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Nutritional and therapeutic efficacy of Stinging Nettle-A review

Authors:

Abstract

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.; family Urticaceae) is widely used species by traditional societies in temperate and tropical Asia, Europe, northern America and northern Africa. Based on literature search this paper aims to evaluate efficacy of stinging nettle concerning to ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and other ethnobotanical uses. As food the species has nutritional and immunity modulating benefits. It has shown positive applicability for treating various ailments, such as BPH, diabetes, anemia, asthma, blood pressure, kidney problem, cancer, etc.; although these claims are based on different doses, nettle type and duration of intervention, and at times results have some inconsistency. As future prospects there is a need to take-up more coordinated researches and validation studies so that applicability of nettle could be established properly against various diseases. Also, proper quality control as well as toxicological investigations is required to guarantee the stability and safety of the clinical uses. The study however highlights that stinging nettle is characterized by considerable dietary and health-maintaining qualities and has strong potential for food and therapeutic purposes. Citation: Pant V., Sundriyal R.C.*, 2016. Nutritional and therapeutic efficacy of Stinging Nettle-A review.
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The Journal of Ethnobiology and Traditional Medicine. Photon 126 (2016) 1240-1254
https://sites.google.com/site/photonfoundationorganization/home/the-journal-of-free-radicals-and-antioxidants
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The Journal of Ethnobiology and Traditional Medicine Ph ton
Nutritional and therapeutic efficacy of Stinging Nettle- A review
Vasudha Pant
a
, R.C. Sundriyal
b
*
a
Kranti Kutir, Poorvi Pokharkhali, Almora-263643, Uttarakhand, India
b
G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development, Kosi-Kataramal, Almora-
263643, Uttarakhand, India
Article history:
Received: 11 July, 2016
Accepted: 19 July, 2016
Available online: 14 September, 2016
Keywords:
Nutrients, minerals, vitamins, food and nutritional supplement,
health benefits, future applications
Corresponding Author:
Sundriyal, R.C.*
Senior Scientist & Group Head
Email: sundriyalrc ( at ) yahoo ( dot ) com
Abstract
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.; family Urticaceae) is
widely used species by traditional societies in temperate
and tropical Asia, Europe, northern America and
northern Africa. Based on literature search this paper
aims to evaluate efficacy of stinging nettle concerning to
ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry, pharmacology,
toxicology and other ethnobotanical uses. As food the
species has nutritional and immunity modulating
benefits. It has shown positive applicability for treating
various ailments, such as BPH, diabetes, anemia, asthma,
blood pressure, kidney problem, cancer, etc.; although
these claims are based on different doses, nettle type and
duration of intervention, and at times results have some
inconsistency. As future prospects there is a need to take-
up more coordinated researches and validation studies so
that applicability of nettle could be established properly
against various diseases. Also, proper quality control as
well as toxicological investigations is required to
guarantee the stability and safety of the clinical uses. The
study however highlights that stinging nettle is
characterized by considerable dietary and health-
maintaining qualities and has strong potential for food
and therapeutic purposes.
Citation:
Pant V., Sundriyal R.C.*, 2016. Nutritional and therapeutic
efficacy of Stinging Nettle- A review. The Journal of
Ethnobiology and Traditional Medicine. Photon 126, 1240-1254
All Rights Reserved with Photon.
Photon Ignitor: ISJN66423194D841314092016
1. Introduction
1.1 Context
It is estimated that there are around 250000 to
300000 known plant species on the globe, however
only 150 to 200 are used as food by human
(FAO,
1999a). Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is
generated from only 12 plants and five animal
species. Rice, maize and wheat collectively
contribute nearly 60 percent of calories and
proteins obtained by humans from plants. Contrary
to this since the 1900s some 75 percent of plant
genetic diversity has been lost as farmers have
switched over to genetically uniform high-yielding
varieties in place of local varieties and landraces
(FAO, 1999b). With the ever increasing population
and fast depletion of plant resources it has now
become necessary that due attention is paid to
explore new plant resource that has nutritional and
health benefits in order to meet the growing needs
of the human society (European Commission,
2011). The challenge is not only to feed world
population but also ensure them with nutritionally
rich and healthy food as improved nutrition has
high impact on society as it leads to better health
which would further lead to increased economic
growth (Floros et al., 2010). Considering that
deficiency of vitamin A, iron and iodine are most
common public health problems there are many
lesser known species in local diets that are rich in
nutrients, metabolites, antioxidants,
phytochemicals that regulate biological processes
for preventing and controlling diseases (Sundriyal
and Sundriyal, 2001). Often the species consumed
in large quantities are most explored and
investigated in food and nutrition science, and
limited consideration is given to lesser known but
otherwise highly potential species. There is need to
create awareness among people about locally
consumed species that form an important part of
local diets.
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1.2 Justification of Research
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) is one such
species that is found widely in temperate and
tropical Asia, Europe, northern America and
northern Africa and consumed by traditional
societies. The species has been a subject of recent
scientific interest and product development all over
due to its traditional usage as food, fibre and
medicine. As such there are over hundred reported
uses of stinging nettle (Srutek and Teckelmann,
1998; Warren, 2006; Anonymous, 2007; Bisht et
al., 2012; Namazi et al., 2012a). However limited
efforts have been made to synthesize such
information that can lead to devise future line of
action regarding this potential species. This article
fulfils such gap, it synthesizes information related
to food and pharmacological values along with
other uses of nettle. It is expected that the article
would draw sufficient attention from scientific
community for a planned research on this species
in near future. Also, it would raise more awareness
among planners and policy makers to devise
policies that can exploit the species commercially
in areas where it grows naturally in abundance,
such as the Himalayan region and other areas. If
properly researched, every part of the nettle plant
(leaves, root, seed, stem) could be utilized for the
benefit of people and environment. This paper
explores ethnopharmacology context of stinging
nettle by covering its multicontextual uses
comprising food and medicinal value along with
the discourse on disease prevention and treatment.
