Nettle root (Urticae radix) has specific medicinal properties that are unique from those of the other parts of the plant. It contains sterols (β-sitosterol), lignans, secoisolariciresinol and polysaccharide-proteins.
The perennial roots are creeping, so nettle multiplies quickly. It is quite difficult to kill unnecessary nettles out of your garden. Nettle grows and spreads by stolons, which form a network of yellow, lateral, creeping rhizomes. These rhizomes are double-layered, consisting of an upper layer of young runners and a deeper layer of thicker, more fibrous roots.
These robust roots are easy to harvest and store, and they offer a number of medicinal uses. Nettle roots are usually harvested in autumn, before the soil hardens by winter frost. Nettle is anti-asthmatic: the juice of the roots (or leaves) mixed with honey, will relieve bronchial and asthmatic troubles.
Nettle root was first used in urinary tract disorders in the 1950s. Stinging nettle root extract is often used in over-the-counter supplements and herbal remedies, particularly those labelled for “men’s health”.
The root extract contains β-sitosterol, a plant phenol that has been shown to reduce urinary tract complications associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – the enlargement of the prostate.
Studies in people suggest that stinging nettle, in combination with other herbs (especially saw palmetto), may be effective at relieving symptoms such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of the bladder, post urination dripping, and the constant urge to urinate. These symptoms are caused by the enlarged prostate gland pressing on the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). Scientists aren’t sure why nettle root reduces symptoms. It may be because it contains chemicals that affect hormones (including testosterone and estrogen), or because it acts directly on prostate cells.
It is important to work with a doctor to treat BPH, and to make sure you have a proper diagnosis to rule out prostate cancer.