Herbal Meds

Using Nettle as an herbal antihistamine

Originally used in the 3rd century BC to remove venom from snake bites, nettle is a valuable herbal medicine used today to treat hay fever and prostrate problems.

Also known as stinging nettle, this plant has fine hairs on the leaves and stems that contain chemicals that sting and burn when it comes in contact with the skin.  An old folk remedy suggests that stinging yourself with nettle will relieve pain associated with arthritis.  

Nettle is also a nutritious food that tastes very much like spinach.  It is particularly high in iron and other minerals, vitamin C and is rich in carotenoids.

Common uses for nettle as an herbal medicine include helping the body to remove excess fluid, relieving allergy symptoms, reducing inflammation and pain, easing prostrate symptoms and treating urinary tract infections.

Nettle acts as diuretic, helping your body to rid itself of excess fluid and toxins.  People suffering from urinary tract infections report that it increases urination, which in turn helps to flush infection-causing bacteria out of your body.  Women who suffer from bloating just before their period starts, experience relief after taking nettle herbal supplements.  

One of the most beneficial uses of nettle is treating hay fever.  Histamine is produced by your body in response to allergens and nasal congestion, sneezing and irritated watery eyes are a result of the release of this inflammatory compound.  Nettle is a source of quercetin which is a flavonoid that inhibits the release of histamine.  In a study conducted, more than half of allergy sufferers rated nettle to be an effective herbal remedy for hay fever and associated allergic symptoms.

Another important benefit of nettle is that it is suitable for men with an enlarged prostate that is not caused by cancer.  This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and occurs when the prostate enlarges and narrows the urethra, which is the tube that transports out of the bladder.  Herbal medicines containing nettle works by slowing down prostate growth.  Studies have shown that nettle is as effective as finasteride, a medication commonly prescribed for BPH.  Combining nettle with other herbal supplements such as saw palmetto is effective at relieving symptoms such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of the bladder, post urination dripping, and the constant urge to urinate. Nettle is also believed to block the hormonal changes that can contribute to BPH.

More research is needed, but in a preliminary study, nettle helped people who suffer from arthritis by reducing the amount of pain medication needed.  Patients were given 200 mg of diclofenac only (a prescription anti-inflammatory) and compared to a group of patients who were given 55 g of nettle leaves daily along with the prescribed diclofenac.  The group that added the nettle leaves showed a significant decrease in pain and inflammation.

What are the side effects of Nettle?

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.

Nettle is considered very safe when used at the recommended doses.   Stomach upsets have been reported and should this occur, lower the dosage or discontinue use for a few days.

Nettle can alter the menstrual cycle and there have been reports of miscarriage, so pregnant women should not use nettle at all.

Please consult your medical practitioner should you experience any prostate problems.  Your doctor can eliminate the possibility of cancer and should then be able to advise you on a safe, herbal treatment such as nettle.

Nettle thins blood, so people using blood thinning medications such as Warfarin should take care when taking nettle supplements.

Nettle lowers blood pressure, so care should be taken when using medications to treat high blood pressure.

How do I use Nettle?

When buying herbal supplements containing nettle, make sure that it contains the freeze-dried herb, or an extract standardized to contain 1 percent plant silica which is an active ingredient in nettle.

To treat allergies and hay fever, take 250 mg of standardized extract three times a day as needed.

To assist with BPH, use 250 mg of standardized extract twice a day in combination with 160 mg of saw palmetto.

To relieve the pain and inflammation associated with gout and arthritis, take 250 mg of standardized extract three times a day.  You can make a compress of nettle tea and apply this to painful joints.

Take nettle with food to minimize the risk of stomach upsets.  If you are planning to use nettle as a food, make sure that you cook older leaves to deactivate the stingers.  The young shoots can be eaten raw or added to salads.

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