There are 3 main reasons to start using stinging nettle for hair loss immediately, they are;
- To reduce inflammation in the scalp
- To neutralize free radical damage in the scalp
- To block DHT topically and internally
This article will discuss these points in more detail. This will include a look at a 6-month study with 620 patients that showed nettle could effectively block DHT.
This article will also reveal 3 different ways you can start using nettle in your hair care regime.
What Is Stinging Nettle?
Stinging Nettle, or Urtica dioica, is a flowering perennial plant 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-shaped 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 irritation to the skin, including pain, swelling, itching, and numbness. Despite all this, it is ironically recognized for its medicinal properties for many centuries.
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 researchers have given weight to nettle’s potential to stimulate hair growth and promote healthier, thicker hair strands.
Stinging Nettle Components
Stinging nettle is lauded as an antioxidant and antimicrobial powerhouse. What is it that makes stinging nettle so beneficial? Its chemical composition, of course.
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As you might expect, the vitamins and minerals found in stinging nettle are largely determined by the part of the plant (root, stalk, or leaves).
The leaves of the plant contain high concentrations of vitamins A, C, D, E, F, K, and P, as well as of vitamin B-complexes (1). They also contain notable amounts of selenium, zinc, iron, and magnesium.
These various vitamins and minerals have been implicated in hair growth previously. Vitamin E, for example, was particularly helpful in increasing the number of hairs in a designated area of scalp according to a 2010 study (2).
And iron and zinc play particularly important roles in hair growth due to their contributions to DNA synthesis and gene expression, respectively (3).
The leaves appear to be the most micro- and macronutrient dense with higher levels of proteins and fats found in the leaves than in either the stalk or the root.
In terms of bioactive compounds, the roots of the nettle are considered to be the least nutrient. They contain high levels of starches, sugars, and resins, but less in the way of proteins, fats, and micronutrients.
|Harvested Nettle Leaves||Nettle Leaf Powder|
It makes sense that nettle leaf powder, which is a dehydrated and more concentrated form of nettle leaves, would have higher macronutrient values.
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 radicals, DHT, and bacteria, the body reacts and attempts to fight it off.
Reviews, such as this one conducted by Bertoloni et al., have shown that chronic inflammation leads the cells in your scalp to activate a self-destructive mechanism that causes damage to the hair strands and its respective follicles (6).
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.
Some studies have explored the anti-inflammatory properties of stinging nettle.
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 (7).
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 (8). 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 (9). The most notable ones are flavonoids and polyphenols, both of which have proven anti-inflammatory properties as well (10).
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 (11).
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.
The good news is that stinging nettle was shown to have both antioxidant and antimicrobial properties which suggest it would be beneficial in humans (12).
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 by itching or soreness.
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.
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.
A review by Jan et al. supports stinging nettle’s potential as a anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory (13).
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 (14).
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 (15). 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 (16). After 6 months, he found 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.
Stinging Nettle Risks and Side Effects
There are not 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 into your routine.
FDA-Approved Alternatives to Stinging Nettle
If you prefer a mainstream approach to hair growth, then FDA-approved medications exist. You can use these alone, together, or even alongside treatments like stinging nettle.
Minoxidil, more commonly known by its brand name of Rogaine, is a topical hair loss topical drug that has been on the market since the 1980s.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator. It opens the blood vessels so blood (including its oxygen and nutrients) flows more easily. The exact mechanism for hair growth is not known, though it is believed to upregulate growth factor in dermal papilla cells among other mechanisms (17).
As a topical treatment, the main benefit of minoxidil is the low risk of systemic side effects. While minoxidil does enter the bloodstream, it does so in very low concentrations. This means the potential for systemic side effects is limited.
Unlike finasteride, minoxidil can also be used by both men and women. It is a feasible option, then, for male-pattern baldness and female-pattern hair loss.
Finasteride, also known as Propecia, is an oral hair loss drug that first hit the market in 1992. It was initially used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia in men, but its hair growing effects were soon noted. As such, it was then approved in 1997 for the treatment of hair loss (18).
How does finasteride work?
Finasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. It inhibits the activities of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase which plays a significant role in DHT synthesis. This means that there is less 5-alpha-reductase and, therefore, lower concentrations of DHT in the body and at the scalp.
While this treatment can be effective for men with pattern baldness, it does carry some risks. The most common side effects of finasteride include erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction, and loss of libido (R). The good news is the risk is low, as these side effects only occur at a rate of 2.1 percent to 3.8 percent.
Who should consider finasteride? At this time, finasteride is only approved for the treatment of hair loss in men. It is also only available by prescription, so you will need to be working with a doctor in regards to your hair loss.
Stinging nettle, in all its various forms, can be a powerful way to fight hair loss and enable hair growth. However, using this 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.