Allergy Relief Treatment: Nettles!

February 16, 2022

Allergy Relief Treatment: Nettles!

Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD

Scottsdale Naturopathic Doctor

"Doc, What can I take for my allergies? My eyes are crunchy and watering. What is the best herb for allergies? Why am I getting allergies with menopause?" Debra H, Scottsdale, AZ

Allergies for women can indicate a testosterone deficiency such as in perimenopause. Also, I commonly see adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, and menopause as underlying causes. Estrogen deficiency in menopause causes dry skin therefore women are more prone to allergies. Also, hypothyroidism is notorious for causing dry skin itchy skin. Testosterone helps make the skin oily and deficiency also causes dry skin that is more prone to inflammation. Having a doctor test you for any underlying hormone imbalance is important when women suddenly have seasonal allergies and never had them before.

Natural allergy treatments generally require about two full weeks to become effective. As I discussed in my Seasonal Allergy blog Quercetin, vitamin C and citrus bioflavonoids are very helpful for allergies and I typically prescribe those in conjunction with nettles.

Nettles are one of my very favorite women's health herbs as there are not many allergy treatments out there that have the side effect of helping women with Female Hair Loss grow thick shiny hair! Nettles are also helpful for anemia, as they are rich in iron and also demonstrated as helpful in recent research at just 450mg daily against menopausal hot flashes. [1]

My hope at least is for those of you with seasonal allergies, arthritis, and enlarged prostates to gain new appreciation, if not complete love and adoration for this fabulous plant.

The freeze-dried herb, Urtica dioica can be used as an alternative to antihistamines for allergy season. Nettle leaves are also known to be useful for arthritis, asthma, and edema; and are especially helpful in treating long-term chronic illness as they are a nutritive plant rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. 

The rich mineral content is thought to be the mechanism for reducing those painful nighttime leg cramps that usually respond well to water, calcium, magnesium, and electrolytes. The root of the plant is found to be helpful for those with benign prostatic hypertrophy through interaction with sex hormone-binding globulin. Nettle root was demonstrated effective against BPS in recent research. [2]

Recent rsearch also shows promise using nettles in High Blood Pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, Arthritis and was actually found effective in treatment of "Gulf War Syndrome" while many other treatments are completely ineffective. I found that research study on nettles for GWS the most interesting, as many treatments and medications have been found to be ineffective. Please let me know if you try nettles for this condition! Nettles are also used to stimulate breast milk production as a galactagogue herb. [3-6]

Fresh green plants such as nettles are high in chlorophyll. A molecule of chlorophyll closely resembles the hemoglobin in our red blood cells except that chlorophyll contains magnesium in its center ring instead of iron. Magnesium is important because most Americans on the Standard American Diet (SAD) are deficient in this essential mineral that aids in the relaxation of our muscles, detoxification of our livers, as well as over 200 other enzymatic pathways in our bodies. Green leafy vegetables and whole grains are both excellent sources of magnesium.

Did you know that if you are ever lost or stranded in the woods you can technically eat nettles raw if you can get them past your lips without getting stung? The enzyme ptyalin in our saliva should denature the formic acid that causes the sting from the nettles. Now I am not recommending trying this, and have never tried this, and furthermore hope that I never will have to try this, nor do I hope you ever have to try this…but I am just saying it is always an option in an emergency situation.

When harvesting nettles be sure to wear gloves, although I have seen firsthand as a Naturopathic Doctor a “Nettle Charmer” out there that has the ability to handle nettles without getting stung! Apparently, the stinging acid only is released when the hairs of the plant are touched in a particular direction. Only harvest nettles that have not been sprayed with chemicals.

Do not use nettles that are in the flowering stage as the flowers will cause irritation to the urinary tract. The young leaves can be cooked with garlic and olive oil like spinach, steamed, stir-fried, cooked into a casserole or made into a tea or base for vegetable soup.

Research studies for menopause only used 450mg of herb per day which is usually about 1-2 capsules depending on the size of the capsules. Since nettles are a food you cannot really OD on them and I generally dose them higher for hair loss, anemia, allergies, menopause and so forth to 2-3 capsules 2-3 times per day.

To make an herbal nettles tea add at least 2 tablespoons of herb per cup of water to a covered soup pot and allow to simmer on low on the stove for about 15 minutes to an hour to extract the minerals. I will commonly put water with nettles in a large stock pot and bring it to a boil and turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit to "decoct" for an hour. Decoction is simply steeping your herbs covered for a longer period of time than when we make a traditional tea and let it steep for 15 minutes.

