Stinging nettles are plants with sharp hairs on their leaves. Potential health benefits include arthritis relief, reduction in seasonal allergies, and diabetes management.

However, there is limited research to suggest stinging nettle is an effective remedy, and more studies are necessary before researchers can confirm its health benefits.

This article explores what the research says about the benefits and uses of stinging nettle. It will also discuss potential side effects and how to use the herb.

Stinging nettle features sharp hairs on its leaves. These hairs contain chemicals, such as formic acid and histamine, which can irritate the skin and cause stinging, itching, and redness.

Stinging nettle hairs also contain a range of other chemicals that can affect humans, including acetylcholine and serotonin.

Relieving arthritis

People have been using stinging nettle to treat various ailments for centuries, and the remedy is still in use as a medicinal aid today.

Some individuals claim the nettle can help with:

An older test-tube study suggested that stinging nettle extracts may have anti-inflammatory properties and could assist in treating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

However, further human studies are necessary to fully assess the efficacy of stinging nettle for relieving arthritis symptoms.

Reducing seasonal allergies

Stinging nettle is a popular treatment for seasonal allergies, which occur when a substance, such as pollen, triggers the body to produce histamine. Histamine causes characteristic symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as inflammation, itching, and hives.

The current evidence for how effective stinging nettle is for relieving allergies is mixed.

Older studies suggest stinging nettle may disrupt the allergy process by inhibiting the body’s histamine production and related inflammation.

However, in a 2017 study, researchers found that stinging nettle extract was no better at reducing allergy symptoms than a placebo.

The National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health indicates that there is currently insufficient evidence to suggest stinging nettle can help treat allergies.

Treating benign prostatic hyperplasia

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a noncancerous growth of the prostate gland in males. The condition can cause a range of symptoms, mostly involving urinary processes.

A review suggests that, in combination with other medications, stinging nettle extracts may be beneficial in treating BPH symptoms. And while other studies support these claims, it is clear that more research is necessary to fully assess the benefits of the herb in treating BPH symptoms.

A person should seek emergency assistance if they develop symptoms of BPH, so a doctor can rule out or treat any serious issues.

Managing diabetes

There is some evidence suggesting that stinging nettle could also help treat diabetes.

Two review studies have found evidence that sting nettle supplementation may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.

However, researchers in both studies concluded that more research was necessary to determine whether stinging nettle could be a useful addition to traditional diabetes treatments. At the time of writing their study, they did not recommend it for use.

As a result, anyone wishing to start taking stinging nettle products to manage their diabetes should speak with their doctor first and monitor their blood sugar levels regularly if possible.

Stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, is a common plant that grows in the United States, Canada, and Europe. It primarily grows in damp, fertile soil.

However, people may refer to many plants in the Urtica family as stinging nettle. These include:

  • Urtica galeopsifolia: This has no stinging hairs, and people often refer to it as the stingless nettle.
  • Urtica gansuensis: This type of nettle has stinging hairs and is local to eastern Asia.
  • Urtica gracilis: People may refer to this as the American stinging nettle.
  • Urtica afghanica: This may have stinging hairs or are hairless, and it is native to central and southwestern Asia.

Knowing what stinging nettles look like is important to preventing contact. Below are examples of different types of stinging nettle.

The method of taking stinging nettle will vary depending on its intended use.

Some people brew the leaves of the stinging nettle to make a tea, while its extract is also available in capsule, tablet, or cream form. People can also moisten nettle leaves and apply them to the skin as a natural topical solution.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the ingredients, strengths, and claims of herbal remedies or supplements as it does with labeled drugs. This includes stinging nettle products.

Therefore, people should speak with their doctor before taking stinging nettle supplements, and they need to use these products with caution.

Stinging nettle is typically safe to consume. However, there are possible side effects, which can include:

  • stomach problems
  • urinary issues
  • sweating
  • hives or rashes
  • diarrhea

Additionally, there are no official safety guidelines for using this remedy in children or pregnant people. For this reason, both groups should avoid using stinging nettle.

It is also always important to consult a doctor before using any herbal remedy to treat a medical condition.

Possible drug interactions

Stinging nettle may interact with certain medicines, including:

Stinging nettle may have a range of health benefits. However, there is limited evidence to suggest the herb may be useful in treating arthritis, allergies, and BPH.

Stinging nettle is usually safe, but it may cause some side effects. Therefore, it is important to speak with a doctor before using stinging nettle to treat any condition, as it may interact with medications.