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What is Nettle Oil?

By Janis Bennett
Updated May 21, 2024
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Nettle oil is a concentrated extraction made from the leaves and stems of the common nettle plant, which is known scientifically as Urtica dioica. The plant as a whole has been used in holistic medical treatments for centuries and is a known anti-inflammatory, which means that it can reduce swelling and inflammation in people and many animals. It also has a number of moisture-sealing properties. Today, the oil is most commonly found in many all-natural remedies for things like dry skin and scalp and minor joint inflammation, particularly arthritis. It can also be used to treat seasonal allergies.

Plant Basics

The common nettle, which is also known as hemp nettle, white nettle, devil’s leaf and stinging nettle, is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant that grows in the underbrush and shallow forest lands in most of North America and Europe; subspecies also live throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. The “stinging” and “devil’s leaf” names are likely related to the defensive fibers or hairs that line the underside of the leaves. These fibers detach when they’re touched by skin or fur, and they can cause topical irritation in people and most animals. Most people react by getting little raised red bumps on the skin that itch like little bug bites. The chemicals in the leaves that are responsible for the stinging sensation can be important medically, and are often thought to be one of the reasons why the extracted oils are so effective.

Nettle leaves have been used for centuries by communities around the world to treat irritation, itching, redness and other scalp and skin conditions. Nettle extract can be in oil or alcohol form. The oil can be found in many personal care products, such as soap and hair conditioner. It can be rubbed onto the skin to help burns and abrasions heal quickly. The oil can also be taken in capsule form and is widely believed to provide many health benefits.

Ancient Uses

In ancient times, people used the nettle's stem to create tough fibers to make cloth, and cooked nettle leaves were eaten. Nettle was used as medicine to treat tuberculosis, arthritis and coughs, as well as to increase hair growth. Romans would rub nettle leaves on their skin to restore circulation. The ancient Greeks and Romans used the plant’s oil on their skin to treat skin irritation and redness as well as help prevent wrinkles.

Extracting the Oil

Nettle oil is available in many pharmacies and chemists as an over-the-counter remedy, and these commercial extractions are usually quite pure. Commercial manufacturers typically concentrate large quantities of leaves and use high-powered distillation machines and expellers to remove the oil, drop by drop. It’s often suspended in vitamin oil or another substance, but not always.

It can also be made at home, which can be a good choice for people who have a lot of nettles growing on their land or who are looking for a truly at-home remedy for certain ailments. The most common method involves putting the leaves in a dark bottle with pure, or virgin, olive oil, covering it tightly, and letting it sit in a dark place for two to three weeks. Dark glass is better than light as it prevents the penetration of sunlight, which can change the chemical composition of the concoction. The leaves should be strained out and discarded; as long as they’ve had long enough to soak, their core elements have leeched into the oil and infused it.

Use for Skin Conditions

Shampoo that contains nettle not only promotes healthy hair growth, but is also great for controlling natural oils that can lead to residue buildup. The nettle oil should be massaged into the hair and scalp and should remain there for a minute or two before it is rinsed out. It can also be used as a deep conditioner by leaving it on the hair and scalp overnight, typically with a shower cap to protect bedding and clothing.

Nettle in soap can help clear up redness and irritation, and will usually also moisturize dry skin. It can work well for reducing wrinkles and stopping new ones from forming. In capsule form, nettle oil is used as a diuretic and detoxifies the kidneys, and it helps fight gout, prostate issues, and even allergies.

Treating Inflammation and Infection

The oil is rich in chlorophyll, silica, iron and other nutrients, which can make it effective when used by people who have arthritis, rheumatism, or certain types of osteoporosis. It can be rubbed directly onto the skin or taken in capsule form for these purposes. This oil also can be used to help burns and skin abrasions heal quickly. It can be applied directly to the wound several times a day. When taken as directed, there aren’t usually any known side effects of this oil.

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Discussion Comments

By turquoise — On Apr 14, 2014

My mom uses nettle oil when she has foot and leg swelling. Either she dilutes the oil with some castor oil and massages with it or she puts a few drops of the oil in hot water for a foot soak. She says it works great.

By serenesurface — On Apr 13, 2014

I take nettle oil as a dietary supplement. I take a few drops mixed with water once a day. It protect from urinary tract infections, helps with allergies and it's good for kidney health.

If anyone is planning to take nettle oil though please read the directions carefully because there are different types of nettle oil out there. For example there is nettle leaf oil, nettle seed oil and oils with nettle extract on the market. The doses will vary depending on the type of oil, so do some research before starting it.

I've known about the benefits of nettle for many years. My grandmother, who was Lebanese, used to make a flat bread with cooked nettle leaves and farmer's cheese as a filling. It tasted quite good. Unfortunately, I don't grow nettle because I have a hard time handling them. They sting very badly, so I use nettle oil instead for the same benefits.

By literally45 — On Apr 13, 2014

Nettle oil seems to help with both oily scalp and dry scalp. It really balances oil production and returns the scalp to a healthy state.

I bought nettle oil to use for my oily, itchy scalp. It treated my itching and reduced the oil after just a week of use. Then my husband started using it for his dry scalp and it helped him as well. So I think that nettle oil can be tried for most scalp conditions. It's a good idea to ask a doctor too. It was my doctor who recommended nettle oil to me.

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