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Healing Properties of Nettle Leaves

herbal healing

Photo credits: mzmikos, the Urban Nun ZENDO

Stinging nettle

Urtica dioica

荨麻 xún má

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), where the Latin word uro, means “to burn,” because its leaves can cause a temporary burning sensation upon contact.

Nutritional Value

Stinging nettle’s leaves and root provide a wide variety of nutrients, including:

  • Vitamins: Vitamins A, C and K, as well as several B vitamins

  • Minerals: Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium

  • Fats: Linoleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid

  • Amino acids: All of the essential amino acids

  • Polyphenols: Kaempferol, quercetin, caffeic acid, coumarins and other flavonoids

  • Pigments: Beta-carotene, lutein, luteoxanthin and other carotenoids

Healing History

Plant is presented in herbal medicine since ancient times. Egyptians had used it to treat arthritis and lower back pain; Roman troops rubbed it on themselves to stay warm; Healers in Eastern Europe have used it as a remedy for colds and general weakness and as a powerful detoxifier for the body. Due to the high iron concentration, it has long been used to treat anemia and lack of energy.

Nettle has also been used throughout history as an excellent diuretic and laxative, as well as an excellent remedy against swelling, irregular menstruation, bleeding, pneumonia, asthma, spleen disease, gangrenous wounds and many other diseases.

In the 17th century it was used as an antidote for poisonous animal stings and for the treatment of stones and sand in the kidneys and urinary tract, skin infections, joint pain, gout and sciatica.

In the old Russian tradition stinging nettle was used to strengthen the circulation, to relieve rheumatic problems, but also to treat liver and biliary disorders. In English and German tradition, it has been used for prostate problems and suppression of urinary tract inflammations.

Taoist Medicine

In TCM medicine, stinging nettle are among the herbs that disperse Wind and Dampness. Herb typically help in the treatment of so called Painful Obstruction Bi (rheumatological) Syndromes, which are alleged to be due to Exterior/Interior pathogenic Wind, Cold, Damp and/or Heat, which obstruct the channels and collaterals/vessels, causing blockage of Qi and the blood circulation. Bi syndromes manifest as pain, soreness, aches, numbness or heaviness of the muscles, tendons, and joints, and/or swelling and burning pain. Most often, these pains correspond to arthritic and rheumatic conditions with pain, stiffness and numbness of the bones, joints and muscles.

Cold nature of the stinging nettle leaves helps people who have too much "heat", either by excess of yang or deficiency of yin, and can help restore a harmonious balance between yin and yang.

Taoist the Five Elements Theory identifies the taste of healing ingredients as a key determinant of their action in the body. Stinging nettle leaves taste bitter and pungent: the bitter ingredients have a cleansing effect by clearing heat, drying out dampness and promoting excretion through urination or bowel movements; the pungent ingredients promote the circulations of Qi and body fluids.

The organ that is targeted by the ingredients of the stinging nettle leaves is the liver. In Taoist medicine, the liver is responsible for regulating the movements of Qi and bodily fluids and plays a leading role in balancing our emotions. For this reason, it is often referred to as "general" of the body.

The stinging nettle shows a significant antihyperglycemic, and antioxidant effect. In addition it displays strong antimicrobial activity against nine microorganisms, antiulcer activity against ethanol-induced ulcerogenesis and analgesic effect on acetic acid-induced stretching.

Nettle leaves can be used internally (food, juice, teas, tinctures) and externally (body wraps and healing baths).

Urtica is safe when used properly; however, excessive use may interfere with the effects of hypoglycemic, hyperglycemic, antidiabetic and depressive drugs. Pregnant or nursing women should not take urtica products.

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