4 Exceptional Stinging Nettle Benefits You Probably Didn’t Know About

Stinging nettle may scare you out of your wits. Especially if your first encounter with it involves getting stung without knowing anything about it.

You’d never know this common-looking weed has anything noteworthy about it. Yet, it’s exceptional in many ways — there are plenty of stinging nettle benefits. 

For example, the plant was used for its diuretic and laxative properties in ancient Greece. It has been used for centuries to treat rheumatoid arthritis, muscle, and joint pain. Speaking of out-of-the-ordinary uses, stinging nettle was used to make uniforms in World War I Germany. 

No less impressive: this plant is a powerhouse of nutrients. It’s rich in flavonoids, lignans, amines, minerals, and vitamins B2, C, K, and A

You may have also heard that nettle can be helpful with allergies, edema, and diarrhea. But how grounded are these anecdotal accounts in reality?

Below are 4 exceptional stinging nettle benefits you probably didn’t know about. We’ve handpicked those supported by scientific rationale so you can separate the hype from reality. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at what stinging nettle is.

So, What is Stinging Nettle?

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a perennial belonging to the Urticaceae family. It has long been known for its various medicinal properties. 

Yet, by far, it’s best known for the severe reaction it produces in humans upon getting in contact with skin. This is because certain chemicals get released when human skin touches the hairs or spines on the plant’s leaves and stems.

This stinging nettle effect works the other way around when used medicinally to treat pain. Nettle tapers down the levels of inflammatory chemicals and changes how the body transmits pain signals. 

More precisely, when your skin touches the nettle’s hairs, histamine and serotonin get released, triggering skin irritation. But this irritation is actually beneficial, as it’s proven to override musculoskeletal pain. [1]

Yet, did you know nettle leaves are nutritional powerhouses? They even beat nutrient-packed greens such as kale when it comes to their magnesium, calcium, and potassium contents. 

Also, it may be new to you that stinging nettle can have overarching effects on human health. [2] This is because nettle boasts exceptional pharmacological qualities. 

What’s more, both leaves and stems are used in medicinal preparations. The aboveground parts are typically used for allergy treatment, and the stinging nettle root extracts are for prostate and urinary issues.

Now, let’s dive into the lesser-known stinging nettle plant benefits.

Lesser-Known Stinging Nettle Health Benefits 

1. Works as an Antimicrobial and Anti-Inflammatory Agent

Stinging nettle has been historically used to treat various inflammatory conditions. Interestingly enough, new scientific findings support its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory role. 

So, is nettle a natural antibiotic? Some studies find it can help fend off different strains of bacteria. For example, water-based stinging nettle extract can be effective against multi-drug resistant strains. More specifically, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Staphylococcus aureus. [3]

Scientists have found which compounds might be responsible for nettle’s antibacterial activity. We break them down in the table format for you.

Antibacterial Compounds of Stinging Nettle 
Active compoundsEffectsCompounds Found In 
Flavonoids, alkaloids, flavonols, saponins, and tannins [3]Can kill different strains of bacteria Found in all parts of the plant
Terpenes, fatty acid esters, and phenols [5]Can kill different strains of bacteria Found primarily in stinging nettle leaves
Linoleic fatty acid and oleic fatty acid [6]Have bactericidal activity against S. aureus and P. aeruginosa Found in stinging nettle seed oils

Research has also found people who have arthritis can benefit from stinging nettles. According to a clinical trial examining patients with osteoarthritis, stinging nettle significantly reduced pain when compared to the placebo. [7]

So, what do we have to thank when it comes to nettle’s anti-inflammatory activity? Researchers attribute it to the plant’s ability to inhibit the release of certain proinflammatory agents.

Other research suggests nettle can bring relief to people undergoing osteoarthritis treatment. This is true both if taken in the form of stinging nettle tea or supplement. [8]

2. Can Help With Fluid Retention and Kidney Stones 

The benefits of stinging nettle don’t stop at its protective agency against infection and inflammation. 

It can be used as a diuretic for breaking down stones in the gallbladder and the kidneys. Stinging nettle is also great for managing pain caused by kidney stones.  

It’s also used in preoperative protocols before the surgical removal of kidney stones. Largely, it’s used for pain and inflammation management. As a natural diuretic, nettle can prevent unwanted bladder infections and fluid retention in these patients.

And the best part? Some animal studies indicate nettle can hold treatment potential for keeping painful kidney stone conditions from getting worse. 

Though human studies are needed to confirm this link, some studies in rats find nettle can disrupt the process of stone formation. It’s said to do so by keeping calcium, oxalates, and crystals from accumulating in your body. 

Fact: Nettle has been also shown to lower urinary creatinine levels in study animals. [9]  

3. Can Help With Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) 

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is linked to a long list of uncomfortable symptoms. These include incomplete bladder emptying, painful urination, and reduced urinary flow. 

