Nettle commonly grows in backyards and gardens, but did you know that this backyard weed can also have profound benefits for your body? In fact, nettle is a very popular herbal medicine in many parts of the world. Here’s one way to reap its benefits: use nettle oil. Discover the uses of this lesser-known but equally versatile herbal oil.
What Is Nettle Oil?
Nettle oil or nettle extract comes from Urtica Dioica,1 a coarse, creeping, fibrous perennial plant from the Urticaceae plant family.2 Nettle, also known as hemp nettle, white nettle, or devil’s leaf, is native to Eurasia, but now grows wild across the US and other parts of the globe. It can be found in temperate regions, from Japan to the Andes Mountains.3
Nettle can be identified by its yellow roots, small green flowers, and ovate, pointed leaves covered with bristly stinging hair – hence, it’s more popular nickname, “stinging nettle.” In fact, the common name “nettle” actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “noedl,” which means "needle." Its hairy, erect, single stalks grow in clusters, giving it a bushy appearance. The plant can grow as tall as four feet (1.2 meters).
Nettle has a long history of use as food and medicine. The stem’s tough fibers are also used to make cloth.4 However, don’t be so quick to touch it – the fine hairs all over the plant release irritating chemicals when they come in contact with the skin, and can be painful. Here’s what’s unique about this plant, though: if the hairs comes in contact with a part of your body that’s in pain, the original pain can decrease. Scientists believe this is because nettle reduces the levels of inflammatory chemicals in your body and interferes with how your body transmits pain signals.5
Nettle oil is usually extracted from the dried leaves of the plant. Once it has been cooked or dried, the stinging properties of the fine hairs disappear. Nettle oil is commonly added to many personal care products, such as soap and hair conditioner. It can also be taken in capsule form.
Uses of Nettle Oil
Nettle has been used for over 2,000 years to stop all kinds of internal and external bleeding. Many healers also considered it a good blood purifier. Nettle can be taken as a tea, to help clear mucus congestion, skin irritation, diarrhea, and water retention.6
Meanwhile, you can use nettle oil by:7
- Adding it to your shampoo and other hair products. Nettle-infused shampoos and conditioners not only promote healthy hair growth, but can also help control oil production. Massage it onto your hair and leave it on your scalp for a minute or two before rinsing it out. You can also deep condition your hair with it – leave the conditioner on your hair and scalp overnight, and cover with a shower cap. Wash it out thoroughly in the morning.
- Adding a few drops on your soap. Nettle oil mixed with soap can help clear up skin redness and irritation. It also helps moisturize dry skin.
- Mixing it with a safe carrier oil and massage on your skin. This can help reduce wrinkles and stop new ones from forming.
- Taking it in capsule form. Nettle oil, when taken orally, works a diuretic and detoxifies the kidneys. It can also help fight prostate issues, gout, and even allergies.
Composition of Nettle Oil
The fresh leaves from where nettle oil is extracted contains a wide range of constituents, including plant sterols, flavonal glycosides like quercetin, carotenoids, carbonic and formic acids, vitamins (B, C, and K), and minerals, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. Meanwhile, the stinging hairs contain acetylcholine, histamine, formic acid, and serotonin.8
Nettle oil is also rich in chlorophyll, iron, silica, and other nutrients.
Benefits of Nettle Oil
Stinging nettle is a useful herbal remedy, and is considered one of nature’s best nutraceuticals because it contains protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, D, and B complex.9 It also has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-rheumatic, anti-convulsant, antihistamine, astringent, and hypotensive properties. These beneficial effects are passed on to the essential oil as well.
People who suffer from rheumatism, arthritis, and osteoporosis can benefit from nettle oil. It can also be used to help heal skin abrasions and burn quickly.
Nettle and nettle oil can also have immune-boosting benefits. It also contains chemicals that can help alleviate pain by interfering with the way nerves send pain signals. It may also enhance responses of the immune system. Chemicals in nettle's aerial parts are also thought to reduce the feeling of pain or interfere with the way that nerves send pain signals. All of these effects may reduce the pain and stiffness of arthritis and other similar conditions.
Other potential uses for nettle oil are for treating anemia, excessive menstruation, hemorrhoids, and eczema.
How to Make Nettle Oil
Nettle oil can be quite expensive, and may not be found in most local stores.10 However, you can make a simple nettle oil infusion at home. Here’s a step by step procedure from eHow.11
1 cup dried nettle leaves
Clean glass jar with tight-fitting lid
1 quart water
Note: If you’re harvesting fresh nettle, make sure you wear gloves to avoid being stung by the needle-liked hairs.
- Crush a cup of dried nettle leaves, and the place them in a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Boil a quart of water in a pot. Once it has boiled, pour it over the crushed nettle leaves. Screw back the jar lid tightly.
- Let the nettle leaves steep in the water for 4 to 10 hours. The jar must be kept at room temperature, in a shelf or a counter.
- Strain the crushed leaves and remove the liquid from it. Dispose of the plant material. Use the nettle oil infusion immediately, or store it in your refrigerator. It can stay fresh for up to three days.
Another alternative is to simply infuse the fresh nettle leaves and stems in a safe carrier oil. Put them in a glass container and cover with olive oil or coconut oil. Seal on the lid tightly, and leave it on a sunny windowsill for two to three weeks. It is stirred daily. Afterwards, strained the mixture through a cheesecloth. Store the oil in a dark glass container, and keep away from sunlight.
How Does Nettle Oil Work?
Nettle and nettle oil contain biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation, which may be responsible for its many healing properties. When taken orally, products or extracts made from nettle’s aerial parts may also help interfere with the body’s production of prostaglandin, as well as other inflammation-causing chemicals. 12 Nettle also blocks the conversion of testosterone into DHT (male hormone) in your body, which can lead to hair loss in both men and women.13
Please remember to consult a qualified physician prior to using nettle or nettle oil, especially when taking it orally.
Is Nettle Oil Safe?
Yes, it is. However, if you suffer from any allergy or sensitivity to nettle or plants in the same family, it’s better if you avoid using nettle oil, whether topically or orally.14 It is also advisable to avoid using nettle oil at full strength, and instead to dilute it in a safe carrier oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil.
To ensure that you will not experience any allergic reaction to nettle oil, do a skin patch test before using the oil. It’s pretty basic: just apply a drop of nettle oil
on your arm. If any itchiness or reaction occurs, avoid using the oil. I do not recommend it for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms, as there are no studies that guarantee its safety for these conditions.
Side Effects of Nettle Oil
Stinging nettle and its essential oil (when ingested) may result in mild side effects, such as rashes, stomach upset, and fluid retention. It may also interact with other drugs and treatments, so consult your healthcare practitioner before using it,15 particularly if you’re suffering from any type of ailment.
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