol, (Apo-Butorphanol, Stadol)
Carbamazepine, (Carbatrol, Tegretol)
Chloral Hydrate, (Aquachloral Supprettes, Somnote)
Chlordiazepoxide, (Apo-Chlordiazepoxide, Librium)
Clobazam, (Alti-Clobazam, Frisium)
Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
Codeine, (Codeine Contin)
Cyclobenzaprine, (Flexiril, Novo-Cycloprine)
Desipramine, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
Dexmedetomidine, (Precedex)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Dihydrocodeine, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Synalgos-DC)
Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl Allergy, Nytol)
Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
Estazolam, (ProSom)
Fentanyl, (Actiq, Duragesic)
Fluoxetine, (Prozac, Sarafem)
Fluphenazine, (Prolixin, Modecate)
Flurazepam, (Apo-Flurazepam, Dalmane)
Fosphenytoin, (Cerebyx)
Glutethimide, (Glutethimide)
Haloperidol, (Haldo, Novo-Peridol)
Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen, (Vicodin, Zydone)
Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
Hydromorphone, (Dilaudid, PMS-Hydromorphone)
Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
Levetiracetam, (Keppra)
Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride, (Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride)
Levorphanol, (LevoDromoran)
Loprazolam, (Dormonoct, Havlane)
Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
Meperidine, (Demerol, Meperitab)
Meperidine and Promethazine, (Meperidine and Promethazine)
Mephobarbital, (Mebaral)
Methadone, (Dolophine, Methadose)
Methohexital, (Brevital, Brevital Sodium)
Metoclopramide, (Apo-Metoclop, Reglan)
Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
Morphine Hydrochloride, (Morphine Hydrochloride)
Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
Nalbuphine, (Nubain)
Nefazodone, (Serzone)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Olanzapine, (Zydis, Zyprexa)
Opium Tincture, (Opium Tincture)
Oxazepam, (Novoxapam, Serax)
Oxcarbazepine, (Trileptal)
Oxycodone, (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
Oxycodone and Acetaminophen, (Endocet, Percocet)
Oxycodone and Aspirin, (Endodan, Percodan)
Oxymorphone, (Numorphan)
Paregoric, (Paregoric)
Pentazocine, (Talwin)
Pentobarbital, (Nembutal)
Phenobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
Phenoperidine, (Phenoperidine)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Prazepam, (Prazepam)
Primidone, (Apo-Primidone, Mysoline)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Promethazine, (Phenergan)
Propofol, (Diprivan)
Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
Propoxyphene and Acetaminophen, (Darvocet-N 50, Darvocet-N 100)
Propoxyphene, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Darvon Compound)
Quazepam, (Doral)
Quetiapine, (Seroquel)
Remifentanil, (Ultiva)
Risperidone, (Risperdal)
Secobarbital, (Seconal)
Sodium Oxybate, (Xyrem)
Sufentanil, (Sufenta)
S-Zopiclone, (Lunesta)
Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
Tetrazepam, (Mobiforton, Musapam)
Thiopental, (Pentothal)
Tramadol, (Ultram)
Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
Zaleplon, (Sonata, Stamoc)
Zolpidem, (Ambien)
Zopiclone, (Alti-Zopiclone, Gen-Zopiclone)
Taking stinging nettle with these drugs may interfere with the action of the drug:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III)
Argatroban, (Argatroban)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox)
Bivalirudin, (Angiomax)
Carbamazepine, (Carbatrol, Tegretol)
Clopidogrel, (Plavix)
Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Dipyridamole, (NovoDipiradol, Persantine)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra)
Fosphenytoin, (Cerebyx)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin)
Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Levetiracetam, (Keppra)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Tinzaparin, (Innohep)
Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking stinging nettle plant with these drugs may increase the diuretic effects of the drug:
Acetazolamide, (Apo-Acetazolamide, Diamox Sequels)
Amiloride, (Midamor)
Azosemide, (Diat)
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
Chlorothiazide, (Diuril)
Chlorthalidone, (Apo-Chlorthalidone, Thalitone)
Ethacrynic Acid, (Edecrin)
Etozolin, (Elkapin)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Hydrochlorothiazide and Triamterene, (Dyazide, Maxzide)
Hydroflumethiazide, (Diucardin, Saluron)
Indapamide, (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
Mannitol, (Osmitrol, Resectisol)
Mefruside, (Baycaron)
Methazolamide, (Apo-Methazolamide, Neptazane)
Methyclothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
Metolazone, (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide, (Benicar HCT)
Polythiazide, (Renese)
Spironolactone, (Aldactone, Novo-Spiroton)
Torsemide, (Demadex)
Triamterene, (Dyrenium)
Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
Urea, (Amino-Cerv, UltraMide)
Xipamide, (Diurexan, Lumitens)
Taking stinging nettle plant with these drugs may reduce or prevent drug absorption:
Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (FeroGrad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
Taking stinging nettle with this drug may be harmful:
Lithium, (Carbolith, Eskalith)—may increase the risk of dehydration and lithium toxicity.
Disease Effects:
May worsen congestive heart failure or kidney dysfunction.
Supplement Interactions:
When taken in excessive amounts, may increase the risk of clotting in those using anticoagulants due to Vitamin K content, especially if taken with other Vitamin K-rich herbs, such as Alfalfa and Parsley.
Culinary Uses:
Young leaves are cooked as a spinach like vegetable, made into soup, added to meat, egg, and vegetable dishes; also as an ingredient of herbal beer, and as a wrapping for cheese (notably Cornish yarg). Raw leaves are highly irritant, and recommendations for eating raw leaves in salads and soft cheeses should be disregarded. Older leaves contain crystals of calcium oxalate, which give a gritty texture, even after cooking. Leaves are dried for tea, which is bland and non-aromativ; it may be added to Indian-tea as a tonic.
Economic Uses:
Plants are processed commercially for extraction of chlorophyll, which is used as a coloring agent in foods and medicines.
Stinging hairs cause severe topical reactions, handle with care.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp 398-399
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD Pp.433-436
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee, Publishing, Inc. pp.83-85