While the nettle plant is well known for its stinging hairs, the root of the nettle plant is used in many herbal remedies under the name nettle root extract, stinging nettle extract or nettle oil. Herbal remedies for cough suppression, hair loss and prostate health often contain the extract of the nettle root. Other parts of the nettle plant are also used as remedies, including the leaves or the stinging hairs. Nettle leaves have been used topically as an astringent, and stinging hairs have been used to treat skin conditions and relieve the pain of arthritis. While the nettle plant has been used in these various forms as an herbal remedy for centuries, recent medical studies have verified the effectiveness of this extract only as a diuretic.
Many modern herbal remedies contain medicinal nettle root extract. Nettle root tea commonly is used as an expectorant to relieve coughing or asthma symptoms. Nettle root capsules have also been used to reduce symptoms of hay fever, and nettle root may be used as a mild antihistamine, though these effects have not yet been proven conclusively. Nettle root is also an ingredient in topical treatments for hair loss, though these claims also have not been proven by clinical studies. The extract is sold in pills or tinctures taken internally as a diuretic and to improve prostate health.
There are many herbal remedies for weight loss and prostate health on the market that contain nettle root extract because of its diuretic properties. The claims that medicinal nettle extract may relieve symptoms of an enlarged prostate have been substantiated by some medical studies. The diuretic properties of this extract increase the flow of urine and may inhibit the growth of some prostate cells, although studies did not prove that nettle extract shrinks an already enlarged prostate. Stinging nettle extract, in combination with other herbs such as saw palmetto, is recommended as a dietary supplement in early cases of prostate enlargement for this reason.
Young nettle plants are also edible, and the culinary uses of nettle provide nutrients important for health. Like other leafy green plants such as spinach, nettle leaves are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, iron and potassium. These important nutrients may have been one of the reasons nettles were historically brewed into herbal tonics for the treatment of anemia and detoxification. Nettle leaves are also high in the green plant pigment chlorophyll, and the pigment can be easily extracted for commercial use.