Those that have crossed the path of a stinging nettle plant may not soon forget the stinging sensation the plant may have caused the exposed skin that brushed up against it.
Despite the temporary stinging this plant may have caused, one should not be so quick to write this plant off. As it turns out, the stinging nettle plant has a wide range of medicinal benefits.
Whether you are drinking a tea made from the leaves to relieve allergies or using the leaves to treat arthritic pain, stinging nettle is a natural remedy worth considering.
The Stinging Nettle Plant
For centuries, this flowering plant native to the more frigid nations of Asia and Europe has been revered for it’s medicinal properties. The stinging nettle plant boasts pink and yellow flowers, growing between two to four feet tall in nutrient rich soil.
The plant contains tiny hairs, which are responsible for the stinging sensation it afflicts upon bare skin. There is a reason why the stinging nettle plant stings upon contact with the skin– it contains several chemicals that irritate the skin. These chemicals are histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
These three irritants exist at the base of the tiny hairs dotting the plant and when the skin brushes up against the plant, the minute hairs are knocked off, revealing a small needle.
It is this little needle that releases the irritants into the skin. When the skin comes into contact with these irritants, the skin may swell, turn red, itch, feel pain or become numb.
How to Treat the Side Effects of Stinging Nettle
If you have accidently brushed up against a stinging nettle plant, there are some steps you take to remedy the stinging sensation and to prevent the irritating from spreading.
First thing first, after initial contact with the plant, do not scratch the affected area- this will push the irritating chemicals from the plant even deeper into the skin. Pushing the irritants further into the skin will also significantly increase how long your skin will remain irritated.
Once you have noticed that you’ve been stung by the plant, allow the irritants to dry on the skin. Once they have dried, you can wash them off with soap and water.
- If you find that you still have fibers from the plant stuck to your skin, simply place duct tape over the area to remove any residual plant matter.
- If you are looking for pain relief, you can crush the leaves of the offending stinging nettle plant and apply it to the affected area. The crushed leaves of sage will also work.
- For a more traditional route of pain relief, you can rub calamine lotion or aloe vera gel directly onto the affected area. A cold compress is also helpful in alleviating any stinging or itching sensation.
The Benefits of Stinging Nettle
The stinging nettle plant may cause you pain, but it can also deliver soothing relief. Once the plant is dried or thoroughly heated up via hot water, the stinging qualities of the plant are neutralized.
The beneficial properties existing within the stinging nettle plant come from the leaves, stem, and root of the plant.
Research has found that while the root of the stinging nettle plant may produce anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve disorders of the urinary tract and prostate, while the leaves may help alleviate allergies and respiratory issues.
Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin causing dry, itchy, lizard-like patches of skin. Research has found that the anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties of stinging nettle help calm down distressed skin.
Those using stinging nettle to treat their eczema can take a two-pronged approach: they can take it orally while applying the cream form the plant directly onto the affected area.
The anti-inflammatory properties of stinging nettle can deliver significant relief to those suffering from arthritis. When the powerful pain relieving affects of stinging nettles are taken in conjunction with traditional NAISDs, they are able to minimize their use of the NSAIDs.
This is beneficial not only for the pain-relieving factor, but decreasing the use of NSAIDs decreases the potential for experiencing serious side effects associated with the drug.
To treat joint pain associated with arthritis, stinging nettle can be taken orally for pain relief or applied topically on the affected area to decrease inflammation.
3) Urinary Tract Issues
When consumed as a tea, stinging nettle works as a diuretic, promoting the flow of urine. This helps to not only remove toxins from the body, but also helps treat bladder infections.
4) Enlarged Prostate
Stinging nettle helps to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
When the prostate is enlarged, it presses upon the urethra, producing such uncomfortable symptoms as incomplete emptying of the bladder, painful urination, post-urination dripping, decreased flow of urine, and a strong urge to urinate without completion.
Drinking stinging nettle tea helps to alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms.
Some research has found that stinging nettle helps to reduce the amount of bleeding during surgery. Some commercial products even contain stinging nettle in the active ingredients to help stop bleeding during oral surgery.
The anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties of stinging nettle make it an ideal treatment for allergies. When immune system comes into contact with certain triggers, it goes into overdrive, producing histamine.
Histamine causes uncomfortable symptoms often associated with allergies, such as sneezing, itching, and congestion. Stinging nettle leaves themselves contain histamine, creating an almost inoculating affect against allergies.
How to Take Stinging Nettle
There are several ways you can take stinging nettle to treat various ailments and conditions. Consider taking stinging nettle in some of the following ways:
The leaves and flowers of the stinging nettle plant can be dried and steeped in hot water, making a soothing tea. To increase the flavor and double the healing affects, other herbs can be added to the tea, such as Echinacea or raspberry leaf.
Capsules and Tablets
You can find stinging nettle tablets and capsules at many health food stores. To avoid an upset stomach, be sure to take stinging nettle capsules and tablets with meals.
You can either apply crushed leaves directly onto the affected area or find stinging nettle in a cream or tincture form.
If you are interested in taking stinging nettle orally but do not want to risk an upset stomach, try adding it your next dish. Cooked nettle leaves and roots work great in stews and soups.
Much like lettuce, this medicinal herb can add a healing and delicious touch to any meal. Some people like to add stinging nettle to smoothies, pesto, and salads.
Some Considerations and Potential Side Effects
Before taking stinging nettle, please consider the following:
- Always consult a physician before using stinging nettle to treat any ailment or condition.
- Diabetics should avoid taking stinging nettle as it may affect the blood sugar. Diabetics should only take stinging nettle under the supervision of their physician.
- Stinging nettle may interact with some drugs and other herbs, consult your physician to avoid any potentially harmful interactions and side effects.
- Pregnant women should avoid using stinging nettle as it encourages uterine contractions, possibly resulting in miscarriage.
- Some people may experience gastrointestinal upset when first taking stinging nettle. Some symptoms associated with stinging nettle are nausea, diarrhea, and other mild stomach issues.