It had long been thought that nettles existed merely to deliver a painful sting to anyone who got too close to them. Fortunately however, such ideas are now outdated as we’ve learned more about the beneficial effects the plant offers, particularly its role in relieving benign inflammation of the prostate.
Nettle (urtica dioica), from the urticaceae family, grows widely in Europe. Its leaves have a stinging effect: tiny hairs on the leaf’s surface produce painful itching when they come into contact with human skin. Yet, with just a few precautions, nettle leaves can be safely consumed once cooked, and can also be used as a complementary treatment for grass allergies (hay fever).
Nettle is recognised too for its anti-inflammatory action (useful for treating arthritis, for example), its diuretic effect (it encourages the elimination of toxins by increasing urine volume), and its ability to lower glycaemia (blood glucose levels) (1). But the primary focus of current study is the role nettle root plays in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
This non-cancerous disease affects men over 60: the size of the prostate increases with age, producing adverse effects on the bladder and on the urinary system in general. BHP primarily manifests in difficulty urinating, having to ‘go’ more often and more urgently. It can also lead to complications such as kidney infections, incontinence or kidney failure.
Important: if you’re in any doubt about a prostate problem, you should always seek medical advice before starting treatment. Any such therapy should be medically supervised.
Although nettle root’s efficacy in BHP was demonstrated in a recent study (2), its mechanisms of action remained poorly understood. Scientists therefore examined the plant’s combination of pharmacological properties, both in vitro and in vivo (3). Their findings suggest that nettle has a positive effect on two mechanisms in particular which are directly linked to BPH: generalised inflammation and cell proliferation, which increase the volume of the prostate and cause pain.
In addition, the study indicated that concentrated nettle root extracts were completely safe to use in animals; we now need further research to confirm the safety of such treatments in humans.
Further research is planned to find out whether combining nettle with another plant, Pygeum, (African Plum), is even more effective at treating BPH (4). Nettle may also be a source of concentrated active principles which interact with sex hormones, with effects expected on the morphology and function of the prostate.
Nettle thus offers promising prospects for improving the quality of life of older men; should it really continue to be described as a weed, then, when it offers all these benefits?
Extract of Urtica dioica root standardised 16:1
Recommended by the German Commission E for relief of urinary problems associated with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
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