Nettle Root and Women's Hormonal Health
Many women are already familiar with the benefits of the above ground parts of the common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
plant. The leaves are known to be deeply nutritive as a food and as a
tea, able to improve skin, hair, and nail health. Some might also know
the seeds to contain tonifying qualities both of the Yang energy and
also building deep Kidney Jing. Few, however, know of the benefits that
the root, harvested when Fall starts to turn blustery with Winter, gift
to women's hormonal health.
For women, the actions of Nettle Root
on the body are similar to those of men: optimizing and regulating the
hormonal (endocrine) system. Nettle Root has the unique ability to add
sex hormones where they are needed and delete them where they are doing
damage. I like to think of Nettle Root as more of an ally or a best
friend, supporting you to become the best version of yourself. Nettle
Root doesn't supplement with phyto-hormones, Nettle Root doesn't do the
work for you, but what it does it is assists your own body in finding a
healthy harmony. In this way, Nettle Root is a premiere first line of
defense, but also an important and powerful medicine for the long haul.
Sticking with the best friend analogy, Nettle Root is both the friend
you can sit with and BS over coffee or a beer, and Nettle Root is also
the friend who stands by you through thick and thin, when you need them
the most and when others are nowhere to be found.
women, Nettle Root is able to minimize harmful estrogen metabolites in
the body. Some sex hormones undergo a process called aromatization where
the end products are implicated as primary causative factors in several
types of cancer, including hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer and
uterine cancer. Decreasing levels of these estrogen metabolites have
shown beneficial both in assisting prevention of cancer as well as an
adjunct therapy. Conventional medicine has identified the importance of
blocking this process, and three common breast cancer drugs are Arimidex
(anastrozole), Aromasin (exemestane), and Femara (letrozole). These
medications all work simillarty to Nettle Root, in blocking the
aromatization process. Nettle Root, unlike these medications, is a safe,
natural medicine, with no known side effects or toxicity. Unlike
pharmaceutical drugs, natural plant medicines are far reaching,
providing a host of benefits, not a singular action.
and for a broader audience, more and more herbalists are using Nettle
Root to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome/disorder, known as PCOS or
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most
common endocrine disorders plaguing women, and it seems that more and
more women are suffering from PCOS. The effects of PCOS are severe, and
affect many areas of a woman's life and do so in a multitude of ways.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome causes a lack of ovulation, known as
anovulation (the prefix of a or an = without). Anovulation
results in irregular and absent menstration (amenorrhea). PCOS also
causes ovulation-related infertility, and polycystic ovaries. PCOS leads
to an excess of androgenic
hormones (the male sex hormones), which often results in acne and
excessive hairiness (hirsutism). PCOS also contributes to insulin
resistance leading to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.
is a serious disorder, affecting many women, and Nettle Root has show
promising abilities to correct the syndrome and reverse the associated
Linda Crockett, author of Healing Our Hormones, Healing Our Lives,
includes Nettle Root in her formulas for treating PCOS, and many
Naturopathic doctors and herbalists are currently working with Nettle
Root in treating PCOS. Susan Weed, the popular women's herbalist, writes
of Nettle Root: "Use nettle root as a hair and scalp tonic, a
urinary strengthener and stimulant, an immune system/lymphatic
strengthener and a bit of first aid– primarily in cases of diarrhoea."
the research that has gone into the benefits of Nettle Root on the male
system, scientific analysis of how Nettle Root helps alleviate PCOS is
lacking, and many of the hypotheses available do not make physiological
sense. One common suggestion is that Nettle Root helps women by blocking
the conversion of testosterone to DHT (a more active form of
testosterone). This might be of benefit to women, however, Nettle Root
does not block the conversion of testosterone to DHT (Saw Palmetto
does). While Nettle Root lacks scientific research, the clinical
applications are there.
When combined with an improved
healthy diet and regular exercise, Nettle Root shows much promise in
alleviating PCOS and reversing the harmful symptoms associated with it.
My hypothesis for how Nettle Root helps the female hormonal system is
the the actions of Nettle Root, like all tonic plants, are not linear.
Scientific methodology is strictly linear, however, life and the natural
world are cyclical--the antithesis of linear. And this is how Nettle
Root works: not a singular, straight action, but a tool kit of cyclical
actions. Nettle Root knows where assistance is needed, and is able to
adapt, finding a healthy harmony of sex hormones, both in the female and
Much of Western medicine is actually built
on the back on Western herbalism. The first synthetic drug was aspirin,
known as salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a synthesis of of the White
Willow plant, the latin binomial being Salix alba, and the family name being Salicaceae. Here, you can see the root of the word for salicylic
acid. Today, many common drugs are just the synthesis of medicinal
plants know to herbalist and indigenous people the world over. I include
this as part of discussion on the linear, scientific method thinking,
noting how much of our understanding of medicinal plants mimics the
application of Western, alopathic medicine.
have to break out of this methodology to truly understand not just
plants and plant medicine, but how we fit into a holistic ethos of the
world and the natural environment. We have to break our of linear
thinking to find health.
this way, we have much to learn from classical Chinese medicine, where
the top, most prized and highly regarded plants work not linearly, but
cyclically. We know these plants as tonics and adaptogens. An adaptogen,
like a best friend, knows exactly what you need at any given point, and
helps you become your best person--the best version of yourself. This
is where Nettle Root
fits in. The actions of the plant in the male and female body might
differ, as they might differ from one person to another, or even differ
within the same person at different points of their life. But the end
result is always the same, a heather, more harmonious endocrine system.