Stinging Nettle Uses, Benefits, and Cautions

stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)
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Also known as "stinging nettle" or "nettles," nettle (Urtica dioica) is an herbal remedy derived from the leaves or root of the stinging nettle bush.


In alternative medicine, nettle has long been used to treat a number of health problems, including:

Treatment of Health Conditions

Although research on nettle's health effects is limited, studies suggest that the herb may show promise in the treatment of the following conditions:

Enlarged Prostate

A research review published in 2007 indicates that nettle may help relieve complaints associated with enlargement of the prostate gland (a condition also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia). However, the review authors note that more studies need to confirm the herb's beneficial effects before nettle can be recommended as a treatment option for men with enlarged prostate.


A number of studies show that nettle may help manage allergies and ease symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, and itching. In one study published in 2009, scientists discovered that nettle may help treat allergies by reducing inflammation.


A small study (published in 2000) found that topically applied nettle may help ease osteoarthritis pain.


Nettles may trigger side effects such as stomach upset, skin irritation, sweating, and skin rash.

Since nettle can interact with certain drugs, it's important to consult your physician if you're currently taking antiplatelet, anticoagulants, blood pressure medicine, diuretics, diabetes medication, and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Should Nettles Be Used for Health?

Sold in many health food stores and pharmacies, nettle can be found in capsule, tincture and tea form. Freeze-dried preparations of nettle leaf are also available. When treating osteoarthritis and other types of joint pain, consider using a topically applied nettle-based cream.

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend nettles as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using nettles for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

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Article Sources
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