At the end of the nettles decoction I usually add mint. You will lose some minty flavor if you let it decoct with the nettles so I recommend adding it in at the end. Your tea should still be hot if you have left it on a low simmer. Nettles pair nicely with mint, they are from the same family, and patients with blocked sinuses will improve with inhaling mint essential oil from the tea as well as drinking it throughout the day.

As this is a nutritive food several cups of this tea may be enjoyed liberally each day as this is a wonderful spring detox unless you are pregnant or on anticoagulant “blood thinning” medications. If you have any health problems or use medications be sure to ALWAYS check with your Naturopathic Doctor before using any herbs or alternative medicines.

Give the nettles time to work in your body. Natural medicines and foods as medicines typically are much more gentle than most medications and so will take time to work their “magic” in your system. In the case of chronic illness, I usually give most natural remedies about 3-4 weeks to work before changing the plan. Remember with herbal medicine we are working to manage your symptoms with natural medicines that are healthy for you over the long run so we have to be more patient and allow them time to work.

Patients with severe allergies should be planning their allergy remedies 2-4 weeks before their allergy season starts up. Remember in Arizona we actually have TWO ALLERGY SEASONS! Don't shoot the messenger, but I found it very confusing when I moved here and developed allergies in both the spring and the fall.

Whenever it is perfect whether outside that is when you need to be on an aggressive plan to tolerate the pollen!

If you need my help with your allergies or hormone imbalance simply pop over to my SCHEDULE page and treat yourself to a Naturopathic visit.

Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is considered a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause,  Thyroid,  Hashimotos,  PMS, PerimenopauseAutoimmunePostpartumChronic Fatigue, DepressionAnxiety, Food Allergies,  DigestionDermatology, AcnePsoriasis Eczema, and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 23 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones, she presents to women the best-integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 28 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan (not Medicaid) and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones, and Naturopathy!

References:

  1. Kargozar R, Salari R, Jarahi L, Yousefi M, Pourhoseini SA, Sahebkar-Khorasani M, Azizi H. Urtica dioica in comparison with placebo and acupuncture: A new possibility for menopausal hot flashes: A randomized clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Jun;44:166-173. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.04.003. Epub 2019 Apr 4. PMID: 31126551.
  2. Akbar Karami A, Sheikhsoleimani M, Reza Memarzadeh M, Haddadi E, Bakhshpour M, Mohammadi N, Mehdi Mirhashemi S. Urtica Dioica Root Extract on Clinical and Biochemical Parameters in Patients with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, Randomized Controlled Trial. Pak J Biol Sci. 2020 Jan;23(10):1338-1344. doi: 10.3923/pjbs.2020.1338.1344. PMID: 32981268.
  3. Moré M, Gruenwald J, Pohl U, Uebelhack R. A Rosa canina - Urtica dioica - Harpagophytum procumbens/zeyheri Combination Significantly Reduces Gonarthritis Symptoms in a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Study. Planta Med. 2017 Dec;83(18):1384-1391. doi: 10.1055/s-0043-112750. Epub 2017 Jun 14. PMID: 28614869.
  4. Khalili N, Fereydoonzadeh R, Mohtashami R, Mehrzadi S, Heydari M, Huseini HF. Silymarin, Olibanum, and Nettle, A Mixed Herbal Formulation in the Treatment of Type II Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Trial. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Oct;22(4):603-608. doi: 10.1177/2156587217696929. Epub 2017 Mar 21. PMID: 29228792; PMCID: PMC5871270.
  5. Mehrzadi S, Mirzaei R, Heydari M, Sasani M, Yaqoobvand B, Huseini HF. Efficacy and Safety of a Traditional Herbal Combination in Patients with Type II Diabetes Mellitus: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Diet Suppl. 2021;18(1):31-43. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2020.1727076. Epub 2020 Feb 21. PMID: 32081056.
  6. Younger J, Donovan EK, Hodgin KS, Ness TJ. A Placebo-Controlled, Pseudo-Randomized, Crossover Trial of Botanical Agents for Gulf War Illness: Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), and Epimedium (Epimedium sagittatum). Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 1;18(7):3671. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18073671. PMID: 33915962; PMCID: PMC8037868.
  7. Samaha AA, Fawaz M, Salami A, Baydoun S, Eid AH. Antihypertensive Indigenous Lebanese Plants: Ethnopharmacology and a Clinical Trial. Biomolecules. 2019 Jul 20;9(7):292. doi: 10.3390/biom9070292. PMID: 31330767; PMCID: PMC6681041.
  8. Özalkaya E, Aslandoğdu Z, Özkoral A, Topcuoğlu S, Karatekin G. Effect of a galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and prolactin secretion by mothers of preterm babies. Niger J Clin Pract. 2018 Jan;21(1):38-42. doi: 10.4103/1119-3077.224788. PMID: 29411721.

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