What are the active medicinal properties of nettle?

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.

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.