Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition. L2 Strength & Conditioning Coach.
This article looks at the medicinal herb, urtica dioica, in some detail to help you understand its benefits, if there's any risk using it as a supplement and what scientific research is available.
We shall cover the following points:
- The extract
- What is it
- 3 key points
- Medicinal uses
- Other benefits
- Side effects
- Take away
Urtica Dioica Extract
The herbal supplement market is booming. With an expected growth of 7.7% over each of the next four years, more people are buying herbal supplements than ever before.
With sustained growth that high, there must be something very beneficial about herbal supplements, like Urtica Dioica.
But what is Urtica Dioica, you ask?
Keep reading and you'll learn all about Urtica Dioica and the benefits that it can have for you.
What is Urtica Dioica?
You might not have heard of Urtica Dioica, but you've most likely heard of (or at least felt!) stinging nettle at some point or another. Urtica Dioica is the scientific name for the flower also known as stinging nettle.
Urtica Dioica is an herbal flower that can be found throughout many parts of the world. It has leaves and stems that are covered in hairs that act similarly to needles when touched.
These needles inject chemicals onto and into the skin of people and animals that touch stinging nettle, causing a reaction that stings.
Three Things to Know About Urtica Dioica
Among the many benefits that Urtica Dioica has is that it is a great strength and weight training supplement.
The nutrients that make up Urtica Dioica can help you achieve your muscle growth and weight training goals quicker, and here are three reasons why.
1. Urtica Dioica helps to keep testosterone from converting to dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone has a lot of negative effects on the body, most notably the growth or enlargement of the prostate.
2. Urtica Dioica has been shown to increase testosterone levels. This stimulates the growth of muscle tissue and helps you achieve your muscle gain goals.
3. Urtica Dioica keeps the testosterone in your body free of steroid hormone binding globulin. SHBG acts as a road block for testosterone as it makes its way to your muscles to stimulate muscle growth and recovery.
Let's continue with the hormones...
Men and women both have a balance of male and female sex hormones. These are testosterone and estrogen. However, testosterone production can decline as we age.
Put simply testosterone gives a man the typical male charcteristics, and estrogen is what forms the female charcteristics. You can read about how useful testosterone is, here.
You may have heard the phrase, "men are from mars and women from venus". Well this is a very sweeping statement, and it is never clear cut, but let's break it down a bit.
Typically, male physical traits are as follows:
- Broader shoulders & narrower hips
- More muscular
- Deeper voice
- Facial and chest hair
On the other hand, female charcteristics tend to be:
- Broader hips
- Higher voice
- More body fat than muscle
- Breast tissue
This is just a broad look at how you may physically distinguish the two genders.
However, the level of each hormone in either gender will be different. Therefore, you may see men who don't have much facial hair nor have very broad shoulders. Likewise, a woman may not have such a curved body appearance and may have facial or body hair and even a slightly deeper voice than other women.
What has this got to do with stinging nettle?
As we can see, the male sex hormone helps a man (or even woman) build more muscle, and as both men and women have both sex hormones in their body, a person looking to develop more muscle would want a higher level of testosterone and less estrogen. This is because higher levels of estrogen will start to develop more female charcteristics.
This is where stinging nettle comes in to play.
Urtica Dioica and estrogen
You may be looking at this herb and thinking "how is this going to help me build muscle and strength? Where's the testosterone boosting capabilities?"
We actually have to look what its effects on estrogen are, because if we remember, both men and women have amounts of both testosterone and estrogen, it's just that men tend to have more testosterone and women tend to have more estrogen. But men still have estrogen as well.
So let's look at the research...
Another study from 2004 also saw positive results from urtica dioica demonstrating aromatase inhibition, too.
This has been confirmed in further literature, as well.
You may not consider aromatase inhibition (blocking the formation of estrogens) as being particularly effective or having much of an impact.
However, a study from 2004 dictates that aromatase inhibition can be as effective as testosterone therapy, so don't just discount it.
When we think of medicine we make think of pharmaceutical drugs, such as aspirin. However, plant sources can offer unrivalled chemical constituents that can treat illness or disease by themselves or enhance the efficacy of other treatments.
According to this review published in volume 8 of the International Journal of Green Pharmacy, urtica dioica is also:
Other Benefits for Urtica Dioica
Urtica Dioica has been used for a wide range of purposes for thousands of years. From food to medical purposes, to even trying to keep hair from becoming greasy, Urtica Dioica has been applied to many problems.
