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Stinging Nettle Relieves Arthritis Pain

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By Deborah Cooper • • June 22, 2000

The common weed, stinging nettle, significantly relieves the pain of arthritis sufferers according to a recent study. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been used as a pain-relieving folk remedy for centuries, but until recently, there has only been anecdotal evidence in favor of using nettle.

The study used a method called ‘urtication,’ in which fresh stinging nettle is applied to the painful area. The exact scientific mechanism by which urticatioin works is still unclear. Scientists theorize that compounds in nettle -- serotonin and histamine -- may be responsible. These neuro-transmitters send and receive signals to the brain and act on nerve endings to block the transmission and perception of pain.

The study, carried out at the University of Plymouth in the U.K., is the first scientific one of its kind. In it stinging nettle leaves were applied on 27 osteoarthritis sufferers’ hands for a week. None of the participants had used nettle before, although some were taking conventional treatments such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. Half the patients applied stinging nettles, while the other half used a placebo, a non-stinging plant called white deadnettle. Standard pain assessment scales were used to measure results, and each patient kept a ‘pain diary.’

Dr. Colin Randall led the team, which found that stinging nettles not only significantly reduced pain, but also kept the pain level lower throughout most of the treatment. The only possible side effects were welts caused by the sting, but a majority of patients found this acceptable. In fact 63% expressed a desire to try the new therapy again after the study ended. “The potential of this treatment deserves further research,” concluded Dr. Randall.

Source: Royal Society of Medicine

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