The natural world can provide health and performance benefits from the most unlikely of places and nowhere is this better illustrated than in everyone’s least favourite childhood nemesis, stinging nettle.
Against the odds, the leaves and root of this plant, technically known as Urtica Dioica, which most of us once associated only with pain and annoyance, can in fact contribute to our wellbeing in a number of different ways.
As some form of stinging nettle increasingly finds its way into some pretty impressive natural hormone enhancing supplements, we examine the reason and credentials which put it there.
While a lab rat based trial from India did appear to show evidence that it could stimulate overall testosterone levels, stinging nettle’s real strength appears to be in its ability to help our levels of free testosterone.
Up to 60% of the testosterone in our system at any one time can be tied up by something called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, which prevents the hormone working in the most direct way – i.e. the way that gives us all the advantages associated with higher testosterone. Any testosterone not inhibited by SHBG and able to work for us most efficiently is called ‘free testosterone.’
Several notable in-vitro studies from Germany, including two conducted at the University of Bayreuth, found that nettle root has the ability to significantly decrease SHGB activity, leaving more of the hormone free in our system. In one case researchers even found it was able to release a percentage of the hormone already bound by SHGB, moving more of it back into circulation.
In common with many other plant based ingredients, stinging nettle contains the plant sterol beta-sitosterol, which research suggests would give it a secondary use to us as an estrogen blocker.
As we’ve covered many times before, the relationship between estrogen and testosterone is such that they are basically in head-to-head competition; the lower you can get one the higher the other will go. So studies like those from the University of Illinois in 2004, showing that beta-sitosterol was able to cut levels of circulating estrogen in mice and guard against the growth of estrogen dependent breast cancer cells in-vivo are potentially great news for our hormonal balance too.
There’s certainly no shortage of evidence out there to suggest stinging nettle can a play a valuable role in helping our hormone levels, especially when it comes to promoting a favourable ratio between overall and free testosterone.
Combine this with innate estrogen blocking qualities and it’s not hard to see why some of the best natural testosterone boosters on the market make room for it.
If we had one criticism of stinging nettle it’s that research concerning it is a little light on human trials, but with an ingredient already so widely and safely used in other areas of natural medicine, it would be silly to ignore such positive results. Let’s face it, those stingy S.O.B’s owe us, man.
Study 1: Nahata et al (2011)
Title: Ameliorative effects of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) on testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia in rats.
Researchers: Nahata A, Dixit VK.
Read More: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21806658
Study 2: Schmidt Study (1983)
Title Effect of radix urticae extract and its several secondary extracts on blood SHBG in benign prostate hyperplasia.
Researchers: Schmidt K.
Read More: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6189775
Study 3: Bayreuth University Study (1995)
Title: Plant constituents interfering with human sex hormone-binding globulin. Evaluation of a test method and its application to Urtica dioica root extracts.
Researchers: Gansser D, Spiteller G.
Read More: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7702715
Study 4: Bayreuth University Study (1997)
Title Interaction of lignans with human sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
Researchers: Schöttner M, Gansser D, Spiteller G.
Read More: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9463941
Study 5: University of IllinoisStudy (2004)
Title: beta-Sitosterol, beta-Sitosterol Glucoside, and a Mixture of beta-Sitosterol and beta-Sitosterol Glucoside Modulate the Growth of Estrogen-Responsive Breast Cancer Cells In Vitro and in Ovariectomized Athymic Mice.
Researchers Ju YH, Clausen LM, Allred KF, Almada AL, Helferich WG.
Read More: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15113961