The stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) plant is quite well-known for the stinging hairs on the leaves and stems. While it is often considered a nuisance, the plant holds great medicinal value and has a long tradition of use as an herbal remedy. Generally, direct contact with the hairs on this plant can bring about an irritating rash. However, when the leaves are dried, cooked, or treated, these hairs quickly lose their stinging properties. The resulting tincture, nettle leaf extract, offers numerous health benefits and is used for treating a variety of medical conditions.
Since ancient times, nettles have had a long history of medical use. For instance, the oil extract from the leaves was often used by the Romans to help restore circulation from the numbing cold by rubbing it on their bodies. Greek physicians used the extract for respiratory, urinary, and reproductive health. Also viewed as highly nutritious and a good source of fiber, the herb was commonly used as a digestive aid. In fact, in addition to being used to curdle milk for making cheese, the extract was, and still is, cooked in soups, steamed, or sautéed.
Nettle leaf extract is extremely rich in iron and is good for treating anemia and severe nosebleeds, stimulating circulation, and preventing hemorrhages and other blood disorders. Nettle extract is also known to help lower blood sugar levels. The high iron content is further complemented by a high amount of vitamin C. This allows the body to absorb the iron more easily and aids in normal growth and development.
In addition, the high antihistamine content found in the extract makes it a good home remedy for treating common allergy symptoms associated with hay fever and similar allergies. In fact, the extract of nettle leaf can be found in nearly all medications or lotions used to treat allergies. Traditionally, nettle leaf extract is used as a diuretic aid to help increase urine volume and flow, as well as to irrigate the urinary tract. It is a common remedy for treating problems associated with urinary tract infections, or UTIs.
In addition to these benefits, nettle leaf extract, when mixed with alcohol, can be used as a hair tonic, preventing breakage and making hair shinier and thicker. It also stimulates hair growth and reduces baldness. Since everyone is different, however, it is best to use nettle extracts with the aid of qualified practitioners.