Nettle – medicinal plant with tradition

The stinging nettle is rather unpopular because it multiplies in large numbers and is unpleasantly painful when touched. But as a medicinal plant it has a long tradition and helps with  rheumatismcystitis  and prostate problems. Historically, the nettle is a plant with a quite impressive career: the first poetic praise of the nettle is given by the Roman poet Catullus in the 1st century BC, who praised this plant after it   cured his cold  and  cough . Dioscurides, a Greek doctor of the 1st century AD, used nettle to treat diseases for which it is still used today.

Nettle as a measuring tool

In the Middle Ages, the nettle was used in case of illness to test how serious the patient was. To do this, the plant was placed in the patient’s urine. If the stinging nettle remained green day and night, this indicated a speedy recovery, but if it shrank, this showed the seriousness of the disease.

Distribution and types of nettles

The nettle family, the urticaceae, includes more than 30 species. The large stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) grows to a height of 60 cm to 150 cm and is special from a botanical point of view: It is a so-called dioecious plant, ie it only has male or female flowers. The small stinging nettle (Urtica urens) only grows to a height of 15 cm to 45 cm and each plant has female and male parts combined in the flower.

The genus name Urtica comes from the Latin “urere”, which means “to burn”, dioica means “dioecious”. Both species are found all over the world in temperate zones. The small stinging nettle in particular grows almost everywhere – on paths, fields, meadows, heaps of rubble and in gardens. The plant flowers from spring to late autumn with spikes of small greenish flowers and is collected – flowering or not – from May to the end of July.

Stems and leaves are covered with stinging hairs, the spherical tips of which break off when the fresh plant is touched. The ingredients (formic acid and pro-inflammatory substances) are released into the skin and trigger the typical burning sensation and wheal formation. Because of this effect, the nettle has given its name to an allergic reaction of the skin:  hives  or urticaria.

Nettles for bladder and kidneys

In medicine, the plant parts of the large stinging nettle are mainly used. The preparations made from the leaves and the herb have a slightly diuretic effect, which is attributed to the high content of minerals, especially  potassium . Therefore, tea preparations made from nettle leaves and herbs are suitable as a water-excreting agent (diuretic) for flushing out inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and kidney gravel formation.

Nettles against rheumatism

The nettle owes its healing effect on rheumatism and inflammatory joint diseases to its content of caffeomalic acid and unsaturated fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Standardized finished preparations are often of higher quality than the loose tea drug. Because the herb is often mixed with stem pieces that contain fewer ingredients. Nettle extract is well tolerated and can also be taken long-term to support anti-rheumatic treatment.

Nettle for treating the prostate

The root of the stinging nettle is suitable for treating symptoms associated with the onset of benign  prostate enlargement . It is unclear which ingredients are effective here: fatty acids, phytosterones or Lekine. In most cases, finished medicinal products with the same active ingredient content are used. However, these only remedy the symptoms, not the enlargement of the  prostate  itself. Regular visits to the doctor are therefore important.

Preparation of nettle tea

Nettle tea helps to prevent and supportively treat bladder infections and kidney semolina. Pour 150 ml of hot water over 3 to 4 teaspoons of nettle herb or leaves (approx. 4 g) and strain through a tea strainer after 10 minutes. Drink a cup of freshly brewed  tea three to four times a day  . In general, if you have problems with the urinary tract, you should ensure you drink plenty of fluids. But be careful: Patients with heart or kidney weakness or water retention in the tissue may only drink a limited amount of liquid!


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