It aims to review and interpret up-to-date and
comprehensive information regarding nutrition and
health benefits, ethnopharmacology,
phytochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and
diverse other ethnobotnaical uses of stinging nettle
and significance of various claims regarding this
species. An important aspect of the review is to
generate awareness regarding potential of nettle
among masses, scientists and policy makers so that
the species is used for improving socioeconomic
status of rural communities. It is expected that the
information on this lesser known species will draw
attention of researches, industry, agronomists,
agriculturalists and policy planners for taking up
R&D, and to devise sustainable use and
management strategies in near future.
1.3 Work plan for the study
Selection of Stinging Nettle for the study was done
considering its diverse facets. The available
scientific literature indicates that plant has
significant potential. The species is used commonly
by native rural communities in areas where it
grows naturally, and exhibits socioeconomic and
environmental benefits. It has wide geographic
distribution range, population size and phenotypic
plasticity. An assessment of Himalayan region
revealed that there has been hardly any change in
the species availability in past 4-5 decades. It is
also considered as a prospective species for climate
adaptation and stress tolerance. Other than the food
and fibre usage the species is found nutritionally
rich and medicinally suitable for curing many
diseases. Besides, it has positive role in
maintaining soil fertility and nutrient recycling. It
is easy to propagate the species by seeds as well as
vegetative means, and the genetic selection can be
made based on fast growth, soil recovery, range of
products to be made from this plant. Thus stinging
nettle has significant commercial implications; its
promotion can bring significant benefit to rural
communities, also it would be equally
advantageous environment. Considering such
potential of the species, a detailed work plan was
prepared to investigate available scientific
information on the stinging nettle using several
resources, viz. scientific journals, technical reports,
books, proceedings, papers and documents
published with relation to its ethnobotanical
relevance, ethnopharmacological usage,
phytochemical status and pharmacological
significance. Data were also collected with relation
to other relevance of the species. In comparison to
earlier reports it has more updated information that
covers available literature till March 2015. Based
on the detailed review some conclusions have been
drawn along with the future perspectives of
research and its possible uses.
2. Description of Stinging nettle
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) belongs to the
family Urticaceae, the plant is a native to temperate
and tropical Asia, Europe, northern America and
northern Africa. Worldwide the Nettle family
comprises 45 genera and 700-1000 species
(Walters and Keil, 1996). Urtica dioica is a
perennial herb that grows commonly in waste
lands, gardens, farmers field (as weed), as hedges
in terraced fields. It is distributed between 1200 to
3000 m in Himalaya from Jammu & Kashmir to
Arunachal Pradesh (Wealth of India 1998).
Commonly called as Nettle, Common nettle or
Stinging nettle, all over the world Urtica dioica is
known with the different names. In the rest of the
text ‘nettle’ will be used in place of Urtica dioca.
The plant reaches up to 2 m height and comprised
opposite and heart shaped finely-toothed leaves
(Graphical abstract- photo 1). The plant is called
Stinging Nettle because its leaves and stems
comprised hairs (trichomes) filled with a fluid that
give severe sting when it comes in contact of body
(Graphical abstract- photo 2). The trichome
consists of 1 to 8 mm long elongate cell with a
multicellular pedestal (Thurston, 1974). The
composition of the fluid in trichomes comprised
formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, moroidin,
leukotrienes and serotonin, and on touching it
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enters in human body thus causes irritation
(Casarett et al., 2008), which may last for more
than 12 hrs (Oliver et al., 1991). This property of
fluid is dissipated when plant is heated or cooked,
thus enable tender shoots and leaves to be eaten as
fresh or dry. During July to September small,
greenish-white female flowers appear in clusters at
leaf axils; male flowers appear on different plants
as groups of diagonally upright strands at the top of
the plant (Graphical abstract- photo 3). The seeds
are small enclosed in the dried sepals. In the
Himalayan region Nettle is consumed all over,
however broadly considered poor-man’s food
despite of its high nutritional and medicinal values.
The species also provide fibre and also used for
making some items (Graphical abstract- photo 4-6).
The nettle has been a subject of R&D investigation
for past few decades in view of its versatile utility.
Some important usage as validated by the scientific
investigation are being provided in subsequent
paragraphs under different sub-headings.
3. Efficacy of Stinging nettle
3.1 Ethnobotanical importance
Use of stinging nettle as vegetable is dating back to
the Ist century AD (Wetherilt, 1992, 2003). The
young leaves and tender shoots are cooked as green
leafy vegetable after blanching; it is also described
eaten raw or included in omelets, soup and various
dishes (Wetherilt, 2003; Menendez-Baceta et al.,
2012). The plant is reported as a rich source of
vitamin C, protein and minerals (iron, calcium,
magnesium); also provides vitamin A, B1, B2, E
and K along with a rich source of many trace
elements (Cu, Zn, Mn and Co) and fibre (Adamshi
and Biegenska, 1984; Wetherilt 1992; Sundriyal
and Sundriyal, 2001; Warren 2006, Biesiada, et al.,
2009; Krystofova et al., 2010; Kowol, et al., 2011;
Biesiada, et al., 2010; Rafajlovska et al., 2013).
High proteins (26%) and calcium (5.09%) in
leaves, stem and root make it a good source of
nourishment (Rafajlovska et al., 2013).
