There are 3 main reasons to start using stinging nettle for hair loss immediately, they are;
- To reduce inflammation in the scalp
- To neutralise free radical damage in the scalp
- To block DHT topically and internally
In this article I’m going to discuss these points in more details. I’m going to break down all of the most recent medical research on how stinging nettle can be used to regrow your hair.
This will include a 6 month study with 620 patients that showed nettle could effectively block DHT (without adverse side effects.)
Then, at the end of this article I’m going to reveal 3 different ways you can start using nettle in your hair care regime tonight so that you can start benefiting from this amazing plant and start to see hair growth results as soon as possible.
Please make sure you read the entire article so that you have a good background understanding of the properties of stinging nettle and all the medical research before skipping to the practical applications.
What Is Stinging Nettle?
Stinging Nettle, or Urtica dioica, is a flowering perennial plant that is native to many areas of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. It can often reach a height of up to seven feet. You can recognize it by the heart shape leaves and the rough, bristly hair lining all over.
These fine little hairs are quite painful to the touch. Whenever you brush up on these leaves, the fragile tip of the hair will break off and cause various irritation to the skin, including pain, swelling, itching, and numbness.
Despite all this, it is ironically recognized for its medicinal properties for many centuries. In medieval Europe, it was used to treat joint pain and to rid the body of excess water.
Ancient Egypt found that it was very effective against back pain. Many examples of nettle urtification, or the practice of flogging oneself with the nettle leaves, have been reported across a few societies in order to treat illnesses such as chronic rheumatism, lethargy, coma, paralysis, and cholera.
It is still continually recognized and used today for its holistic properties.
It contains a wide range of constituents. Certain essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium (which in itself has amazing properties against hair loss), vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin K, potassium, silica, and calcium are heavily present in the nettle leaves, roots, and stems. It also possesses a rich source of iron and omega-3 acid.
The benefits also extend into its ability to counter alopecia or hair loss. Many researches have given weight to nettle’s potential to stimulate hair growth and promote healthier, thicker hair strands.
The Connection Between Stinging Nettle, Inflammation & Hair Loss
Inflammation of the scalp has been identified as an instigator for chronic hair loss. When there is tissue damage from foreign or harmful particles, such as free radical, DHT, and bacteria, the body reacts and attempts to fight it off.
Studies such as this one conducted by Magro et al, have shown that chronic inflammation leads to the cells in your scalp to activate a self-destructive mechanism that causes damage to the hair strands and its respective follicles.
There are a few agents that regulate the process of inflammation. One such agent called NF-κB has been linked as a strong inducer of inflammation. Once NF-kB is activated, it causes many other pro-inflammatory agents to activate as well.
Therefore, inflammation is very dependent on these NF-kB activities.
A study by Riehemann et al. explores the inflammatory properties of stinging nettle.
The researchers took the leaf extracts by taking several cell cultures and incubated each of them with various concentrations of stinging nettle preparations, whilst adding TNF to stimulate inflammation.
Results found that it was almost completely dose-dependent, meaning that the more stinging nettle extract there is in a cell culture, the less degree of inflammation it undergoes. Other research, such as the one conducted by Hajhashemi et al, has reported similar findings.
There are several mechanisms as to why stinging nettle has such a strong effect on inflammation. Firstly, the ingredients in Urtica extracts compose of flavonoids and phenols that work as powerful antioxidants, which are essential for dealing with free radicals.
Molecules are made up of atoms, and atoms are made of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Electron comes in pairs, which helps the atom remain stable.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that will seek and attack other stable molecules to take their electrons, which causes insecurity to living cells. This produces widespread damage that will eventually induce an inflammatory response, which we know plays a large role in chronic hair loss.
The extent of hair loss from free radical damages has not been well studied, but a few have linked high oxidative stress in the scalp to alopecia. Other studies have ascertained that free radical damages may be one of the larger contributors to the lack of hair growth in many subjects.
Antioxidants prevent free radicals from causing damages by donating one of their own electrons.
There are likely thousands of different antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene to name a few) to counteract different subsets of free radicals.
Learn more about one particular form of vitamin E (tocopherol) and how it can help hair loss here.
Recent reports from Guder et al. have shown that stinging nettles are abundant in antioxidants. The most notable ones are flavonoid and polyphenols, both of which have proven anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Stinging nettle also contains a healthy source of vitamin C, which in addition to the antioxidative properties, also contributes directly to healthy skin and hair.
Secondly, stinging nettle may have some application to apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Apoptosis is a natural process that occurs when our body overproduces a certain type of cell, which then takes up extra, unnecessary energy.
Apoptosis also transpires when the respective cell is deemed more harmful than good for the body.
While apoptosis would not usually provoke an inflammatory response, special conditions can prove otherwise. For example, free radicals have shown to contribute to the activation of apoptosis.
If a large number of cell deaths occur at a given moment, then the body would deem it necessary to undergo inflammation, which may not bode well on the scalp.
A study performed by Toldy et al. conducted a study on rats to observe the effects of exercise and nettle supplement on free radical damages in rat brain.
While the researchers didn’t find any significant correlation between swimming and oxidative stress, they did find that the group on nettle treatment had a decrease in a protein called c-jun, an important component that directly affects apoptosis.
Thirdly, stinging nettle has shown antibacterial potentials, including those directly affecting the hair. Specifically, folliculitis is a common skin condition that is characterized by focal inflammation of hair follicles. It is usually accompanied with itching or soreness.
According to the American Hair Loss Association, during early stages of folliculitis, an excess amount of hair will fall out, struggling to grow back until the infection is cleared up.
However, if the folliculitis becomes more severe, the inflammation can permanently destroy the hair follicles.
