Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are a common wild plant with a long history of medicinal use. In spite of their painful stings, nettles are much-loved by herbalists and have been used for centuries to treat conditions including asthma, allergies and bleeding. They are a nourishing wild food and are often used to promote healthy skin and hair. More recently, nettles have acquired a reputation for helping to treat prostate-related conditions, including hair loss.
Using Nettles to Condition Hair
Nettles are often used in shampoos and rinses because of their reputation for making hair thick, glossy and soft. They are also used to treat dandruff and scalp conditions. Nettle leaves are most commonly used for this purpose. Prepare an infusion by pouring boiling water over the fresh or dried plant and allowing it to steep. Combine this liquid with shampoo or apply it as a rinse after shampooing. You can apply the rinse directly or mix it with apple cider vinegar.
Nettle Root Extract for Hair Loss
Most of the recent attention nettles have received has been for their use in treating symptoms of enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia. Swiss researcher R. Hartmann found some evidence that nettle root extract partially blocks two enzymes related to hair loss from BHP. Treatment was most effective when large amounts of nettle root extract were combined with small amounts of another herb, pygeum. In spite of this promising research, no controlled studies have provided conclusive evidence that nettle root extract either stops hair loss or stimulates the growth of new hair.
Nettle Seed Rinse for Hair Loss
Nettle seeds have also been recommended for hair loss. In his book "Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West," herbalist Michael Moore writes that nettle seeds promote hair growth due to the fact that they contain oils and small amounts of formic acid. However, he does not provide scientific evidence to support this claim.
Nettle Products to Treat Hair Loss
Nettle root extract is available commercially, usually in combination with pygeum or saw palmetto. You can purchase it in the form of capsules or liquid. The usual recommended dose is 500 milligrams per day. You can also apply liquid nettle extracts directly to the hair or scalp. Nettle seed rinse is less commonly available, but you can purchase your own seeds from an herbal supplier. Soak 1 teaspoon of seed in a cup of hot water and apply it after shampooing.
Possible Side Effects of Nettles
Although nettles are probably safe for most uses, some precautions are wise. If you are preparing your own extracts, keep in mind that nettles sting. Wear gloves when handling them, and never apply fresh nettle plants directly to your scalp. Topical use of nettles can produce irritation, especially if you are prone to allergic reactions. Taken internally, nettle can cause bloating and difficulty urinating. The University of Maryland Medical Center cautions that nettle can increase the effects of diuretics, blood thinners, drugs for high blood pressure, drugs for diabetes and NSAIDs. Consult with a physician before attempting to treat BHP on your own.