Interestingly the quantities of elements found in its
leaves, stem and root do not exceed of health
hazards and toxicological limits. When comparing
to spinach and parsley, the leaves of nettle
comprise as much as double protein (Wetherilt,
1992). The Himalayan nettle comprised nutrient
content higher than the cultivated green leafy
vegetables of spinach and rayi (Saklani and
Chandra, 2012). Nettle has higher concentrations of
essential amino acids than Brussels sprouts
(Lisiewska et al., 2009) that mainly comprise
threonine, valine, isoleucine, leucine,
phenylalanine, and lysine, along with lower
concentrations of histidine and methionine
(Wetherilt, 1992; Rutto et al., 2013). In view of
high lysine and protein content, nettle can be
considered better than other green vegetables
(Wetherilt, 1992). On dry weight basis, nettle leaf
is considered better source of essential amino acids
than almond; it is also comparable to common bean
(Phaseolus vulgaris) and chicken (Gallus gallus)
(FAO, 1970 as cited in Rutto et al., 2013). As
lysine is a limiting amino acid in wheat, a diet
supplement with nettle can provide better
nutritional balance in traditional staple diet. Nettle
leaf flour in bread, pasta, and noodles can make it a
protein-rich supplement. Stinging nettle also
provide significant quantities of oleic (18:1),
linoleic (18:2) and -linoleic (18:3) acids and is a
good source of unsaturated fatty acids (Rutto et al.,
2013). High levels of linoleic and -linoleic acids
are found in young and mature leaves and the
presence of relatively high concentrations of the
same oils in nettle are found in the seeds, stem, and
root portions. As the yield of edible part of nettle
varies over the seasons, the blanching and cooking
has a minimal impact on the fatty acid composition
of nettle, implying that it can be a good source of
essential fatty acids when eaten as a leafy vegetable
(Rutto et al., 2013). Nine carotenoids are also
identified in the leaves (Guil-Guerrero et al., 2003).
Also, the properties of phenolic compounds in the
leaves, stalks, and fibers have been reported
(Gulcin et al., 2013; Pinelli et al., 2008). Processed
nettle can supply 80–100% of Vitamin A (as ß-
carotene) (Rutto et al., 2013). Nettle tea made from
fresh or dried leaves, sweeten with honey or sugar
is considered good in taste that also comprised
mineral contents (Ozcan et al., 2008) and trace
elements (Kara, 2009). To make food more
appetizing, nettle leaves can be used fresh, dried or
powdered. Apart from using as a green vegetable,
nettle can also be used as soup and as seasoning
material with multiple dishes like pizzas, pastas,
puddings, bread, etc. (Warren, 2006).
Most of livestock do not consume fresh nettle,
except buffalo. However it is considered nutritious
fodder in dried form that can be mixed with other
hay and fed to animals; such combination are
considered beneficial to increase body weight and
meat quality (Hanczakowska et al., 2007; Khosravi,
et al., 2008; Kwiecien and Mieczan, 2009). Use of
nettle by broilers during the rearing period at a dose
of 1% is found as growth promoters (Safamehr et
al., 2012), that also enhances histological features
of immune structures in caecal tonsils.
Enhancement of immune potential of this lymphoid
organ may be beneficial in prevention of related
diseases and/or reduction of mortality rates
(Hamedi et al., 2015). Adding dry powder of nettle
in the diets of laying hens significantly increases
egg production, (Mansoub, 2011a) and lowers the
total cholesterol and triglycerides concentration
(Mansoub, 2011b).
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3.2 Ethnopharmacological application
Nettle has been used for centuries in various folk
medicine systems in China, Persia, Turkey, Russia,
India and various other countries to cure humans
and animals. For treatments it is used as extract
(juice), in dried form, as tincture, ointment and/or
as a supplement. It is used to treat allergies, kidney
stones, burns, anemia, rashes, internal bleeding,
diabetes, etc. It is used for the treatment of eczema,
rheumatism and inflammation in traditional herbal
medicine in China (Wang and Wei, 2001), and in
Anatolia (Hayta et al., 2014). In Turkish folk
medicine, it has been used to treat rheumatic pain,
colds and cough (Sezik et al., 1997) and against
liver insufficiency (Yesilada et al., 1993). Its seeds
fixed oil is used to treat rheumatism (Baytop, 1999;
Pamuk, 1998). One of the notable anecdotal
benefits of nettle is the application of fresh nettle
on student's back to improve learning ability
(Komeyev, 2005). In ancient Persian medicine
system it has been used in anti turgid treatment
(Zargari, 1994). In the Russian folk medicine the
root powder and seed of Urtica dioica used against
dropsy, diarrhoea and worms as reported by the
Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC
2012: 4-9). The species is also used in oriental
Marocco, Lithuania, and African folk medicine
systems. In Morroco, nettle stalk and leaves are
used to treat diabetes and hypertension; and as
antirheumatic, astringent, diuretic, antidiuretic, and
cholagogue (Ziyyat et al., 1997). The whole plant is
used as a diuretic, anti-hypertensive, anti-diabetic,
hemostatic, anti-asthenia, antianemic,
antispasmodic, antirheumatic and as a remedy for
headaches and chills (Bnouham et al., 2002;
Hmamouchi 1999). Nettle seeds are administered
orally for their aphrodisiac and galactagogue
effects as well as against tuberculosis and kidney