The most common cause of folliculitis is due to bacterial infections, specifically one called Staphylococcus aureus. While it is normal to have these bacteria present on the skin, it may become active in the scalp and cause hair follicle damages.
Motamedi et al conducted a study on the antibacterial properties of stinging nettle extract on 8 different bacterial strains, including Staphylococcus aureus.
The researchers found that stinging nettle was highly effective for inhibiting the Staphylococcus strand, mainly due to nettle’s ability to target the bacterial cell wall.
Results from Gulcin et al also supports stinging nettle’s potential as an antimicrobial agent.
Stinging Nettle and DHT
DHT is largely thought to be a strong factor related to hair loss and male pattern baldness.
Dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, is a sex steroid and androgen hormone that is created as a testosterone byproduct. While we recognize that testosterone is essential for sexual functions and certain male development, it is also the precursor for DHT.
In fact, about 5 – 10% of circulating free testosterone, with the help of the enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase, converts to DHT.
While DHT plays a vital role in secondary male characteristics such as facial hair, chest hair, deepening voice and muscle mass, it serves to also take hair away from the scalp. Numerous studies have linked the correlation between the two.
Interestingly enough, DHT has also been linked to the growth of prostate cells. While this is normal in adolescence years, in many older men, it contributes to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
A study conducted by Nahata et al examined the effects of stinging nettles on BPH that is induced by testosterone. Meanwhile, they compared and contrast the group on nettle to the group on 1 mg of finasteride, a drug used to shrink enlarged prostate and increase hair growth.
The results found that the stinging nettle petroleum ether contains b-sitosterol as well as other constituents that can markedly inhibit 5a-reductase enzyme activity.
The researchers also showed that the stinging nettle may match the benefits of finasteride while avoiding all the undesirable side effects. Moradi et al established similar findings with nettles root.
Safarinejad also attempted to find a correlation between stinging nettle and BPH by conducting a randomized, double-blinded crossover study on 620 patients with BPH.
After 6 months, he found that there was a moderate decrease in prostate size in the experimental nettle group over the placebo group. Many patients who continued the nettle treatment therapy saw continuously favorable results.
Applying Stinging Nettle For Hair Loss
There are several methods of applying stinging nettle into your hair routine.
Option 1: Take it as a supplement
Nettle supplements are readily available online and in stores that sell supplements. The capsules are the most common medium, but it is also available in tablet and powder form.
Taking one 500mg stinging nettle capsule once or twice daily should be more than enough to extract the nettle’s full benefit.
Option 2: Drink it as a nettle tea tonic
You can simply infuse it in hot water and drink it as a tea.
Chances are, there may be some nettles growing in your yard. If you decide to go hunting for nettles, wear gloves, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. If you touch any part of the plant, it will be mildly painful and can persist for many hours.
Should you manage to locate the plant, instead of taking the entire stalk, use a scissors or clippers to cut the top two bracts of the leaves. This will allow the rest of the plant to regenerate again for future use. You can also purchase dry leaves from the markets if fresh leaves are not an option.
Here’s a simple recipe for a nice brew.
- Boil approximately four cups of water
- Finely chop four teaspoons worth of fresh nettle
- Add the nettle into the water and steep for approximately 20 minutes with the lid on – you can make the tea stronger by steeping it longer
- Pour the liquid through a small strainer
- Enjoy hot or cold
Option 3: Infuse the nettle into oil
It can be added into any existing homemade shampoo and hair products. It can also be used separately as a deep conditioner to be left overnight on the scalp and washed off in the morning.
Here is a useful recipe for the oil. You will only need a clean mason jar, extra virgin olive oil, and a large batch of fresh or dry nettle parts.
- Take dry or chopped up fresh nettles (if these nettles were handpicked, make sure to scrub off all the dirt) and fill the mason jar halfway.
- Take the olive oil and fill the mason jar until it is completely submerging the nettles – failure to do so could eventually introduce mold into the mixture.
- Stir the oil with a clean utensil until the oil is completely settled – there should not be any bubbles left – and seal it tightly.
- Shake the oil every day for a week, while making sure that the oil is covering the top of the herb. Periodically check for any mold content by opening the mixture and smelling for rancidity.
- Let it sit for a total of three to six weeks. Shake the jar throughout the entire infusion process to better imbue the herb into the oil.
- After the herbs have been probably infused (the nettles should be pretty translucent, especially after six weeks), place a cheesecloth on top of a fine-mesh strainer and put it over a medium bowl.
- Pour the entire mixture over the cheesecloth and let it strain into the bowl. Grab the cheesecloth and squeeze as much oil out of the nettles as possible.
- Pour it into a jar and store in a dark, cool place for up to a year.
Stinging Nettle Risks and Side effects
There aren’t many reports of harmful side effects (besides the obvious stinging). As always, avoid stinging nettle if you are allergic or sensitive to the herb.
Stinging nettle has many wonderful benefits – but it can interact with some medications. According to WebMD, use with caution if you are taking the following:
- Blood-thinning drugs
- Blood pressure drugs
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
We recommend consulting a doctor who is familiar with herbal remedies before implementing the stinging nettle to your routine.
Stinging nettle, in all its various different forms can be a powerful way to fight hair loss and enable hair growth. However, using this powerful plant is just a very small step in the right direction. To truly be able to regrow your hair and keep it for the rest of your life, you will need to fix the underlying causes.
Nettle can be a powerful and natural way to block DHT, both internally and topically without the side effects associated with Propecia – this is a huge advantage.
The first way that i recommend you start using stinging nettle is in a homemade shampoo mixture, since nettle tonic is a particularly powerful to clean the scalp and block DHT.
*This article was reviewed by Dr. Anil Simhadri