That said, nettle seems to be able to alleviate some of those symptoms in people with BPH. And interestingly, there’s some preliminary evidence to support this claim.

A testosterone-induced BPH study on rats shows stinging nettle can be effective in managing BPH. This is true, especially for the root of the plant. [10

Another study shows stinging nettle root extract can slow the spread of prostate cancer cells. [11] The root is also the most common plant part used when treating lower urinary tract infections.

Granted, scientists are still unsure about the workings of nettle plants in relation to BPH, but they assume it’s due to the plant’s ability to interfere with certain BPH-causing hormones. 

4. Can Bring Allergy Relief

Finally, nettle has been used in herbal medicine for centuries to treat congestion. What’s more, clinical studies have confirmed the allergy-soothing properties of this herb. 

Namely, nettle can reduce the production of histamine in the body, but scientists have uncovered more (and we’ll get to that bit further on).

As far as research goes, nettle plant extracts have been found to soothe inflamed nasal passages in people with allergic rhinitis and hay fever. According to the Cornwall University website:  

“One preliminary human study suggested that nettle capsules helped reduce sneezing and itching in people with hay fever. In another study, 57% of patients rated nettles as effective in relieving allergies, and 48% said that nettles were more effective than allergy medications they had used previously.”  

But what’s the culprit behind nettle’s ability to reduce allergic responses in the human body? Scientists sought to understand the inner workings of the plant, and here’s what they found. 

Nettle seems to inhibit the release of a host of pro-inflammatory mediators. Those are the worst offenders that cause allergy and hay fever symptoms in the first place. [12]

Related: Fall Is Coming: X Natural Remedies For Allergies

How to Use Stinging Nettle?

(Image source: Unsplash)

The benefits mentioned above are good to have on hand. But how do you use nettle without having to harvest the plant yourself? 

Well, that one’s easy—nettle is available in health shops and pharmacies in multiple forms. Think of stinging nettle leaf extract, tea, capsules, tablets, freeze-dried leaf, or root tinctures. You can also apply it to your skin in the form of stinging nettle cream or ointment.

The way you take stinging nettle, whether leaves or root, will depend on the intended use, as they have different pharmacological effects. 

Some people will drink nettle tea or add it to their diet by cooking nettle soup and other nettle dishes. Others will find it more convenient to take the herb as a supplement. If you want to make the most of the nettle benefits, many combination formulas are available. 

Some of them, like Natural D-Hist, harness the full potential of this highly active botanical. Blended with other active ingredients, it works synergistically to bring allergy relief. The formula contains the powerful antioxidant quercetin with the addition of bromelain, which aids in quercetin absorption. Nettle extract is a natural antihistamine to help reduce the allergic reaction that manifests as sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes.

There are also stinging nettle products available for children. They contain children-appropriate doses and balanced amounts of ingredients to help bring natural allergy relief to kids. 

With much of the same chemical making as Natural D-Hist, D-Hist Jr. will safely relieve nasal and sinus congestion in children with elevated histamine and respiratory irritation.  

Does Stinging Nettle Have Side Effects?

Side effects of stinging nettle are exceptionally rare, but they can include mild stomach upset, diarrhea, and fluid retention.  

When used as instructed and in appropriate doses, nettle shouldn’t pose any risks to your health. 

That said, you do need to touch base with your doctor if you’re pregnant or suffering from conditions such as high blood sugar and kidney disease. Also, speak with your doctor if you suffer from high blood pressure and heart disease, as stinging nettle can interact with your regular medication. 

Also, you don’t want to go without a doctor’s consultation if you want to administer nettle to a kid; it’s best to have a professional help you determine the dosage. 

Make the Most of the Exceptional Stinging Nettle’s Benefits 

So there you go—stinging nettle benefits. Not bad for a common weed you’d thought could do nothing but the disservice of getting you hurt? 

Now you know the benefits this queen among weeds can give you; all that’s left to do is put them to good use. 

Feel up for a cup of fresh nettle tea, or you’d rather grab a pill on the way? Simply Nutrients is a doctor-owned premier provider of nutritional supplements, so feel free to check out our online store

We strongly believe knowledge is power when it comes to managing your health. That said, we boast a host of blog pages that can keep you on track healthwise, so do have a look.  

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[1] https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/stinging-nettle/

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23092723

[3] https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=109335#ref3

[4] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.5836

[5] https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=rjmp.2012.123.135

[6] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288271477

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10911825/

[8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20015358/

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877626/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21806658

[11] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10705733

[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19140159/

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Jamy Antoine, D.C. — by Chris Bowman — On June 15, 2023


Chris Bowman

Chris Bowman is the CEO and Co-Founder of SimplyNutrients.com and has over 15 years of experience in nutritional sciences and wellness. Simply Nutrients is a part of Dr. Jamy Antoine's Select Health Practice in Edina, Minnesota. Chris is passionate about helping people live healthier lives by using the best practices of nature, nutrition, and medicine.