stones (Bellakhdar, 1997). In Italy it is reported to
be used as a household remedy for gastrointestinal
and rheumatic pains (Guarrera, 2005). A complied
information on nettle’s use in Complimentary and
Alternative Medicines reported that Greek
physicians used nettle leaf useful in asthma,
pleurisy, and for the treatment of spleen-related
illness; in traditional African medicine it is used for
cure nosebleeds, excessive menstruation, and
internal bleeding; in German homeopathy for
treatment of urticaria, herpes, eczema,
hypersensitivity reactions in the skin and joints,
and burns; in North America as anti rheumatic drug
and gynecological aid; and in Indian Ayurvedic
Pharmacopoeia for uterine hemorrhage, cutaneous
eruptions, eczema, and nosebleed (Gemeinhardt,
2011). In USA it is generally taken as a component
of wide range of food supplements. One
preliminary human study suggests that nettle
capsules helped reduce sneezing and itching in
people with hay fever (Ehlrich, 2011). It is used as
a diuretic, as a nutritive tonic and as supportive
therapy to help relieve rheumatic complaints and
allergy symptoms (Hoffmann, 2003; Tilgner,
1999). Root is used to help reduce difficulty in
urination associated with the early stages of benign
prostatic hyperplasia (http://webprod.hc-
sc.gc.ca/nhpidbdipsn/monoReq.do?id=166&lang=e
ng). To cure rheumatism and arthritis in the
Himalayan region the traditional practice of
flogging the affected body part with stinging nettle
shoots is still in practice. Amongst Jaintia tribe,
India fruit and leaf ash of nettle is applied to treat
fever (Jaiswal, 2010). The joint inflammation
caused by the excess uric acid in the blood is
known as gout; and consuming nettles is reported
to increase the excretion of uric acid from the body
and is an effective treatment for gout in herbal
medicine (Sinha, 2015,
http://www.gouttreatmentme.com/nettle-tea-for-
gout/). Other than the joint ailment it has been
found effective in various other diseases, namely
allergies, ulcer and bronchitis, pleurisy, asthma,
colds, sciatica, stress, anemia, depressions and
many more (Warren, 2006). According to Dr
Christopher’s Herbal Legacy ‘Stinging nettle is an
astringent, diuretic, tonic, anodyne, pectoral,
rubefacient, styptic, anthelmintic, nutritive,
alterative, hemetic, anti-rheumatic, anti-allergenic,
anti-lithic/lithotriptic, haemostatic, stimulant,
decongestant, herpatic, febrifuge, kidney
depurative/nephritic, galactagogue, hypoglycemic,
expectorant, anti-spasmodic, and anti-histamine’
(http://www.herballegacy.com/
Dr._Christopher_Formulas.html). Nettle extract has
diuretic, and hypotensive effects (Tahri et al.,
2000).
3.3. Phytochemicals composition
The application of nettle to cure diseases with good
healing properties can be attributed to the presence
of certain phytochemicals, such as flavonoids,
lignans, fatty acids, sterols, polysaccharides,
glycoproteins, carotenoids, plastocyanins, tannins
and lectins (Sajfrtová et al., 2005, Ghaima et al.,
2013). Efforts are being made to identify and
isolate such phtochemicals from different parts of
the plant that has direct effect (Krystofova et al.,
2010). It is reported that nettle comprised
polysaccharides, vitamin C and carotene, beta-
sitosterol, and the flavonoids quercetin, rutin,
kaempferol, and beta-sitosterol (Newall et al.,
1996; Schottner et al., 1997; Konrad et al., 2000).
The leaves comprised diterpene lactone and
Phlogantholide A. Polar extracts of the nettle roots
contain the lignans that have binding affinity to
SHBG in the in vitro assay (Schottner et al., 1997).
Other than the lignans nettle is reported to have
lectins, sterols, phenylpropanes, ceramides,
hydroxyl fatty acids, triterpenes, phenols,
coumarins, fatty acids and carotinoids, flavonoids,
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amines, chlorophylls and carotinoids (Seliya and
Kothiyal, 2014). The main components of essential
oil in nettle are carvacrol (38.2%), carvone (9.0%),
naphthalene (8.9%), (E)anethol (4.7%),
hexahydrofarnesyl acetone (3.0%), (E)geranyl
acetone (2.9%), (E)ionone (2.8%) and phytol
(2.7%) (Gul et al., 2012).
3.4 Pharmacological significance
Considering that all parts of nettle (i.e. leaves,
stem, inflorescence, seeds and roots) are used in
traditional folk medicine system, establishing its
scientific validity for borader utility has been an
important subject of investigation in recent years,
which was taken up on human, and animals
through in vitro and in vivo experimentation (Dar et
al., 2013; Joshi et al., 2014; Seliya and Kothiyal,
2014; Said et al., 2015). The results indicated that
nettle is beneficial to cure rheumatism and arthritis
(Riehemann et al., 1999; Schulze-Tanzil et al.,
2002; Yang et al., 2013). It enhances anti rheumatic
effectiveness and beneficial to patients either in
pain relief and/or disease process modification
(Chrubasic et al., 1997; Obertreis et al., 1996;
Broer and Behenke, 2002; Chrubasic et al., 2007a;
Randall et al., 1999, 2000; De Smet, 2002; Gupta et
al., 2014; Jacquet et al., 2009; Rayburn et al.,
2009). It is reported to be effective in curing
allergies (Roschek et al., 2009; Thornhill and
Kelly, 2000; Helms and Miller, 2006). Its extract
comprised bioactive compounds responsible for
inhibition of pro-inflammatory pathways related to
allergic rhinitis that provide a mechanistic
understanding of its role in reducing allergic and
other inflammatory responses in vitro (Roschek et
al., 2009).
