Botanical name(s):

Urtica dioica L. Family: Urticaceae

Other name(s):

common nettle, greater nettle, stinging nettle

General description

Stinging nettle is a medicinal herb plant known for its stinging leaves. It has tiny stinging hairs covering its surface. Contact with the plant produces a stinging, itchy, or burning rash on your skin. It also causes swelling and redness at the site of contact. This reaction is due to histamine from the plant that’s released when the hairs pierce your skin.

There are several species of stinging nettle. These include Urtica dioica, Urtica urens, and Urtica pilulifera. Nettle grows wild in temperate regions. It can reach 2 to 3 feet in height. Nettle has a long reputation in folk medicine. It’s used to treat asthma. It’s also used as an expectorant, astringent, tonic, antispasmodic, and diuretic.

Medically valid uses

Nettle is used to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). It’s used with other treatments. Nettle extract may help BPH by binding to sites on sex hormone binding globulin. This lessens testosterone's effect on the prostate. But studies conflict on how well it works. More research is needed.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that haven't yet been proven through research.

Nettle extract may get in the way of inflammation. Inflammation is a major cause of pain and joint damage due to arthritis. But there’s little evidence to support how well this herb works for this condition. More research is needed.

Nettle may help manage:

  • Rheumatism

  • Asthma

  • Gout

  • Hay fever

  • High blood pressure

  • Irritable bladder

  • Nosebleeds

  • Premenstrual syndrome

  • Scurvy

  • Stings and venomous bites

Dosing format

Nettle comes in the form of tablets, liquid, tincture, and tea. The dose may vary depending on conditions being treated. Follow directions on the package or talk with your healthcare provider for dosing information.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

This herb doesn’t cause side effects when you use it correctly. Allergic reactions only happen in rare cases. Nettle may cause stomach cramps or diarrhea. If this happens, stop using it or use less of it.

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t take this herb. This is because it can act like a diuretic.

Nettle can change the effects of medicines that affect blood pressure. These include diuretics and antihypertensives.

Don't take nettle if you take medicines, herbs, or other supplements. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist first.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023