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You know nettles sting! Are you aware of their health benefits?

The many advantages of Stinging Nettles


Thinking about stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) may evoke childhood recollections of biking down country lanes with your legs on fire. As you foraged for blackberries in the hedgerow, you may have developed itchy white bumps on your hands and perhaps your face.

As an adult, you may have more vivid memories of the agony of removing invasive nettles from your garden. As soon as you believe you've eliminated them all, they reappear like problematic Christmas relatives. Try this if you want to remove them - https://ecofamilylife.com/garden/killing-stinging-nettles-with-vinegar/


Many individuals do not rank stinging nettles among their favorite plants. However, there is much more to this nettlesome species than is commonly understood.


Let's begin with the fundamentals. Stinging nettles are remarkable colonists of barren and disturbed soil. Their seeds can potentially remain latent in the soil for five years or longer. And their rhizomatous (interconnected) roots, which make them so difficult to eradicate from your flowerbeds, are a plant superpower that enables them to rapidly form new populations.


Charles Darwin's idea that nettle seeds might survive a long soak in salty water and be dispersed by the sea proved accurate. According to a 2018 study, their resilience enabled them to colonize abroad.


This may not be good news, but excessive agriculture, urban sprawl, and pollution are harming the environment. The biodiversity of our gardens and landscapes is dependent on plants, but climate change is making it more difficult for them to flourish. The tenacity of nettles makes them an indispensable weapon in the struggle to end this ecological calamity.


Wildlife friendly


Nettles aid in the survival of wildlife, particularly in urban and agricultural environments. The caterpillar feeding plant in the United Kingdom for comma, painted lady, peacock, red admiral, and little tortoiseshell butterflies. The proliferation of these nettles from their natural woodland environment into our gardens and wastelands has allowed these butterflies to expand their range into our urban areas.


Not just butterflies are dependent on nettles. On their leaves, ladybirds often lay their eggs. This "gardener's friend" has a ravenous appetite for aphids, those annoying green and black bugs that feed on the sap of our fragile plants and destroy our vegetables. Having nettles in our gardens and near our agricultural fields provides ladybirds and other insects with a place to hide as the aphid population grows, allowing them to feast on the pests.


Stinging sensation


It is believed that nettles with more stinging hairs are consumed less frequently by animals such as rabbits, sheep, and deer. Therefore, nettles sting out of simple self-defense.


They contain tiny hairs on their leaves and stems that, when rubbed against an item, first utilize a mechanical defense (the silica hairs break off in the epidermis) and subsequently a chemical defense (the release of irritants such as histamine into the skin). Given the destruction people wreak on nature, this seems like an acceptable precaution.


The broad-leaved dock plant (Rumex obtusifloius) and stinging nettles prefer comparable growing conditions, hence they are frequently found together. In truth, there is no evidence that dock leaves alleviate nettle stings, yet I continue to use them because they are harmless and make me feel better.


Healing abilities


If you are still undecided about nettles, let's discuss their health benefits. Europe and beyond have a long history of employing stinging nettles in traditional medicine. In addition, there is scientific evidence that nettles (or extracts of their leaves, roots, and stems) help treat hypertension and diabetes. They can even maintain the health of fish farms and poultry.


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Nettles can be brewed into tea and beer, used to make a tasty soup, and wrapped around cheese. They are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as calcium and iron.


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Nettles can also be woven into fabric. There is evidence that people in chilly climates have utilized nettles to manufacture textile fibers since the Bronze Age. Before widespread sheep breeding boosted the usage of wool, these were popular. During shortages induced by the world wars, nettle fibers were also used throughout Europe. Traditional fiber plants such as cotton cannot grow in cool, temperate settings, while nettles thrive in such conditions.


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Scientists are currently studying whether nettle fibers can assist meet contemporary demands for automobile and garment textiles. They do not require fertilizer or herbicides and can be produced on poor or even contaminated soil, unlike cotton. In order to produce a plant-based fiber that does not compete with food production.


Hopefully, you are now persuaded that stinging nettles are our allies and deserve a place in our countryside, despite their occasional annoyance. You may even save time on weeding by leaving a tiny portion of your yard uncultivated in order to attract butterflies.


Stinging nettle Nettle; Urtica dioica; Urtica urens; Urtica radix


Urtica dioica and the closely related Urtica urens have a long history of medical use. It was used as a diuretic (to purge the body of excess water) and to cure joint discomfort in medieval Europe.


Fine hairs on the leaves and stems of stinging nettle contain irritant compounds that are released when the plant makes contact with the skin. Normally, the spines or hairs of stinging nettle are extremely irritating to the touch. However, when they come into contact with a painful portion of the body, they actually reduce the pain. Scientists believe nettle accomplishes this via decreasing levels of inflammatory substances in the body and by interfering with the body's pain signal transmission.


General Uses


Since centuries past, stinging nettle has been used to treat tight muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many individuals utilize it to manage urinary issues in the first stages of a swollen prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH). It is also used to treat urinary tract infections, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and bug bites with compresses or creams.


