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Nettle Extract for Prostate
Stinging nettle is one of the most effective herbal remedies for treating prostate problems. It can help reduce the size of enlarged prostate by different mechanisms. This article discusses the active phytochemicals in nettle and how they work to help improve prostate health, treat benign prostatic hyperplasia and prevent prostate cancer.
by Brad Chase
Stinging nettle, also known as Urtica dioica, is an herbaceous plant commonly found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America. It belongs to a diverse group of plants generally known as nettle.
Of the different species of the nettle genus Urtica, stinging nettle is the most popular because it is an invasive weed and also because of its many uses.
This plant is armed with sharp needle-like spines (hairs) on the leaves and stem. In fact, stinging nettle derives its name from the stinging effect it causes when these hairs or spines prick the skin. To produce this stinging effect, the stinging hairs, which are known as trichomes, inject a number of chemicals such as histamine, acetylcholine, leukotrienes, and serotonin into the skin.
However, the painful sting is usually harmless and can be left untreated while it subsides.
Stinging nettle has a long history of use as a food source, a source of clothing material, and as a medicinal herb.
For centuries, it has been used in various recipes across Europe, Asia, and the US. It is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur and iron. In most cases, the widespread growth of stinging nettle in an area usually indicates that the soil is fertile and rich in these nutrients.
In addition, a component of the stem of the plant, known as bast fiber, has been traditionally used to produce textiles through the same retting process used in the production of linen.
All the parts of stinging nettle, from the leaves to the roots, have been shown to have medicinal benefits and they have been used in the treatment of a number of medical conditions including benign prostatic hyperplasia, arthritis, edema, anemia and high blood pressure.
The root contains the essential bioactive phytochemicals that are responsible for alleviating the symptoms of BPH. The root of stinging nettle has a different set of pharmacological properties from the other parts of the plant.
A few studies have shown that each group of these phytochemicals plays a role in the process that relieves the symptoms of BPH. This means that they work collectively, by different but complementary mechanisms, to improve prostate health.
Many clinical studies have established the efficacy of stinging nettle extract in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Unlike most herbs used for treating this condition, bioactive phytochemicals in stinging nettle exert a series of complex effects on the prostate.
The active ingredients of stinging nettle can inhibit the binding of this androgenic steroid hormone to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
SHBG is a glycoprotein that preferably binds to testosterone and estrogen although it also binds to other sex hormones. It is involved in the transportation of these sex hormones through the plasma and their delivery to receptors in various target organs including the prostate.
When testosterone is unable to bind to this glycoprotein, the prostate receives far lower amounts of the hormone. In addition, testosterone metabolites such as DHT (dihydrotestosterone, also implicated in the enlargement of the prostate) cannot get to the prostate. As a result, excessive androgen stimulation of the prostate is prevented and the symptoms of BPH are relieved.
The bioactive lignans present in stinging nettle root extract are believed to be responsible for this effect.
While most of the other herbs used in the treatment on BPH only inhibit the androgen stimulation of the prostate, the active compounds of stinging nettle root extract also target the effects of estrogen hormones on the prostate.
Although estrogen is the primary female sex hormone, it is known to be one of the causative factors of benign prostatic hyperplasia in aging men. Estrogen also worsens the symptoms of BPH by blocking the breakdown of DHT which results in an increased level of DHT in the prostate.
The bioactive compounds of stinging nettle extract target the synthesis of this hormone in the fat tissues by blocking the action of the enzyme, aromatase. This enzyme is a monooxygenase enzyme and it is essential to the biosynthesis of estrogens.
In addition, some experts suggest that the phytochemicals in stinging nettle prevent the rapid growth and development of prostatic cells by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT. DHT has been shown to contribute to the stimulation and enlargement of the prostate by inducing the proliferation of prostatic cells.
The proliferation of prostatic cells is also known as prostatic hyperplasia. When the cellular proliferation it benign, it is called BPH. However, when those cells turn malignant, prostate cancer results.
