Urtica dioica

 

Urtica dioica

Synonyms

No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Ortiga, Common Nettle, Nettle, Stinging Nettle, Gerrais, Big String Nettle, Urtiga, Ortie.

Description

Urtica dioica is an herbaceous perennial of the family Urticaceae.  During the summer, U. dioica can grow up to measures 2m in height before shrinking to ground level in the winter.  Each plant exhibits stoloniferous growth, so what appears to be numerous plants tends to be just one.  The stem of U. dioica is four-sided, and covered in small, erect and very sharp pubescence.  Along with the stem, the leaves of U. dioica are also covered in these hairs which, when touched easily pierce the skin of most animals.  When touched, the small spines break off of the plant and release certain chemicals, which intensify the painful reaction.  The leaves are lanceolate and grow opposite one another on the spiny stem.  Each leaf can grow to a length of up to 15cm.  The flowers of U. dioica are found hanging in clusters from the upper leaf axils.  The flowers are small, yellow and inconspicuous.  Each flower is no more than 2mm in width and has four small petals.

Origin / Habitat

U. dioica is native to Europe and now grows as a weed throughout North and South America.   This plant grows in damp areas such as riverbeds, in swamps but can also be found in pastures, orchards and neglected land.  This plant can grow in partial to full sunlight and thrives in a variety of soils, making it quite adaptable.

Chemical Constituents

Flavonoid glycosides, lignan glycosides, beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols, formic acid, histamine, chlorophyll, and acetylcholine [1] [2].

Plant Part Used

Root, Leaf [3].

Traditional Use

Traditional use of U. dioica includes both oral and topical administration.   Topically it has been used to treat conditions such as sciatica, skin and joint inflammation and wounds. Internal applications have included treatments for fluid retention, difficulty urinating, menstrual disorders, asthma, allergic reactions, sinusitis and intestinal inflammation.  It has also been used traditionally and is currently used to treat prostate inflammation [3] [4].

Pharmacology

Pre-clinical

U. dioica root is reported to inhibit sex hormone binding globulin, which has an effect on the androgenic receptors of the prostatic cytosol and inhibits the effects of estrogen [5] [6]. U. dioica root is also claimed to influence the binding of 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone with its receptors [7] [8].The leaf is used to increase the excretion of uric acid from the kidneys and to mobilise its removal from joints [9] [10].

Clinical

A randomised, double-blind study of 92 individuals reported that a freeze-dried preparation of U. dioica leaf was superior to placebo in relieving the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (itching, watery eyes, runny nose) [11].

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

No known toxicity in recommended dosages [12].

Contact with the plant in mature form can induce hives.

Pregnancy

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Read More

  1)  Medicinal Herbs

References

  1. Chaurasia N, et al. Flavonolgykoside aus Urtica dioica. Planta Medica. 1987;53:432-433.
  2. Galelli A, et al. Urtica dioica Agglutinin. A Superantigenic Lectin from Stinging Nettle Rhizome. J Immunol. 1993;151(4):1821.
  3. Taylor L. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:  A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinals. New York: Square One Publishers;2005.259.
  4. Duke JA. Medicinal Plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis;2009.721.
  5. Hryb DJ, et al. The Effect of Extracts of the Roots of the Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) on the Interaction of SHBG with Its Receptor on Human Prostatic Membranes. Planta Med.1995;61(1):31-32.
  6. Gansser D, et al. Plant Constituents Interfering with Human Sex Hormone-binding Globulin. Evaluation of a Test Method and Its Application to Urtica dioica Root Extracts. Z Naturforsch.[C]. 1995;50(1-2):98-104.
  7. Sokeland J, et al. Combination of Sabal and Urtica Extract vs. Finasteride in Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (Aiken Stages I to II). Comparison of Therapeutic Effectiveness in a One Year Double-Blind Study. Urologe A. Jul1997;36(4):327-333.
  8. Vahlensieck W,Jr. et al. Drug Therapy of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Fortschr Med. Nov1996;114(31):407-411.
  9. Ignat'ev MV. Stinging Nettle. Med Sestra. 1988;47(1):31-32.
  10. Obertreis B, et al. Anti-inflammatory Effect of Urtica dioica folia Extract in Comparison to Caffeic Malic Acid. Arzneim-Forsch/Drug Res. Jan1996;46(1):52-56.
  11. Mittman P. Randomized, Double-blind Study of Freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis. Planta Med. Feb1990;56(1):44-47.
  12. Wichtl M, in Bisset NA, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Scientific Press; 1994:508-509.