Nettle is a common name for any of the 30-45 species of flowering plants of the genus Urtica. It is an herbaceous plant that belongs to the family of Urticaceae. It contains a variety of nutrients and bioactive compounds. The following compounds are contained in the plant polysaccharides, vitamin C, and carotene, beta-sitosterol, and flavonoids, quercetin, rutin, kaempferol and beta-sterol. Its great nutritional value makes it commonly used as a vegetable green, juice, or tea. Nettle plant also contains up to 20 mineral salts including calcium, potassium, silicon, and nitrates. Nettle was used for various functions in traditional medicine such as treatment of various genitourinary dysfunctions such as nocturia, frequency, dysuria, urinary retention, irritable bladder, and infections.
The leaves of the plant are rich in flavonoid, phenolic compounds, organic acids, vitamins and minerals. Additionally, they contain protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The vitamin composition is varied from fat-soluble vitamins to water-soluble such as vitamin C and B. These aid nettles in exhibiting various pharmacologic effects such as antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, immunostimulatory, anti-infectious, hypotensive, anti-ulcer properties.
Additionally, research shows that nettle has antioxidant activity. It decreases lipid peroxidation and increases the activity of the antioxidant defense system, thus playing a crucial role in preventing hepatotoxicity. The fact that nettle is rich in iron and vitamin C promotes healthy blood circulation and overall cardiovascular health. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron that helps in the alleviation of anemia and fatigue (What Are the Benefits and Uses of Nettle? n.d.). Also contains potassium that relaxes arteries and other blood vessels thus lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke.
An aqueous extract of nettle leaves and roots has demonstrated a healthy inflammation response activity. Nettle contains biologically active compounds that may help reduce inflammation responses. This effect is associated with the inhibition of the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathway as well as inhibition of cytokine production. Scientific research has also demonstrated nettles ability to de-escalate inflammatory response processes, through various mechanisms whose end result is the reduced synthesis of lipid mediators and proinflammatory cytokines. The healthy inflammatory response effect of nettle leaves makes it a useful agent in acute symptoms.
Flavonoids are involved in the inhibition of platelet aggregation. Flavonoids also modulate the immune system.Quercetin-3-O-rutindside; kaempherol-3-O-rutinoside and isorhamnetin-3-O-glucoside present in the aerial parts of the nettle plant contribute to the immunomodulatory effect.
Nettle also helps in body detoxification through its dieresis action. As such, nettle is used in irrigation therapy for lower urinary tract. It helps flush out toxic chemicals and excess liquids from the body. Ability to cleanse and dispel toxins helps in treating of urinary tract infections. On the other hand, experiments on mice and rats have shown the analgesic property. At a dose of 1200mg/kg, the aqueous extract of nettle leaves causes a greater resistance to pain. Nettle can also be used topically to relieve pain in the joints.
Studies have also proven that nettle limits and regulate the amount of testosterone produced by the body. This action is proved by nettles positive effect on the prostatic tissue which helps in the prevention of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Although physical contact with the plant can cause an allergic reaction, nettle ironically alleviates allergic reactions. Ingestion of nettle tea, for instance, deactivates the body’s response to allergens by binding with the body’s histamine receptors. This has wide application for instance in the treatment of inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose.
Nettle can be used as an extract or in powder or capsule form. It has a low risk of toxicity. Although various in vitro studies have elicited the healthy inflammatory response and immune modulating property of stinging nettle, further studies are necessary to further confirm on the clinical utility of this plant in alleviating the adverse effects of the various other related conditions.