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During medieval times, diuretics and remedies for joint problems were made from stinging nettle. Native American healers used to strike the arms or legs of paralyzed patients with branches of stinging nettle to activate the muscles. This whipping technique, also called flagellation, can also stimulate the organs and relieve the pain of sore muscles and other parts of the body. Stinging nettle has been used in this way for centuries.

The stinging hairs on nettle are like tiny glands that have inside them chemicals that irritate the skin. The hairs are very painful to the touch, but if they irritate an area of the body that is already in pain, the chemicals can actually decrease the original pain. This is why stinging nettle is called a counterirritant. If you get stung with nettle, you can actually relieve the painful nettle stings by applying nettle juice to your skin.

Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat rheumatism, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH).

Plant Description

Stinging nettle is the name given to common nettle, garden nettle, and hybrids of these two plants. Originally from the colder northern regions of Europe and Asia, today this herbaceous shrub grows all over the world. Stinging nettle grows well in nitrogen-rich soil, blooms between June and September, and reaches nearly 3 feet high.

The branching stems underground multiply by themselves and have multiple shoots. The leaves are heart-shaped, finely toothed, and tapered at the ends. The entire plant is covered with tiny stinging hairs, mostly on the leaves and stem.

What's It Made Of?

Stinging nettle products are usually made from the roots or leaves. In some cases, all the plant parts that grow above the ground are used in herbal preparations. Leaf remedies are useful in treating kidney and urinary tract conditions. The flavonoids and potassium in nettle leaves are most likely responsible for their diuretic action.

Root preparations are used to treat enlarged prostate. They can help reduce some symptoms of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), but they do not make the prostate grow smaller.

Available Forms

Stinging nettle is available as dried leaf and as root tincture (a tincture is a solution of the herb in alcohol).

How to Take It

You can take nettle herb and leaf remedies to treat lower urinary tract inflammation and to prevent and treat kidney stones. Nettle works as a diuretic if you take enough water with it. If you have difficult urination from an enlarged prostate, nettle root preparation may be helpful.

For lower urinary tract inflammation and kidney stones, take 8 to 12 g leaf tea and ample liquid (at least 2 liters a day). For enlarged prostate, use root tincture (1:10), 4 to 6 g per day. Talk with your health care provider before taking nettle root for BPH.


Stinging nettle is safe when used as directed. But always be careful if you are handling the nettle plant. If your skin touches it, you can get contact urticaria (hives), which will make your skin sting. If you are taking nettle root, you may have some mild side effects, such as mild gastrointestinal irritation, excess fluid, or decreased urine flow.

If you're pregnant, do not take any nettle product. Don't use nettle if you are nursing. Nettle can also alter the menstrual cycle. Always check with your health care provider if you have questions or concerns.

Possible Interactions

No harmful drug interactions have been reported.

Supporting Research

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The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.