Science says nettles do more than sting

Old wives (and their tales) swore by it, the Saxons considered it to be sacred, World War I German soldiers wore it (because of a shortage of cotton) and modern science is showing that the stinging nettle is, frankly, amazing, reports Roy Lamb of Nasslor Health Drinks

One of the most remarkable things about nettle is its nutrient content.1 Omega-3 plays a vital role in controlling cholesterol and keeping your body healthy, and nettle has a similar amount of omega-3 as spinach.

If you want a good source of essential amino acids — the building blocks of muscle — nettle contains almost the same amount as chicken.

On top of all that, nettle contains all of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A (keeps both the immune system and eyes healthy), 50% RDI of calcium (important for strong bones and teeth), 20% RDI of fibre (essential for good digestion) and up to 12% RDI of iron (helps with energy, focus, digestion and the immune system).

Blood sugar levels

In a randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (the gold standard for clinical trials), participants taking a nettle supplement had significantly reduced blood glucose levels, regardless of their diet, age or amount of exercise.2

This is quite a significant finding and could help nettle become an effective treatment for those with type-2 diabetes. In smaller doses, nettle could help the average person to maintain a healthy blood sugar level, reducing the chances of developing diabetes in the first place.

Roy Lamb

Blood pressure

High blood pressure also puts the heart under more strain as it needs to do more work to pump the blood around the body. So, keeping blood pressure in check can be important to reduce the risk of heart failure.

One study, which tested the effects of nettle on rats and rabbits, found that a nettle extract helped to reduce blood pressure in both normal and hypertensive (high blood pressure) animals.3

Although this research is in its early stages, it does seem to back up the traditional use of nettle as a blood pressure treatment. Consuming lower doses of nettle on a regular basis could help with the healthy maintenance of blood pressure and ward off heart issues.

Hay fever

From spring through to autumn, hay fever is an uncomfortable annoyance for many of us. As plants and trees begin to flower, they release pollen into the air.

This pollen can then irritate and inflame the throat, nose and ear canals, causing stuffiness, sore throats and headaches. Not what you want when you are out enjoying a rare bit of sunshine!

Fortunately, studies have shown that nettles contain several bioactive compounds that contribute to anti-inflammatory effects on the human body, especially those associated with seasonal allergies such as hay fever.

Specifically, they inhibit the inflammatory response to pollen that causes hay fever, helping to stop symptoms before they start — essentially acting as an antihistamine.4

Immune system

We could all use a boost to our immune system sometimes to help keep us healthy. The good news is that nettle has been shown to increase both red and white blood cell counts, which helps to keep the blood, body and immune system functioning well.5

In one study using rats, nettle was found to be an immune response modulator, stimulating the proliferation of T lymphocytes in vitro.6 These so-called T cells are incredibly important types of white blood cells that play a central role in the adaptive immune response.

Although there hasn’t been any extensive testing on humans, these results are promising, suggesting that nettle can play a role in supporting a healthy immune system.

Whereas nettles are an annoyance for gardeners, this nemesis of bare legs has a myriad of health benefits when consumed as part of a healthy diet, and it is these benefits that led to the creation of Emunity, a nettle-based soft drink blended with fruit and other herbs. Turns out the old wives knew a thing or two.

References

  1. L.K. Rutto, et al., “Mineral Properties and Dietary Value of Raw and Processed Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.),” International Journal of Food Science (2013): https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/857120.
  2. S. Kianbakht, et al., “Improved Glycemic Control in Patients with Advanced Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Taking Urtica dioica Leaf Extract: A Randomised Double-Blind-Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial,” Clin. Lab. 59(9-10), 1071–1076 (2013).
  3. R. Qayyum, et al., “Mechanisms Underlying the Antihypertensive Properties of Urtica dioica,” J. Transl. Med. 14(1), 254 (2016).
  4. B. Roschek, et al., “Nettle Extract (Urtica dioica) Affects Key Receptors and Enzymes Associated with Allergic Rhinitis,” Phytother. Res. 23(7), 920–926 (2009).
  5. M. Franciskovic, et al., “Chemical Composition and Immune-Modulatory Effects of Urtica dioica Extracts,” Phytother. Res. 31, 1183–1191 (2017).
  6. S. Herrera, et al., “Effects of Extract of Urtica dioica L. (Stinging Nettle) on the Immune Response of Rats with Severe Malnutrition,” Journal of Complementary Medicine Research 9(2), 63–73 (2018).

Companies