Significant correlations were found among
phenolic phytochemicals and radical scavenging
activity of nettle (Hall and Cuppett, 1997; Mandal
et al., 2009; Biesiada et al., 2010; Khare et al.,
2012, Ghaima et al., 2013). The free radicals are
normally generated during normal body metabolic
function and also can be acquired from the
environment. Use of nettle supplement is
considered to have effective antioxidant role
(Toldy et al., 2005; Kukric et al., 2012), which can
be used to reverse the harmful and pathological
effect of the free radicals (Yanishiera et al., 2006;
Kataki et al., 2010). High content of phenolic
compounds and ascorbic acid are reported in young
leaves of nettle (Ioana et al., 2013). The
hepatoprotective, prophylactic, and anthelmintic
activity of nettle are also determined (Kataki et al.,
2012).
Nettle fruit extracts is reported to protect liver cells
from the negative effects of fluoride (Gutowska et
al., 2014; Juma et al., 2015a, b). It also has liver
regeneration capacity and increases antioxidant
defense in body (Kanter et al., 2003; Oguz et al.,
2013; Kandis et al., 2010). In rats it decreases
hepatotoxic effects of CCl
4
in sixty days (Naz and
Mehboob, 2014) probably by promoting the
antioxidative defense systems (Yener et al., 2009)
thus exhibit potential to cure liver injury (Oguz et
al., 2013). Consumption of nettle leaves reported to
decrease cholesterol levels, enhance the liver
function and regulate blood cholesterol
abnormalities in mice (Daher et al., 2006; Nassiri-
Asl, 2009; Nigam et al., 2014).
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is found
approximately in 50% (age 51–60 years) to 90%
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(age 81–90 years) men (Berry et al., 1984). Nettle
showed positive effect to cure prostrate problem
(Hryb et al., 1995; Lichius and Muth, 1997;
Kornard, 2000; Schneider and Rubben, 2004;
Safarinejad, 2005; Nahata and Dixit, 2012;
Ghorbanibirgani et al., 2013). The aqueous extract
of nettle exhibits potential role in prostate therapy
(Levy et al., 2014), in mice the induced growth
could be reduced by 33.8% by the polysaccharide
fraction (POLY-M) of the 20% methanolic extract
of stinging nettle roots (Lichius et al., 1999). It is
reported to have anti-proliferative effect on
prostatic epithelial cells, which could be a potential
mechanism of action in patients with BPH (Durak
et al., 2004). The nettle root could prevent from
some of prostatic hyperplasia effects, so that
percentage of folded alveoli in ventral lobe reduced
insignificantly (Moradi et al., 2015). Nettle also
forms the part of many herbal medicines that act as
anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, antiviral remedies;
it relieves the symptoms of benign prostatic
hyperplasia due to diverse phytosterol, lignan and
polysaccharide compounds in it with varied level of
success (Wagner et al., 1994; Mills and Bone,
2000; Farahpore et al., 2015). However, despite of
positive results of nettle in the treatment of BPH,
there is some contradictory evidence about its
effectiveness level (Marks et al., 2000; Chrubasic
et al., 2007b). Therefore there is a need to further
verify the claims through proper experimentation.
Hyperandrogenism is considered one of the
common endocrine disorders and cause of
infertility by lack of ovulation; and application of
nettle has shown improvement in women suffering
from such disease (Najafipour et al., 2014). Nettle
extract is also found useful antimicrobial agent that
has the potential for pharmaceutical and food
industry (Lichius and Muth, 1997; Modarresi et al.,
2012; Ghaima et al., 2013). In synthetic condition,
the extract can halt the viral propagation such as
those causing Aids and hepatitis (Chrubasik et al.,
2007 as cited in Lahigi et al., 2012). Its extract has
exhibited promising anti-bacterial activity against
multi-drug resistant strains (Lahigi et al., 2012;
Singh et al., 2012, 2013).
Nettle is a good source of bioactive compounds
justifying its use in folk medicine, to treat various
diseases. Part of the anti inflammatory effect
of nettle extract may be ascribed to its inhibitory
effect on NF-kappa B activation (Riehemann et al.,
1999; Tekin et al., 2009; Dar et al., 2012; Khalili et
al., 2012; Ghaima et al., 2013; Farahpore et al.,
2015). Evidence suggests that adding nettle might
allow for a lower analgesic dose in some patients
(Gagnier et al., 2006). The presence of a relatively
high concentration of flavonoids and caffeic acid
derivatives enriched in the lipophilic fraction of the
this herb suggest mainly anti-inflammatory,
antioxidant and analgesic activities (Schulze-Tanzil
et al., 2002; Chrubasik et al., 2007; Biesiada et al.
2010). The clinical trial of Nettle seed extracts
showed positive results for treatment of renal
dysfunction (Treasure, 2003). Seeds are also
recommended as a restorative kidney tonic for
severe cases of kidney failure (Winston, 2001).
Diabetes mellitus is a serious metabolic disorder
that can cause several functional and
morphological alterations in the central nervous
system (Gispen and Biessels, 2000), and nettle has
positive role in the treatment of diabetes (Mehri et
al., 2011). The aqueous extracts of nettle leaves
show anti diabetic activity by improving the
glycemic status in diabetes induced rats and also
significantly lowering cholesterol levels. There is a
glucose lowering substance in nettle that does not
increase insulin secretion and can be absorbed
through intestinal lumen (Riazi et al., 2007). It is
found effective in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
(Farzami et al., 2003; Golalipour et al., 2006, 2007;
Golalipour and Khori, 2007; Das et al., 2011). It
has a protective effect on the morphometric
alterations of hepatocytes in the periportal and
perivenous zones of the liver lobule in diabetic rats
(Golalipore et al., 2010). However it has no effect
on renal morphometric indices (Golalipore et al.,
2007b). The possible mechanism by which nettle
mediated its antidiabetic effect could be by
improvement of pancreatic secretion of insulin
from existing β cells of islets (Nigam et al., 2014).
