Stinging nettle is a plant in the genus Urtica that originated as a native shrub in colder regions of Europe and Asia and is now found worldwide. It gets its name from the fine hairs on its leaves and stems that release irritating chemicals when they contact your skin. The plant has been part of herbal medicine for centuries. Tea made from stinging nettle contains a number of biologically active compounds with possible health benefits.
For hundreds of years, practitioners of herbal medicine have recommended stinging nettle as a treatment for the pain of arthritis and gout, for anemia, allergies and urinary problems or as a topical treatment for eczema, insect bites and painful muscles. The root and leaves of the plant contain several identified compounds that are biologically active, including flavonoids such as quercetin that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from your body; these unstable chemicals can damage your cellular membranes and DNA. Nettle also contains several other compounds, including beta-sitosterol, a plant chemical with a structure similar to cholesterol that can benefit your heart by lowering absorption of dietary fats by your blood.
Consuming stinging nettle tea may help prevent seasonal allergies, or improve symptoms such as sneezing and itching caused by allergic rhinitis if you already have this problem. The results of a clinical trial of stinging nettle as a possible aid for allergies was published in the journal “Planta Medica.” After consuming a dried preparation of stinging nettle for one week, subjects with allergic rhinitis experienced a lessening of symptoms compared to a placebo group. Although this study suggests that nettle tea might be beneficial for allergies, this was a small trial and larger studies are needed to confirm its benefit.
Preparations made from stinging nettle are traditional remedies for urinary tract disorders, especially benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH, in men. This non-cancerous condition causes enlargement of the prostate gland that can interfere with urination. Today, stinging nettle is widely used in Europe to treat the problem. Clinical research supports the herb’s usefulness for relief of BPH symptoms. For example, in a trial published in “Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy” that lasted six months and involved more than 600 subjects with BPH, 81 percent of subjects who consumed a nettle preparation experienced lessening of symptoms compared to a placebo group. In addition, Memorial Sloan-Kettering says that nettle may slow growth of prostate cancer in laboratory animals. However, clinical studies with human subjects are needed to confirm this possible benefit.
How To Use
Stinging nettle preparations are available at most health food stores, as dried leaves, tincture or extract made from leaves or roots. Prepare a tea by steeping 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried leaves in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes; to obtain benefits from both the leaves and root, add a few drops of a tincture or extract from its roots to your tea. Stinging nettle is generally considered safe, although it might cause mild stomach upset in some people and it could interact with certain medications. Exercise care when handling nettle since it might cause an allergic rash on your skin. Do not consume nettle tea if you are pregnant and do not use the herb to self-treat for any condition. Discuss its use with your doctor to determine if it might be helpful for you.
The article The Benefits & Side Effects of Nettle Leaf Tea first appeared in SFGATE Healthy Eating.
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