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.
For 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.
Clinically, and for a broader audience, more and more herbalists are using Nettle Root to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome/disorder, known as PCOS or PCOD.
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.
PCOS is a serious disorder, affecting many women, and Nettle Root has show promising abilities to correct the syndrome and reverse the associated side effects.
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.