Stinging Nettle to Help Arthritis Pain

Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints and arthritis. Researches have shown that the extract of the nettle leaf suppresses cytokines associated with inflammatory joint illness.

Stinging Nettle Benefits For Arthritis

In several studies nettle extracts were documented with anti-inflammatory effects as well as to be helpful at relieving arthritis pain and inflammation in humans. Studies conducted in Germany have showed scientifically that nettle is capable of inhibiting the genetic transcription factor that activates TNF-a and IL-1B. An ethanolic extract was found to suppress HLE (human leukocyte elastase). Human leukocyte elastase is one of the most destructive enzymes released by polymorphonuclear granulocytes, which migrate into tissues during the inflammatory process. Nettle extract in capsule form is prescribed in Germany for the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Two clinical studies (Chubasik et al 1997) produced promising results of improvement in pain at rest (55%), pain on exercise (45%), physical impairment (38%) and reduction in consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in 60% of patients.

In a study reported in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in June 2000 issue that nettle leaf can decrease osteoarthritic pain in the base of the thumb when applied to the painful area. Using nettles may decrease the need for NSAID (Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drug). In a clinical trial of 37 people with acute arthritis, 50 g of stewed nettle leaf consumed on a daily combined with 50 mg of diclofenac was shown to be as effective as the full 200 mg dose of diclofenac in the therapy of symptoms, over a two week period. In a study reported in the Dec 2009 issue of “Arthritis Research and Therapy“, found that a combination of nettles, fish oil and vitamin E reduction the need for analgesics and other drugs to decrease the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

The tiny stingers of the nettle plant provide microinjections of several chemicals responsible for the stinging sensation the plant causes. The needles pump a mixture of formic acid, histamine, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine), acetylcholine, moroidin and leukotrienes into the epidermis, producing a stinging or burning sensation. These chemicals are anti-inflammatory and pain reducing. These neuro-transmitters send and receive signals to the brain and act on nerve endings to block the transmission and perception of pain. The benefits of nettle as a possible local painkiller were studied in 27 participants with osteoarthritis-related pain at the base of their thumb. Participants applied nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) daily for one week to the painful area. The effect of this therapy was compared with that of placebo, Lamium album  (white deadnettle leaf), for one week after a 5-week washout period. After one week’s therapy with nettle sting, score reductions on both visual analogue scale and health assessment questionnaire were significantly greater than with placebo.

Stinging nettle leaf extracts lessen inflammation, in part, by suppressing the release of inflammatory cytokines. They do this by blocking a chemical inducer known as NF-KappaB, which alters gene expresion. This may be one explanation for the favorable effects has exhibited in rheumatoid arthritis. The Journal of Rheumatology reported Dec 1999 the findings of a study by S. Klingelhoefer et al on the antirheumatic effect of IDS 23, (a nettle leaf extract), on in vitro expression of T helper cytokines. They concluded “may inhibit the inflammatory cascade in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.”  The nettle leaf extract IDS 30 has been recommended for adjuvant treatment of rheumatic diseases. April 2002, published a report about a study of the immmunosuppressant activity of IDS 30, on myeloid dendritic cells in vitro. The nettle extract IDS 30 has prevented the maturation of dendritic cells leading to reduced induction of primary T cell responses. Dendretic cells play an important role in the initiation of rheumatoid arthritis. Nettle extract was able to keep dendretic cells from growing, however did not kill the cells.

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