Urtica dioica

Urtica dioica

Urtica dioica, Stinging Nettle, (Urticaceae, the Nettle Family), to 2 m in height, white flowers, habitat: woods, waste places, throughout temperate North America (102, 103).

Nettle tea has been used in Europe for centuries as a diuretic for kidney inflammations, water retention, and chronic bladder infections; to allay excess menstruation, nosebleeds, hemorrhoids, and digestive tract bleeding; and as a spring blood tonic. Nettle herb beer was an old folk remedy for easing gout and rheumatic pains. Historically, physicians prescribed nettle herb juice, tea, or tincture to stop internal bleeding and to cure persistent bladder infections, chronic diarrhea, and eczema (6, 88).

Root tea was used for hives, itch, dysentery, urinary retention, as a hair tonic, and as a general tonic. Fresh leaf juice was applied to skin for sores, infections, rashes, and warts, and to the scalp to prevent hair loss. The whole plant is still decocted and mixed with vinegar as a restorative hair rinse. The fresh plant is commonly used in Latin America as a counterirritant on stiff and sore joints and muscles, sciatica, and bruises. The patient is flogged with the fresh plants, presumably setting up an immune reaction that relieves symptoms of the original ailment. Leaves were poulticed for arthritis, skin inflammation, sores, and heat rash. Leaves were approved in Germany for supportive treatment of rheumatism and kidney infections (6, 88).

Root preparations were approved for symptomatic relief of urinary difficulties associated with early stages of benign prostatic hyperplasia, which affects a majority of men over 50. Laboratory and human studies show the herb extract is diuretic and hemostatic and has a mild blood sugar-lowering effect. Some physicians advocate nettle as a natural antihistamine for relieving symptoms of hay fever, though one clinical study shows no statistical significance compared with a placebo. Warning! Fresh plants sting. Dried plants (used in tea) do not sting (88).

In addition to the high Vitamin C content, which wards off scurvy for which it is particularly valuable in far North America after a long white winter, the stinging nettle is also rich in Vitamin A (6).

The stalks, stems of the leaves, and the leaves themselves bristle with fine stinging fuzz from which formic acid is injected into the unsuspecting person as the major irritant (6).

In the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C. several practitioners made reference to the medicinal properties of Nettles. It was used as an antidote for Hemlock, a counterpoison for Henbane, and as a cure for snakebite and scorpion sting. It was reputedly an aid for gout, asthma, and tuberculosis. Other recorded applications of the plant are as a diuretic and to arrest uterine hemorrhages. Nettle juice at one time formed the main component (93 percent) of a preparation known as Brandol, which was commercially marketed (267).

It is known to produce brandol and anti-inflammitory compounds (267).


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Verbascum thapsus

Verbascum thapsus

Verbascum thapsus, Mullien, (Scrophulariaceae, the Figwort Family), 1-2 m in height, yellow flowers, habitat: native of Europe, now abundant throughout most of temperate N. America, especially in disturbed places (102, 103).

Mullien leaf tea has been used for coughs, colds, bronchitis, catarrh, asthma, hoarseness, sore throat, fever, and muscle and joint pain. Tea of the roots and sometimes flowers were used for respiratory problems, hiccups, bloody diarrhea, and female complaints. The leaves were smoked to alleviate respiratory congestion. Leaf poultices, sometimes with flowers, were used for painful skin inflammation, sprains, bruises, sores cuts, wounds, swellings, infections, abscesses, muscle aches, hemorrhoids, toothaches, and swollen glands. The plant juice has been used on warts. Drops of the flower oil are a traditional earache remedy. In Europe the flowers are preferred to the leaves. Widely used in European phytomedicine for anti-inflammatory and soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes; widely used in cough preparations. The leaves are high in mucilagin and contain the antiseptic, antitumor, and immunosuppressant compound verbascoside. German health authorities approved the use of flowers as an expectorant in inflammatory conditions of the upper respiratory tract (6, 88).

It has been used to treat respiratory problems, hemorrhoids, poultices of it have been used to treat burns, scalds, boils, demulcent, allays pain, and is an antispasmodic (267).


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