Nettle is also used traditionally in treatment and/or
prevention of cardiovascular disease (Namazi et al.,
2012b). In vitro and in vivo studies of the crude
aqueous and methanolic extracts of the nettle plant
roots, as well as purified fractions have produced
hypotensive responses (Testai et al., 2002). Dose
dependent nettle has an anti platelet effect in
experimental rats in which flavonoids is mainly
implicated (El Haouari et al., 2006). However there
is still a need to undertake further experimentation
to strengthen these claims (Golalipore et al., 2011)
as all these claims are based on different doses,
nettle type and duration of intervention. Therefore
further experimentation will help to determine
exact mechanism of action, effects and side effects,
and exact quantity to be taken of U. dioica in
various diseases.
3.5 Side effects and toxicity
Use of herbs is although a time tested approach to
strengthen the body and treating disease; it may
sometime trigger some side effects and can also
interact with other herbs, supplements, or
medications. However, nettle is generally
considered safe if used as prescribed. The
occasional side effects reported for nettle may
comprise mild stomach upset, fluid retention,
sweating, diarrhea, and hives or rash (mainly from
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topical use). It should never be applied to open
wounds (Ehlrich, 2011) despite of its minimal
allergenic significance (Vega-Maray et al., 2006).
There may be miscarriage abortifacient risk of
nettle (De Smet, 2002), therefore lactating mothers
should consult physicians before using its skincare
products (Uslu et al., 2011). Nettle root can cause
gastrointestinal complaints, sweating, and skin
reactions (Heinrich, 2003). Nettle juice can
sometimes cause diarrhea (De Smet, 2002).
Although some recent studies consider nettle to be
safe there are a few reports about the toxic effects
of nettle (Dar et al., 2013). The aqueous extract has
shown some possible abortive and uterine-
stimulant effects when used orally (Bush et al.,
2007). It has been reported to be slightly toxic with
intravenous LD50 of 1310 mg/kg. Its toxicity has
been attributed to the presence of hydro soluble
constituents, (suspected to have a pyran-coumarin
structure), a substance eliminated by boiling
(Baraibar et al., 1983). The risk for adverse events
during nettle root treatment is very low (Chrubasic
et al., 2007a). Standardized nettle extract (at doses
up to 50% concentration) showed no mortality in
mice. There were no toxicity signs and no
noticeable behavioral changes in salivation,
sleeping pattern, diarrhea or lethargy in treating
animals. The LD50 level of the hydroethanolic
extract was found to be 5770 mg/kg in mice
(Farahpore et al., 2015). Toxicity tests showed
higher safety margin of all the solvent extracts with
LC (50) > 1000 µg/mL each on A. salina (Dar et
al., 2013). Oral dose of 1000 mg/kg for 3 days
showed no mortality or behavioural change upto
1000 mg/kg in the albino rats (Nigam et al., 2014).
No cytotoxic effect of 20% methanol extract on
cell proliferation was observed (Konrad et al.,
2000). There were no adverse reactions attributed
to the drug phtalgic containing nettle as a
constituent, other than digestive (flatulence and
diarrhea, fish-smelling eructation) (Jacquet et al.,
2009). However some toxic effects are observed in
horses (Bathe, 1994) and in somatic cells of
Drosophila (Graf et al., 1994). There is need of
more researches on side and toxic effects of nettle
so as to establish it as user friendly.
3.6 Other relevance of stinging nettle
Nettle has been used as a textile for at least 2000
years in Europe, and use of fibers from stinging
nettle to make sail-cloths, sacking, cordage and
fishing nets is done in Europe and America (Bacci
et al., 2009). The plant produces long and strong
fibers similar to that of hemp and flax, which are
soft and flexible; and careful processing can make
it as fine as silk fibre (Wealth of India, 1998).
Cultivated plants produce high fibre content (from
5% to 17%), which can be increased further
through breeding (Bredemann, 1959) (Photo 5-6).
As the search for plants that enable to produce
quality fibre that is produced organically is rising
day-by-day, nettle holds high promises for the
future (Vogl and Hartl, 2003). The development,
cultivation and processing of nettle has become a
topic of research in many countries during 1990s.
A study on the agronomic behavior and
morphological characteristics of 170 provenances
of nettle species showed that promising and
desirable traits, such as frost tolerance, optimum
growth and with high fiber content (long, straight,
stable and unbranched stalks, abundance of leaves
and strong tillering) can be developed through
cross-breeding (Bredemann, 1959). Thus Nettle has
the potential to be used as an alternative to cotton
which is a pesticide intensive crop.
Other than using as fibre Nettle can also be used to
prepare the herbal dye (greenish-yellow), which is
extracted from the leaves, stems and roots
(Kowalchik and Willium, 1998). Mixing of nettle
in compost heap not only adds nutrients but also
accelerates the breakdown of organic matter into
robust humus (Waldin, 2004; Cooper, 2009; Thun,
2010). Water extract of nettle acts as positive
growth stimulating effect on plants as it increase
nitrogen content in treated crops (Peterson and
Jensén, 1988). When mixed with compost, it adds
to quality of manure as being rich source of
nitrogen thus helps to replenish soil
(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/7645974/N
ettles-Bad-guys-come-good.html) and helpful in
promoting organic agriculture. Presence of stinging
nettles in landscapes seems to enhance the density
of aphidophagous insect communities necessary for
aphid biocontrol in field crops (Alhmedi et al.,
2009). Anti bacterial property of the nettle seed
extract has high activity against phytopathogens
(Korpe et al., 2013). These reports clearly indicate
that there are diverse environmental benefits of
nettle; therefore promoting its cultivation on a
commercial basis can prove to be a 'carbon neutral'
business with no waste.
