Anyone who lives in a locale where nettle grows wild will eventually discover the powers of this dark green plant. Depending on the species, the fine hairs on its leaves and stem cause burning pain that lasts from hours to weeks. But this well-protected herb has also been used as medicine. Nettle juice was used in Hippocrates' time to treat bites and stings, and European herbalists recommended nettle tea for lung disorders. Nettle tea was used by Native Americans as an aid in pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing.

Currently, nettle root is more commonly used medicinally than the above-ground portion of the herb. In Europe, nettle root is widely used for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or prostate enlargement. Like saw palmetto, pygeum, and beta-sitosterol, nettle appears to reduce obstruction to urinary flow and decrease the need for nighttime urination. However, the evidence is not as strong for nettle as it is for these other treatments.

Note: Before self-treating prostate symptoms with nettle root, be sure to get a proper medical evaluation to rule out prostate cancer.

Nettle leaf has become a popular treatment for allergies (hay fever) based on one preliminary double-blind study.

Nettle leaf is highly nutritious and, in cooked form, may be used as a general dietary supplement.