This wildcrafted remedy has been used for thousands of years across many cultures and medicinal practices. Now, research reveals to us the incredible secrets held within. Although this plant is potent for more uses than hair and scalp, this little plant from our backyards is key to regrowing hair and bolstering the locks we cherish.
What Exactly is Nettle?
Nettle is an herbaceous perennial with fine hairs on its leaves and stem. These tiny hairs contain a chemical. If you've handled it before, you realize those little buggers are irritating. They're the reason nettle is sometimes called "stinging nettle." Since the plant is usually out back in the yard, often in the garden, some also call it "garden nettle."
Aside from these names, it goes by "common nettle" or "devil's plaything." But don't be fooled by the off-putting name.
Urtica dioica (nettle) is an ancient ingredient used throughout history.
During World War I, nettle was used to make cloth (substituting cotton whenever shortages occurred in Europe) and as a green dye in World War II.
Although the plant has origins in Asia and Europe, Egypt cultivated it as a medicine for pain. Canada cultivated nettle for food since it can be difficult to find good food sources in the harsh north. It is useful as food in the arctic because it contains a high concentration of micronutrients and fat (and without enough fat, we can't survive). Nettle has amazing abilities. It just needs to be handled properly before we can access them.
To gain access to nettle's health-boosting properties, its irritating hairs must be dealt with. Ironically, nettle was once used as a remedy against its own irritative qualities. But to fully eliminate the stinging part of nettle, it needs to be cooked in water. That deactivates the formic acid in them. What's left is the nettle leaves and stem, where all the potent compounds are.
Nettle has more applications than any of us has fingers and toes. A few of those are
- Wounds (combatting mouth sores, nose bleeds, excessive menstruation, dog bites, etc.)
- Elimination (as a laxative, nettle helps the body detox itself. It was even used as an antidote for poisons.)
- Anti-inflammatory and pain relief (arthritis, eczema, etc.)
- Soothing seasonal allergies (the small hairs could potentially cause small allergic reactions, but the anti-histamine properties may help with harsher allergic responses, possibly showing how it is its own remedy.)
- Aiding mental health
- Anti-aging (with a powerful antioxidant activity combatting free radicals)
- Boosting hair growth (and helping fend off breakage)
- Supporting metabolism
- Shinier and healthier hair (through silica and sulphur)
- Women's health (admittedly, there isn't much research on this. But it has been used as a tea during pregnancy to help with nutritional deficiencies. You may want to research whether nettle is right for you during pregnancy before gulping down as much tea as you can handle. The reason for that is some herbalists believe it could stimulate contractions.)
- Men's health (for prostate support. According to Penn State Hershey, scientists aren't sure why it helps. But it does seem to help with reduced urinary flow, urinary tract infections, enlarged prostate, and post urination drip. It's also been studied as an aid to keep prostate cancer from spreading)
- Antibacterial (slowing and reducing bacteria even in skin wounds)
One of the nettle plants' more famous uses is their ability to reduce hair loss and promote hair growth. The nutrients in it reveal how we can reap those benefits for ourselves.
The Breakdown of Nettle
Nettle contains a ridiculous amount of nutrients (a large reason it is such a commonly used medicinal plant). It is one of the most chlorophyll-potent plants (and because it is so common, it was deemed desirable for dying things green in World War II).
Chlorophyll's benefits are well studied. It oxygenates the body, boosts energy levels, is anti-aging, builds blood, and reduces bacteria and inflammation in skin wounds.
The vitamins, minerals, and fat in chlorophyll are only a piece of the unique way nettle supports hair regrowth. Nettle contains more than these, and they work together to accomplish the goal we're excited about (fantastic, fast-growing hair).
The Vitamins In Nettle
Vitamin A supports skin health when used topically. It plays a role in moisturizing the skin, boosting the immune system, combating breakouts, and reducing wrinkles or splotches.
B vitamins also help reduce dryness with topical use. It may help with skin aging, inflammatory issues like eczema and dandruff, combating UV damage, and refining pore size. Although there are many B vitamins, each enacting different benefits, nettle doesn't just contain one. There is a B complex in nettle, helping us receive multiple benefits.
Topical vitamin C further adds to the anti-inflammatory properties of nettle. It helps accelerate collagen production, benefiting our skin health. This may be important in helping to reduce hair loss.
Vitamin K has often been used topically to aid the skin in repairing itself and even in cases of bruising or swelling.