Conclusions and future prospects
In light of long and multiple traditional uses and
recent photochemical and pharmaceutical studies
summarized, U. dioica has demonstrated a strong
potential for food, health-maintaining and
therapeutic purposes. The best edible parts are
young leaves and tender shoots that can be cooked
as green vegetable, soup, or used for seasoning
purposes. Review indicates that in-vitro, in-vivo
and clinical researches are validating its use in
traditional and herbal medicines. As herbal
medicine it is useful to cure rheumatism and
arthritis along with treating allergies, anaemia,
asthma, bronchitis, burns, colds, depressions,
diabetes, internal bleeding, kidney stones, pleurisy,
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rashes, sciatica, stress, etc. with varied level of
claims. The species has antioxidant role, it is
considered to decrease cholesterol levels and cure
prostrate problems, works as anti-inflammatory,
anti-tumor, antiviral and anti microbial. Mixing of
dry nettle leaves in feeds is reported to increase its
quality as well as animal growth. The plant has
other diverse environmental benefits; it produces
long and strong fibres similar to that of hemp and
flax and careful processing can make it as fine as
silk fibre, it is also used to prepare a herbal dye,
addition of Nettle in compost heap adds nutrients
and accelerates breakdown of organic matter in
humus.
As food the plant has nutritional and immunity
modulating benefits, the leaves and tender shoots
are recommended for human consumption as
vegetable, soup and ingredient to various dishes. It
is suggested that more researches are to be done
with relation to protein, minerals, vitamins and
other bioactive compounds in fresh and dried
nettles. Also, there is a need to assess its processing
potential along with the impact of different
processing methods on nutritive qualities of nettle.
Equally important is to know the side effects of the
nettle consumption concerning which very limited
information is available at present. The
pharmaceutical investigations have shown broad
range of applicability of using this herb
independently or in combination for treating
various ailments, such as BPH, diabetes, anemia,
asthma, blood pressure, kidney problem, cancer,
etc.
In Himalayan states though the Nettle grows
abundantly, it has so far not received the required
scientific attention (Saklani and Chandra, 2012).
Use of stinging nettle as vegetable was common in
past in Himalayan region and there is huge genetic
variability of nettle in the region, however in recent
times its use is limited to interior villages
(Sundriyal et al., 2004). It has better prospects for
food, health and therapeutic intents. Besides, the
plant has other diverse environmental benefits;
mixing in feeds it increase animal growth, its long
fibres has promising potential to be used in textiles,
it can be used as herbal dye, and adding in compost
it improve quality of manure. Therefore raising
awareness among rural communities regarding use
of this plant will help them in many ways. The
communities must be educated to use the species as
food as well as to make diverse products from this
species. Despite being environmentally friendly
and free excess natural resource, extraction of
nettle fibre and making clothes from them is a
costly affair at the moment. To make it cost
effective, propagation of species is highly
warranted. With multiple uses nettle can be focused
as high value and low-calorie nutritious food
beneficial to human health, which is a valuable
source of minerals and vitamins in vegetarian and
other specialized diets. In future more researches
are required on all these aspects so that plants could
be used to its fullest potential in the areas where it
grows abundantly. Such efforts would benefit
millions of people, particularly in rural areas.
Research Highlights
In traditional folk system all parts of nettle (i.e.
leaves, stem, inflorescence, seeds and roots) are
used for different purposes, and in recent years
scientific validation for the utility is being
established through experimentation on human,
animals and in vitro and in vivo experimentation.
As food stinging nettle has nutritional and
immunity modulating benefits and it comprised
higher nutrient content than the cultivated green
leafy vegetables, however more researches are
needed to assess protein, minerals, vitamins and
other bioactive compounds in fresh and dried
nettles.
As medicinal plant the species has positive results
for treating BPH, diabetes, anemia, asthma, blood
pressure, kidney problem, cancer, etc. although it
needs further validation through researches.
The species comprised socioeconomic and
environmental benefits; there is huge potential to
exploit species commercially, which can benefit
rural communities in areas where the species grow
naturally.
Limitations
More researches are required to validate quality of
product when stinging nettle is mixed with other
food items. Also, more researches required with
relation to protein, minerals, vitamins and other
bioactive compounds in fresh and dried parts of the
species separately. Although the species is claimed
to be beneficial for curing BPH, diabetes, anemia,
asthma, blood pressure, kidney problem, cancer,
etc., however at times, there is inconsistency
among the results. There is a need to further
standardize the doses for treating such diseases
along with efficacy of nettle prototypes and
duration of intervention. Therefore further
validation is required. Besides, limited information
is available regarding use of nettle as soil fertility
enhancer.
Recommendations
In view of the available information stinging nettle
showed considerable nutritional and therapeutic
prospects. It can be a low-cost and easily accessible
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substitute to human diets. However, before that it is
recommended to further validate the claims on its
food and pharmacological values through extensive
R&D so that inconsistency among the findings can
be omitted. For this purpose, more coordinated
researches and validation studies are required to be
taken up in near future. Also, proper quality control
as well as toxicological investigations is required to
guarantee the stability and safety of the clinical
uses.
Funding and Policy Aspects
Considering that there are many potential species
that comprised good food value such species are
needed to be investigated in detail so that they can
be used to fulfill the food demand of ever growing
population. The local government should be
informed about such species and a thorough
strategy need to be devised for cultivation and
multiplication of such species. Also, proper policy
and funding for testing such species can support
more researches and validation studies. There is a
need to bring more and more plants into our food-
sphere so that sustainability in food supply can be
achieved.
Author’s Contribution and Competing Interests
Dr V Pant (VP) envisaged the concept of review
and both authors developed a broad framework.
Both did the literature survey, and Dr RC Sundriyal
(RCS) prepared final draft and did all
correspondence.
