When it comes to names of herbs, stinging nettle is one that sounds like it would hurt a lot more than it would help. But years of use for a range of health needs have made it a homeopathic remedy worth learning more about.
Stinging Nettle Basics
Stinging, or common, nettle (Urtica dioica) is a type of perennial plant whose history as a medicinal herbal remedy can be traced back to Medieval Europe, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It gets its "stinging" name from the fine little hairs that grow on the stems and leaves of the plant, which contain chemicals that make for quite an uncomfortable sensation when they make contact with the skin. Supplements and extracts are typically made from the leaves and the stems of the stinging nettle plant, with the roots being used on occasion as well.
Common Uses for Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle has been used throughout Europe, Asia and Africa for centuries because of its medicinal benefits. These are the four most common uses for stinging nettle:
- Diuretic -- Stinging nettle can help promote urination to reduce bloating from water retention.
- Analgesic -- Used to treat pain in the muscles and the joints, the anti-inflammatory effects of stinging nettle have made it a natural painkiller for centuries. Individuals who suffer from osteoarthritis may benefit from either applying stinging nettle topically or taking an oral supplement.
- Respiratory Aid -- To relieve symptoms of allergies and promote sinus health, stinging nettle may inhibit the production of histamine which can lead to those uncomfortable side effects.
- Prostate Function -- An enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can cause symptoms such as frequent urge to urinate followed by difficult urination. Stinging nettle may be able to help slow the growth of prostate cells and reduce symptoms.
How to Take Stinging Nettle
There are a variety of stinging nettle products available, including liquid extracts, teas and pills. As always, it's best to check with your doctor before adding any new supplement to your routine, especially if you're being treated for a medical condition. Don't make any changes to your current medication regimen unless under the direction and supervision of a medical professional. Stinging nettle products should be used only by adults, as more research must be done to determine a safe dose for children. Pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as those diabetes or on medications such as blood thinners, lithium or antihypertensives should avoid stinging nettle.
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