Urtica dioica L.

Last updated: 07 Feb 2017

Scientific Name

Urtica dioica L.


Urtica dioica saubsp. dioica, Urtica dioica var. dioica, Urtica dioica var. vulgaris Wedd., Urtica galeopsifolia Wierzb. ex Opiz, Urtica tibetica W.T.Wang. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Common nettle, common stinging nettle, great stinging nettle, large stinging nettle, nettle, perennial stinging nettle, stinger, stinging nettle, stinking nettle, Swedish hemp, tall nettle [2]
India Bichhu booti, bichhu-buti, bichhua, bichhubooti, bichu, bichu buti, chichru, chicru, chorat, kagoos, kali, kalli, kandadli, kandali, kugas, shisoon, soi, vrscikali [2]
Nepal Jihya, polo, sisnu [2]
Southern Africa Brandnetel, brandneukel, brandneuker, gewone brandnetel, bobatsi (Sotho); umbabazane (Swati); umbabazane (Xhosa). [2]

Geographical Distributions

Urtica dioica is native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, northern Mexico, and, in Canada and the US, every province and state except Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, in all of which it has been introduced, and Hawaii, where it is absent. [3]

Botanical Description

U. dioica is a member of Urticaceae family. [1] It is a perennial plant that can grow up to measures 2 m in height. [4]

The stem of U. dioica is four-sided, and covered in small, erect and very sharp pubescence. [4]

Along with the stem, the leaves of U. dioica are also covered in these hairs which, when touched easily pierce the skin of most animals.  When touched, the small spines break off of the plant and release certain chemicals, which intensify the painful reaction.  [4]

The leaves are lanceolate and grow opposite one another on the spiny stem.  Each leaf can grow to a length of up to 15 cm. [4]

The flowers of U. dioica are found hanging in clusters of four petals per flower from the upper leaf axils as well as at the stem tips. The flowers are green to white in colour. [4]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

The rhizome of U. dioica has been reported to contain lectin. [5]

Plant Part Used

Root and leaf. [6]

Traditional Use

Traditional use of U. dioica includes both oral and topical administration. Topically it has been used to treat conditions such as sciatica, skin and joint inflammation and wounds. Internal applications have included treatments for fluid retention, difficulty urinating, menstrual disorders, asthma, allergic reactions, sinusitis and intestinal inflammation.  It has also been used traditionally and is currently used to treat prostate inflammation [6][7].

Preclinical Data


Sex hormonal activity

U. dioica root is reported to inhibit sex hormone binding globulin, which has an effect on the androgenic receptors of the prostatic cytosol and inhibits the effects of estrogen. [8][9]

Anti-inflammatory activity

The U. dioica folia extract is demonstrated to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity on biosynthesis of arachidonic acid metabolites in vitro. [10]

Proliferative activity

Water extract of the roots of U. dioica was found to stimulate the proliferation of human lymphocytes. [11]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Anticancer activity

Combination of Sabal- and Urtica-extract in benign prostatic hyperplasia (Aiken stages I and II) as less cases of diminished ejaculation volume, erectile dysfunction and headache have been reported in terms of safety aspect in a double-blind study involved 543 patients. [12]

U. dioica root is also claimed to influence the binding of 5 α-dihydrotestosterone with it receptor in the management of symptomatic patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. [13]

300 mg of U. dioica root extract combined with 25 mg of Pygeum africanum bark extract were significantly reducing urine flow, residual urine, and nycturia in 134 patients with symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. [14]

Antiallergic activity

A randomised, double-blind study of 92 individuals reported that a freeze-dried preparation of U. dioica leaf was superior to placebo in relieving the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (itching, watery eyes, runny nose). [15]


No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.


Dosage Range

Put 1.5 g finely cut dried herb into cold water for making U. dioica tea. [16]

Most Common Dosage

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Urtica dioica L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 26; cited 2017 Feb 07]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2448560.
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume V R-Z. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 686-687.
  3. CABI. Urtica dioica (stinging nettle). [original text by Ian Popay]. In: Invasive species compendium. Wallingford, UK: CAB International. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [updated 2016 June 06; cited 2017 Feb 07]. Available from: http://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/55911.
  4. Encyclopedia of Life. Urtica dioica (common nettle). [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2017 Feb 07]. Available from: http://eol.org/pages/595063/details.
  5. Galelli A, Truff-Bachi P. Urtica dioica agglutinin. A superantigenic lectin from stinging nettle rhizome. J Immunol. 1993;151(4):1821-1831.
  6. Taylor L. The healing power of rainforest herbs: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinals. New York: Square One Publishers, 2005; p. 259.
  7. Duke JA. Duke’s handbook of medicinal plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2009; p. 721.
  8. Hryb DJ, Khan MS, Rmas NA, Rosner W. The effect of extracts of the roots of the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) on the interaction of SHBG with its receptor on human prostatic membranes. Planta Med. 1995;61(1):31-32.
  9. Gansser D, Spiteller G. Plant constituents interfering with human sex hormone-binding globulin. Evaluation of a test method and its application to Urtica dioica root extracts. Z Naturforsch C. 1995;50(1-2):98-104.
  10. Obertreis B, Giller K, Teucher T, Behnke B, Schmitz H. Anti-inflammatory effect of Urtica dioica folia extract in comparison to caffeic malic acid. Arzneimittelforschung. 1996;46(1):52-56. German.
  11. Wagner H, Willer F, Kreher B. Biologically active compounds from the aqueous extract of Urtica dioica. Planta Med. 1989;55(5):452-454. German.
  12. Sökeland J, Albrecht J. Combination of Sabal and Urtica extract vs. Finasteride in benign prostatic hyperplasia (Aiken stages I and II). Comparison of therapeutic effectiveness in a one year double-blind study. Urologe A. 1997;36(4):327-333. German.
  13. Horninger W, Bartsch G. Drug therapy of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Is combination therapy with 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors and alpha-receptor blockers effective?. Urologe A. 2002;41(5):442-446. German.
  14. Krzeski T, Kazón M, Borkowski A, Witeska A, Kuczera J. Combined extracts of Urtica dioica and Pygeum africanum in the treatment of benign postatic hyperplasia: Double-blind comparison of two doses. Clin Ther. 1993;15(6):1011-1020.
  15. Mittman P. Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med. 1990;56(1):44-47.
  16. Wichtl M. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals: A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. Boca Raton, London: CRC Press, 2004; p. 623-625.