Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is considered by many to be a bothersome pest, but the nettle has been used since ancient times as a source of food, fiber, and medicinal preparations. Stinging Nettle was known to Hippocrates and Dioscorides – the great ancient holistic practitioners. Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) and his followers reported 61 remedies using nettle. Stinging nettles were harvested for spinning and weaving. Europeans and Native Americans used the fibers from stinging nettle to make sailcloth, sacking, cordage, and fishing nets. These fibers have also been used to produce cloth similar in feel and appearance to silky linen.
One of the most unique uses of this plant is also one of the oldest, dating back some 2000 years. Urtication, is the process of rubbing or slapping the fresh leaves against swollen or arthritic joints, with the ironic goal of relieving pain and inflammation. The stinging hairs are suggested by many to act as a distraction from the pain of arthritis, however, there is clearly more going on here than this simple explanation. Contained within the hairs are potent blend of chemicals. Some of these chemicals directly signal inflammation to subside, others trigger a histamine response which then causes the body to launch an antihistamine response that ends up with a reduced level of inflammation after a few minutes.
Stinging nettle tea is also great for a hangover, the high level of nutrition, including minerals, help to revitalise the body’s electrolytes after a night out. Other benefits of stinging nettle is combating benign prostatic hyperplasia, anti-allergic effects, detox support, treating hair loss, anti inflammatory support, cleansing the blood, antimicrobial actions, diuretic, lowers blood pressure, nutritive, analgesic, stops bleeding, vulnerary, stimulates digestion, aids lactation, promotes regular menstrual cycles, and helps to revitalize individuals with weak disposition.
Clinical studies have investigated stinging nettle use in treating many medical conditions, including allergic rhinitis, rheumatic complaints, eczema, anemia, bleeding (both internally and externally), and acute arthritis. It is in demand as a treatment for benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), high blood pressure, and urinary tract infections. It is used in treating skin eruptions and freeze-dried as a treatment for hay fever and allergies. It is also being promoted as a textile product once again.
Because nettle can alter the menstrual cycle and may contribute to miscarriage, pregnant women should not use nettle.