March 21, 2017


Botanical name(s):

Urtica dioica L. Family: Urticaceae

Other name(s):

common nettle, greater nettle, stinging nettle

General description

Stinging nettle is a harmful plant. It has tiny stinging hairs covering its surface. Contact with the plant produces a stinging or burning sensation in your skin. It also causes swelling and flare 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, anti-spasmodic, 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 (SHBG). This decreases testosterone's effect on the prostate. But studies conflict on how well it works. Further studies are needed.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated through studies.

Nettle extract may get in the way of inflammation. Inflammation plays an important role in pain and joint damage due to arthritis. But there’s little evidence to support how well this herb works for this condition. More studies are needed.

Nettle is also said to help manage the following conditions:

  • Rheumatism

  • Asthma

  • Gout

  • Hay fever

  • High blood pressure

  • Irritable bladder

  • Nosebleeds

  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

  • Scurvy

  • Stings and venomous bites

Dosing format

Nettle comes as a juice or herb you can mix into a tea. The average dose is 4–6 grams per day. You should take it with at least 2 liters of liquid each day.

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.

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


March 21, 2017


Complementary and alternative remedies in rheumatic disorders. UpToDate.

Reviewed By:  

Poulson, Brittany, RD, CDE,Wilkins, Joanna, R.D., C.D.