Arthritis and Anti-Inflammatory
It is probably best known for its pain-reducing properties. Traditionally Urtica Dioica was used to help ease muscle and joint pain related to arthritis. This is the most popular use of the supplement. This study from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine saw that even after one week of use there were benefits.
It is also thought to ease inflammation and improve pain caused by osteoarthritis. Research has shown that a Urtica Dioica supplement has antimicrobial, antioxidant, pain-relieving, and anti-ulcer healing properties.
Studies have shown that during a 3-month period, people who took an Urtica Dioica supplement that suffered from arthritis reported fewer arthritic symptoms and used their anti-inflammatory medicines less often.
In addition to relieving and reducing muscle and joint pain, Urtica Dioica can also strengthen your bones. Urtica Dioica has a lot of calcium, magnesium, and iron in it. All of these nutrients are vital for building and maintaining strong bones.
There's some promising research in the animal model that could well cross over in to humans.
Magnesium helps build bone strength and allows your bones to absorb calcium quicker and easier. Without magnesium, calcium wouldn't do you or your bones much good.
Iron deficiency is also an important factor to consider. Iron deficiency can lead to weaker bones or even bone loss. Urtica Dioica and its strong nutrients can prevent physical ailments like that from occurring.
There's quite a bit of evidence surrounding urtica dioica that makes a good case for its prostate health benefits.
As we now know, this plant is good at blocking the development of the estrogen hormone, further research shows that these hormone inhibitors are also good at treating benign prostatic hyperplasia in the animal model.
In addition, there's also evidence from a placebo-controlled study published in 2005 that demonstrates its effectiveness in humans, with no unwanted side effects.
Urtica Dioica extract contains a variety of nutrients, some of which promote heart health. Stinging nettle contains both vitamin A and vitamin C. It also contains carotenoids.
This combination of vitamins and nutrients helps Urtica Dioica to boost the production of red blood cells and may even prevent anemia. Stinging nettle can also help prevent high blood pressure and the risk of future heart disease.
This is good news because heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world according to the World Health Organization.
Stinging nettles can also lead to better blood circulation throughout your body. It is believed that the combination of iron and potassium found in stinging nettles helps your blood vessels relax and promotes better blood circulation.
Prevents Kidney Stones
Another one of the many Urtica Dioica benefits is that it can keep you from getting kidney stones.
Calcium oxalate crystals are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to the production of kidney stones. Urtica Dioica has been shown to reduce calcium oxalate build-up, helping to prevent you from having to experience unpleasant kidney stones.
It sounds crazy, but Urtica Dioica can even help you with preventing allergies. The anti-inflammatory properties of stinging nettle keep your body from producing a chemical called prostaglandins which can lead to a cold or allergies.
This plant seems to be very effective with research dictating that 600mg daily was more beneficial than using over the counter products.
Additionally, it contains vitamin A and vitamin C. Both of these vitamins provide your immune system a boost to fight off colds and allergies.
It is reported that 1 in 2 people will get cancer in the UK. This is 50% of its people. It is a similar story in other regions of the world, and, as such research in to developing just one cancer drug is approximately $648 million US dollars.
Huge sums are spent trying to cure a disease that affects so many people, hence why it may not come as much of a surprise to learn that there's research in to the effects urtica dioica has on treating cancer.
In fact it has been demonstrated in several studies that urtica dioica has anti-cancer properties. It has been concluded that the herb could be used as a bioactive food agent to prevent, reduce or work alongside other treatments with minimal side effects.
You may wonder how a plant such as this can offer so much benefit, but when you start to look at what it contains, it makes more sense.
We have already mentioned thus far that urtica dioica contains different nutrients, so in effect this plant is almost like a multi-vitamin in itself.
So here's what you're getting with taking a supplement that has urtica dioica in it:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin F
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin P
Side Effects of Urtica Dioica
You should be aware that Urtica Dioica does have some side effects. Thankfully they are mild, but you should still know about the possibility of them.
Urtica dioica supplements can cause you to have an upset stomach. It can also cause your body to retain fluids more than usual, and possibly give you hives.
Skin contact with Urtica Dioica can also have side effects, leading to rashes or hives. It is recommended that you take care when handling Urtica Dioica in its unprocessed state, ie. when it is growing from the ground.
Take Your Workout Regimen to the Next Level
Urtica Dioica can provide great benefits to your body and workout regimen, but most of all to your overall health. It is also a fantastic tool that will help you reach your weight training goals and help you achieve the body that you want.
Order today and take your workouts and your body to the next level.