Although stinging nettle acts as an inhibitor of the enzyme, 5 alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to DHT, this is not its main mechanism of action. More potent herbs used in the treatment of BPH that work by blocking this enzyme include saw palmetto.
Another way by which the active ingredients of stinging nettle root extract affect DHT is by interfering with the binding of this potent hormone to receptors in the prostate.
Before DHT can be activated in the prostate, it has to bind to androgen receptors. Therefore, disrupting this binding reduces the effect of DHT on prostatic cells thus limiting the development of BPH.
A group of researchers in Iran investigated the effectiveness of Urtica dioica root extract in the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The authors of this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study published the results of their work in the Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy in 2004.
For this study, a total of 620 patients suffering from lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia were recruited. Each of the patients were randomly given either Urtica dioica root extract or placebo for a period of 6 months.
The patients were evaluated based on the following: international prostate symptom score (IPSS), the maximum urinary flow rate (Qmax), post-void residual urine volume (PVR), serum prostatic specific antigen (PSA), testosterone levels, and prostate size.
The result of the study showed significant to moderate improvement in all the patients who were given Urtica dioica root extract compared to those given placebo.
There was also an 18-month follow-up period during which greater improvement was observed in patients who continued treatment. No adverse effects were observed during this study.
Another 2004 study published in the journal, Der Urologe Ausgabe, investigated the efficacy of stinging nettle extract in the long term treatment of benign prostatic syndrome.
The researchers of this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study recruited 246 patients suffering from benign prostatic syndrome from different locations in Germany. The participants were randomly given either 459 mg/day dry extract of stinging nettle roots or the same dose of placebo for a period of 12 months.
The patients were assessed based on the International prostate symptom score (IPSS) and volume of residual urine.
The results of the study showed that patients who were given stinging nettle root extract experienced greater relief than those who were given placebo. Although side effects such as gastrointestinal discomforts were recorded in the study, they were mild and both the nettle group and the placebo group experienced them.
This study further established the efficacy and safety of stinging nettle root extract in the treatment of BPH and for improving prostate health.
The results of some studies suggest that combining stinging nettle root extract with other herbs known to be beneficial for the prostate can produce better outcomes in the treatment of BPH.
For example, a group of researchers from Poland investigated the efficacy of a combination of pygeum bark extract and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) root extract in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
The researchers of this study published their findings in the journal, Clinical Therapeutic. A total of 134 patients with symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia were recruited for this study.
All the participants recruited were between the ages of 53 and 84 years. They were divided into two groups with one group receiving two capsules of combined 300 mg stinging nettle root extract and 25 mg Pygeum africanum bark extract daily. The other group was also given two capsules of the same herbal extracts but containing 150 mg Urtica dioica root extract and 13 mg Pygeum africanum bark extract.
After the 28-day duration of the first half of the study, the results showed significant improvement in all participants of the two groups.
After a further 28-day period, the improvement in symptoms was sustained for all the participants of the two treatment groups and there were no significant difference between the two treatment groups.
Five patients reported side effects but these were only mild and not enough to take them off the herbal remedies.
With Sabal Palm
Another 2006 study published in the journal, Urologiia, examined the effectiveness of a combination of the extracts of Sabal palm and stinging nettle in the treatment of patients with lower urinary tract symptoms in double blind, placebo-controlled trial.
For this study, a total of 257 participants were recruited and assigned into two groups: group 1 and group 2.
The patients in the first group were given a daily capsule containing a combination of sabal palm and stinging nettle root extract (160 mg of sabal palm and 120 mg of stinging nettle root extract) while the patients in the other group received the same dose of placebo for 24 weeks.
After the 24-week period, all the patients in both group received the same dose of the combined extract for a further 24 weeks.
The patients were assessed based on the following: IPSS, quality of life index, urodynamic and ultrasonography evidence.
The result of the study showed improvement in the patients in group 1 compared to those in the placebo group 2 during the first phase of the study.
However, all the patients were later found to significantly improve during the second phase. The result of the study also showed that the combined extract was well tolerated.
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