Minerals in Nettle
Iron, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium make up the collection of minerals in nettle. Each is important to our overall health, and they work together to produce great benefits in our bodies. The minerals further illuminate how nettle benefits us and our hair.
Iron plays a large role in our blood. Specifically, it helps with oxygen transport from our lungs to the rest of our bodies. Without enough iron, we don't have enough healthy red blood cells able to do the job. That means everything in our bodies is affected. Iron helps with general energy (or fatigue with a deficiency) and overall wellness, digestion, and focus.
In short, iron helps give oxygen to the cells which grow our hair.
Phosphorus helps the body manage and use its stored energy. It can help filter out kidney waste, reduce soreness from exercise, and produce DNA. In addition to that, it helps grow and repair tissues throughout the body. Phosphorus aids calcium in its job of creating hydroxyapatite and using it to strengthen our teeth and bones.
The proper phosphorus levels can be important for regulating hair growth down at the root.
Many of us are familiar with sodium through salt. Having enough in our systems is important to retaining hydration, keeping bacteria at bay, conducting nerve impulses, and even contracting or relaxing our muscles.
Too much sodium can build up and block your hair from receiving nutrients. But a little bit can add volume!
While calcium is most known for combatting osteoporosis, it also helps with blood pressure (especially during pregnancy). Children whose mothers did have sufficient calcium were linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure.
Calcium helps your hair grow and thicken. Without enough of it, our hair growth could slow and become flat.
Potassium is another mineral helping our overall health. It is important for blood pressure. But it's also helpful in combatting hair loss if it has anything to do with sodium levels (which it can).
Magnesium might be the most popular mineral when it comes to hair health. Sometimes calcium can clog up hair follicles and begin the hair loss process. Magnesium cleans up calcium deposits and promotes follicle growth.
How the Nutrients in Nettle Work Together
While all the nutrients from nettle together balance out the body, we see hair growth supported in a few simple but unique ways.
Chlorophyll is an anti-inflammatory on the scalp (and inflammation is often a source of hair loss). Nettle potentially even aids in battling baldness by regulating DHT and stopping the overproduction of testosterone inflaming the scalp. While alopecia is an immune system issue causing hair loss, nettle does stimulate hair growth. It keeps everything from getting out of whack on our heads. Magnesium cleans out excess calcium and works alongside the anti-inflammatory properties of nettle by regulating follicle growth. If sodium causes blockages there (also possibly causing hair loss), potassium from nettle comes and wipes out those build-ups, supporting hair growth by balancing out the minerals.
While those minerals keep hair in an optimal range of health, the vitamins add other positive factors. Vitamin K keeps swelling and bruising away from the scalp. Vitamin C helps with collagen production, thus aiding the growth of healthy new hair. Vitamin A combats against wrinkles and dryness by retaining the moisture in our skin. It's tough for dehydrated skin to grow new hair!
These nutrients also provide antimicrobial functions, keeping the head clean of harmful bacteria. They help calm the overproduction of testosterone on the scalp (which could be causing hair loss) and improves scalp circulation.
Nettle's unique support of new hair growth makes it desirable. Fortunately, it's also easy to find. But harvesting it yourself can be troublesome.
Getting Started on Regrowing Your Hair
Sure, grabbing your favorite pair of gardening gloves, some protective pants, and a bag to collect fresh nettle out in the backyard is a wonderful way to spend the day. But it is tedious and you might get stung. If you're not up for the exciting experience of harvest, you could always buy some nettle extract instead. With the extract, you can formulate your own personal care routines. But, again, gathering all the ingredients and develop a well-rounded formula for hair that works will take some time, trial, and error.
We've made getting nettle benefits easy! We paired all-natural nettle alongside other synergistic ingredients in our hair care products. It's already waiting for you in both the shampoo and conditioner in our collection.
With our cleanly sourced natural ingredients, your hair growth will be boosted, your health will be supported, and your day will feel fresh.
1. Kregiel, D., Pawlikowska, E., & Antolak, H. (2018). Urtica spp.: Ordinary Plants with Extraordinary Properties. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(7), 1664. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23071664
2. Wells, Katie. (2020, February 26). 8 Benefits of Stinging Nettle (& How to Use It in Tea, Tonics, Haircare & More). Wellness Mama. https://wellnessmama.com/4807/nettle-herb-profile/
3. Stinging Nettle. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productid=107&pid=33&gid=000275
4. Cormick, G., & Belizán, J. M. (2019). Calcium Intake and Health. Nutrients, 11(7), 1606. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11071606