The authors have no competing interest.
Acknowledgements
The present study has been funded though
Integrated Ecodevelopment Research Programme
(IERP) supported by the G.B. Pant National
Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable
Development (GBPNIHESD) to the first author
and Green Hill Trust, Almora, Uttarakhand (Grant
no. GBPI/IERP/15-16/04), which is greatly
acknowledged. Both authors thank Director,
GBPNIHESD, Kosi-Katarmal, Almora-263643,
Uttarakhand, India for providing facilities.
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... This property of nettle had made favorite weapon of punishment used by grandmothers and mothers on kids in Uttarakhand. However they were very well aware of the other side of the coin: 'its medicinal properties' that despite of causing irritation and/or mild rashes not going to harm children (Pant and Sundriyal 2016). One of the most notable anecdotal benefits of nettle is its reputed ability to improve learning through the application of fresh nettle to a student's back (Komeyev 2005). ...
... Jaintia tribe of Meghalaya (in India)uses fruit and leaf ash of Urtica dioica and use it to treat fever (Jaiswal 2010). For relief flogging of swollen joints due to arthritis/rheumatism is very common by the affected patients in Uttarakhand (Pant and Sundriyal 2016). The application of nettle to cure diseases with good healing properties can be attributed to the presence of certain phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, lignans, fatty acids, sterols, polysaccharides, glycoproteins, carotenoids, plastocyanins, tannins and lectins (Sajfrtová et al., 2005, Ghaima et al., 2013. ...
... Traditionally use of nettle leaves as part of food had been quite popular. On heating or blanching the stinging property of nettle is dissipated and makes it main ingredient to be used as green leafy vegetable, soup, pesto, omlette etc (Wetherilt, 2003;Menendez-Baceta et al., 2012, Pant andSundriyal 2016). Historically its use as vegetable goes back to Ist century AD (Wetherilt, 1992(Wetherilt, , 2003. ...
Research
Full-text available
Realizing the significance of wild growing stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) as a solution to the prevailing malnutrition, this plant was chosen as a subject of study. The experimental material was collected from four different locations in Kumaun region of Uttarakhand and cultivated in 2 replicated plots in the field at Almora. Objective of this study is to explore the nutritional food potential of this wild plant. Nettle has been found to be rich source of protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. It contained 20 amino acids: arginin, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, serine, threonine, valine, tyrosine, alanine, proline, glycine, tryptophan, aspartic acid and aspargine, Glutamic acid and Glutamine, Cysteine and cystine It means it has all essential amino acids except tryptophan. Other than these, nettle also contained Cu, Mn, Zn and Na. This plant species needs thorough research for its utilization in human health.
... One of these plants which belongs to the Urticaceae family is Nettle (Stinging nettle) (Urtica dioica L.), which is widely cultivated in the world, and it is noted as a herbal plant with medicinal properties (3). Many species of nettle can be found in Iraq, including Urtica dioica and Urtica uren, which are used to improve human and animals' health, because they contain more than 50 different chemical compounds, especially their active and effective antioxidant compounds (4). Studies have indicated the importance of using nettle, especially the vegetative part (leaves), as it was used as a nutritional supplement in poultry feed (5) to enhance the physiological and productive performance of hens (6). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The objective of this study is to find out the impact of the nettle plant (Urtica dioica L.) on broiler, because of its wide spread in our regions, and insufficient information about its effects on the broiler, as most of the current researches refers its uses in folk medicine. So, this research had been conducted to evaluate the effects of adding 0.25 and 0.5% crushed nettle/kg diet on the blood picture and some biochemical indices of broiler. 180 broiler chicks (Ross 308), one-day-old were randomly distributed into 3 groups (60 birds/group) with 3 replicates/group (20 birds/replicate), and treated until 42 days age as follows: 1st group (Control): standard diets without additives, 2nd group: 0.25% nettle/kg diet, 3rd group: 0.50% nettle/kg diet. Results showed that crushed nettle plant led to an increase in the values of packed cell volume, hemoglobin, mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, and it's shortened clotting time, as well as a significant increase (P≤0.05) in the number of basophils compared to the control group. In regard to the biochemical profile in the blood serum of broiler, most of biochemical indices values became better and significant when adding nettle (high-density lipoproteins, low-density lipoproteins, risk index, total protein, globulin, aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase). In conclusion, nettle can be given to broiler in these proportions to improve the hematological and biochemical indices due to its properties and contents.
... Urtica dioica, also known as stinging nettle, is a perennial plant which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical areas around the world. The species has been a subject of recent scientific interest and product development due to its traditional usage for treating various ailments such as cancer, rheumatism, eczema, nephritis, anemia, haematuria, etc. [4]. ...
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The present study is aimed at evaluating the in vitro antibacterial and antifungal activities of petroleum ether, chloroform, ethyl acetate, acetone, methanol, ethanol and water extracts of medicinal plant, Pyrus pashia were tested against (different gram positive and gram negative) ten bacterial strains and three fungal strains using by disc diffusion method. The different fractions of bark, fruit and leaf of Pyrus pashia, the ethanolic bark extracts of Pyrus pashia showed significant activity 17±1mm, 15±1mm and 14±1mm against Klebsiella pneumonia, Shigella flexneri and Escherichia coli. The medicinal plant fruit contain ash value, (total ash 1.10 ± 0.05%), moisture 60.36±0.25%, crude fat 1.62±0.20% and crude fiber 5.26±0.05%, extractive values were studied fresh part weight. The preliminary phytochemical analysis test showed the presence of carbohydrates (28.38±0.12%) and glycosides, alkaloid, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, unsaturated triterpenoids and sterol, resin.
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