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Benign hyperplasia of the prostate (BPH)


In Europe, stinging nettle root is commonly used to treat BPH. Studies on humans indicate that stinging nettle in combination with other herbs (particularly saw palmetto) may be useful at relieving symptoms such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete bladder emptying, post-urination dripping, and the constant need to pee. These symptoms are the result of the prostate pressing on the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). Some studies indicate that stinging nettle is equivalent to finasteride (a commonly recommended medicine for BPH) in its ability to inhibit the proliferation of specific prostate cells. Unlike finasteride, however, the herb does not reduce prostate enlargement. Scientists do not understand why nettle root alleviates symptoms. It may contain substances that alter hormones (including testosterone and estrogen) or act directly on prostate cells. It is essential to work with a physician to treat BPH and obtain an accurate diagnosis to rule out prostate cancer.


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Osteoarthritis


Historically, nettle leaves and stems were used to treat arthritis and soothe painful muscles. Despite the limited amount of research, it appears that applying nettle leaf topically to a sore joint may provide some individuals with relief. Other research indicate that ingesting an extract of stinging nettle alongside nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) reduces the NSAID dosage.


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Allergic hay fever


One exploratory human investigation indicated that nettle capsules reduced sneezing and itching in hay fever patients. In a separate study, 57% of patients evaluated nettles as useful for allergy relief, and 48% claimed they were more effective than the allergy drugs they had previously taken. Researchers believe this is due to nettle's capacity to minimize the amount of histamine produced by the body in reaction to allergens. More research is required to confirm the antihistamine qualities of nettle. Some physicians advise consuming a freeze-dried preparation of stinging nettle well before the onset of hay fever season.


Additional Preliminary animal research suggest that nettle may reduce blood glucose and blood pressure. However, additional research is required to see if this holds true for humans.


Common nettle, garden nettle, and hybrids of these plants are collectively referred to as stinging nettle. This herbaceous shrub is native to the colder parts of northern Europe and Asia, although it now thrives worldwide. The plant thrives in nitrogen-rich soil, blooms between June and September, and typically reaches a height of 2 to 4 feet.


Stems are rigid and erect. Flowers are yellow or pink, and the leaves are heart-shaped, toothed, and tapered at the ends. The entire plant is coated with microscopic stiff hairs, primarily on the undersides of the leaves and stem, which, when touched, produce stinging compounds.


What is its chemical makeup? Typically, stinging nettle products are derived from the leaves, stems, and occasionally the roots. Root preparations are utilized to treat BPH symptoms.


Available Forms


Available forms of stinging nettle include dried leaf, freeze-dried leaf, extract, capsules, tablets, root tincture (herb in alcohol), juice, and tea. It is also available as a topical cream or ointment that can be applied to the skin. The root appears to have pharmacological actions distinct from those of the leaves.


How to Tackle It


Although stinging nettle is available in numerous combination formulae for the treatment of colds, asthma, and allergies in children, a safe and effective dose has not yet been determined. Before administering stinging nettle to a child, you should see a physician to determine the correct dosage.


Adult Stinging nettle is utilized as teas, tinctures, fluid extracts, and lotions, among other preparations.


Precautions


The use of herbs to strengthen the body and alleviate sickness is a time-honored practice. Herbs can cause negative effects and interact with other herbs, dietary supplements, and pharmaceuticals. Due to these factors, you should take herbs with caution and under the guidance of a medical professional.


When used as indicated, stinging nettle is usually believed to be harmless. Mild stomach discomfort, fluid retention, sweating, diarrhea, and hives or a rash are occasional adverse effects (mainly from topical use). It is essential to use caution when handling nettle plants, as contact with them might induce an allergic response. You should never apply stinging nettle to an open wound.


Due to the fact that nettle can affect the menstrual cycle and may induce miscarriage, pregnant women should avoid using it.


Do not self-treat BPH with nettle. Consult your physician for a diagnosis and to rule out prostate cancer.


There is evidence that stinging nettle may increase blood sugar levels and interfere with the control of diabetes. There is evidence that it can also reduce blood sugar levels. Patients with diabetes who use stinging nettle should regularly check their blood sugar levels.


The effect of stinging nettle might be diuretic. If you have kidney or bladder problems, consult your doctor.


Potential Interactions


Anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications (blood thinners)

Stinging nettle may impair the ability of blood to clot and may interfere with blood-thinning medications, such as:


Warfarin (Coumadin) and Clopidogrel are anticoagulants (Plavix)

Aspirin

Medications for high blood pressure

Stinging nettle may reduce blood pressure, which could improve the effectiveness of certain medications.


ACE inhibitors: captopril (Capoten), elaropril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Zestril), and fosinopril (Monopril).

Beta-blockers: atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), and propranolol (Induran).

Calcium channel blockers: Nifedipine (Procardia), Amlodipine (Norvasc), Verapamil (Calan, Isoptin)

Diuretics (water pills) (water pills)

Because stinging nettle is a diuretic, it can intensify the effects of these medications, increasing the risk of dehydration.


Furosemide (Lasix) Hydrocholorothiazide

Drugs for diabetes

Due to stinging nettle's potential to reduce blood sugar, it could amplify the effects of these medications and increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).


Lithium Stinging nettle may increase urination and make it more difficult for the body to eliminate this medicine.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)


In a scientific investigation involving individuals with acute arthritis, stewed stinging nettle leaves increased the anti-inflammatory action of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac. Although this effect can alleviate pain, NSAID users should see a physician before consuming or utilizing stinging nettle.

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