Stinging nettle grows wild in temperate regions throughout the world. This dark green nutritive herb has an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, but the leaves and stems have tiny hairs coated in an irritating substance. Accidental contact can result in a painful rash that lasts for hours. Nevertheless, the entire plant serves as a food and has medicinal purposes -- soaking nettles in water for ten minutes removes the irritants. The nettles can be added to a variety of foods and dishes as fresh leaves, while dried nettle is steeped in water for tea or crushed into powder for capsules.
Nettle root helps maintain urinary tract health or relieve the prostate swelling and discomfort associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia or BHP. Nettle reduces prostate swelling by interrupting the conversion of testosterone into estrogen and increasing levels of free testosterone in the bloodstream. The diuretic effects of nettle assist in flushing out the bladder and urinary tract to prevent infection and kidney stones.
Dried nettle leaves mixed in a tincture or cream can treat acne and other blemishes by reducing oil on the skin without scarring. The astringent properties of nettle treat eczema, insect bites, and chicken pox. A nettle oil or poultice applied to burns can relieve pain and stimulate healing while minimizing scar tissue.
Amino acids form protein, and the human body needs 20 amino acids to function properly. The body cannot produce the nine amino acids classified as essential, so they must come from food. Essential amino acids assist with energy production, immune system function, digestion, reproduction, and much more. Nettles are an excellent source of all nine essential amino acids.
Nettle leaf poultices and essential oils relieve arthritis pain when applied topically at the joint. Oral consumption of capsules or tea also reduces arthritis and lower back pain. Nettles reduce inflammation by interfering with the production of cytokines -- hormones and proteins the body can produce in excess. Anti-inflammatory properties relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders such as gout, bursitis, and tendonitis, and enhance the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory medications.
The calcium and iron in nettle leaves increase production and flow of breast milk and increases the new mother's energy after giving birth. The plant's diuretic properties are also helpful during menstruation or in the months following pregnancy and delivery. Nettle has a stabilizing effect on hormone production, helping to ease the effects of fluctuating hormones before and after menstruation or pregnancy. Nettle tea contains potassium and often relieves muscle cramps or discomfort during menstruation.
Nettle lowers blood pressure by increasing the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, so they are wider, thus reducing pressure. Styptic properties of nettle encourage platelet aggregation to slow or stop localized bleeding and nosebleeds. Nettles have very high concentrations of vitamin C and iron for stimulating red blood cell production, which can treat anemia. The potassium contained in nettles is essential for healthy function of the cardiovascular system and the sodium-potassium pump process within cells that produces energy. Nettle tea often relieves muscle cramps or discomfort during menstruation.
Nettle lowers blood sugar and augments insulin and oral medications that treat diabetes in a variety of ways. The leaves stimulate insulin production by protecting and encouraging the growth of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. There is some evidence of increased insulin sensitivity associated with nettle supplements, and some studies observed slower digestion of carbohydrates. This former activity gives the body time to secrete insulin and break down sugars properly.
Nettle contains histamine as well as two neurotransmitters -- serotonin and acetylcholine. The combination of these three substances with the anti-inflammatory properties of nettles results in effective allergy relief. The best way to get this benefit is to take freeze-dried powders in capsules or steeped in hot tea. Nettles relieve symptoms such as watery eyes, sneezing, sinus congestion, and a runny nose without causing drowsiness or other typical side effects of antihistamine medications.
Taking nettle capsules and tea internally can prevent hair loss and stimulate growth at hair follicles. Massaging the scalp with nettle oil is an effective treatment for dandruff. The silica and sulfur in nettles promote shiny, healthy hair and may preserve pigmentation. When used as a regular rinse with cool water, this can reduce the appearance of gray hair.
The nettle plant contains flavonoids, carotenoids, and several vitamins that act as antioxidants, which strengthen immune cells and stimulate T-cell activity in the immune system. The extensive variety of vitamins and minerals in nettles provides important components for immune system function that can be ingested easily through a daily cup of tea or freeze-dried powder capsules. Calcium, magnesium, and iron combined with vitamins D and K strengthen bones and teeth while enhancing clotting factors in the blood. Many compounds in the nettle plant increase free radicals, which protect and extend the life of cells in the immune system and throughout the body.
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