MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

This systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials were performed to summarize the evidence of the effects of Urtica dioica (UD) consumption on metabolic profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).

Eligible studies were retrieved from searches of PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar databases until December 2019. Cochran (Q) and I-square statistics were used to examine heterogeneity across included clinical trials. Data were pooled using a fixed-effect or random-effects model and expressed as weighted mean difference (WMD) and 95% confidence interval (CI).

Among 1485 citations, thirteen clinical trials were found to be eligible for the current metaanalysis. UD consumption significantly decreased levels of fasting blood glucose (FBG) (WMD = – 17.17 mg/dl, 95% CI: -26.60, -7.73, I2 = 93.2%), hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) (WMD = -0.93, 95% CI: – 1.66, -0.17, I2 = 75.0%), C-reactive protein (CRP) (WMD = -1.09 mg/dl, 95% CI: -1.64, -0.53, I2 = 0.0%), triglycerides (WMD = -26.94 mg/dl, 95 % CI = [-52.07, -1.82], P = 0.03, I2 = 90.0%), systolic blood pressure (SBP) (WMD = -5.03 mmHg, 95% CI = -8.15, -1.91, I2 = 0.0%) in comparison to the control groups. UD consumption did not significantly change serum levels of insulin (WMD = 1.07 μU/ml, 95% CI: -1.59, 3.73, I2 = 63.5%), total-cholesterol (WMD = -6.39 mg/dl, 95% CI: -13.84, 1.05, I2 = 0.0%), LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) (WMD = -1.30 mg/dl, 95% CI: -9.95, 7.35, I2 = 66.1%), HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) (WMD = 6.95 mg/dl, 95% CI: -0.14, 14.03, I2 = 95.4%), body max index (BMI) (WMD = -0.16 kg/m2, 95% CI: -1.77, 1.44, I2 = 0.0%), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) (WMD = -1.35 mmHg, 95% CI: -2.86, 0.17, I2= 0.0%) among patients with T2DM.

The authors concluded that UD consumption may result in an improvement in levels of FBS, HbA1c, CRP, triglycerides, and SBP, but did not affect levels of insulin, total-, LDL-, and HDL-cholesterol, BMI, and DBP in patients with T2DM.

Several plants have been reported to affect the parameters of diabetes. Whenever I read such results, I cannot stop wondering whether this is a good or a bad thing. It seems to be positive at first glance, yet I can imagine at least two scenarios where such effects might be detrimental:

  • A patient reads about the antidiabetic effects and decides to swap his medication for the herbal remedy which is far less effective. Consequently, the patient’s metabolic control is insufficient.
  • A patient adds the herbal remedy to his therapy. Consequently, his blood sugar drops too far and he suffers a hypoglycemic episode.

My advice to diabetics is therefore this: if you want to try herbal antidiabetic treatments, please think twice. And if you persist, do it only under the close supervision of your doctor.

27 Responses to Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica): a good treatment for type 2 diabetes?

  • “My advice to diabetics is therefore this: if you want to try herbal antidiabetic treatments, please think twice. And if you persist, do it only under the close supervision of your doctor.”

    That is a medical doctor, not a:
    • “Doctor of Chiropractic”, which is sometimes abbreviated to “DC” or “DoC”
    • “Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine”, “ND”
    • “nutritionist”
    • “Doctor of Theology”, although you may end up requiring one.

    • a medical doctor who hasn’t studied chemistry (like most of them) when our bodies are made of chemcials! no thanks. i’ll stick to diagnostic orthomolecular medicine where one HAS to study biochemistry. this edzardesrnst site is so right wing it’s dropped off the margin.

      eg i cured myself completely with asthma doing a rigorous 2 hour per day astanga practice (i’ve practised yoga now for 35 years in total starting with iyengar – mostly on a daily basis).

      there are many different types of yoga. astanga teaches one to use ujiah breath throughout the practice. if one can control their breath then obviously they can control their asthma. makes sense. common sense – something most doctors were either not born with, not conditioned to or lost the first day they went to uni. good luck to em with their toxic substances and JaBz.

      • “this edzardesrnst site is so right wing it’s dropped off the margin.”
        THANK YOU
        this really made me laugh!
        BTW: all doctors have to study and pass exams in both chemistry and biochemistry (sorry, is that a right-wing remark too?)
        PS
        please learn how to spell my name correctly before giving me wings

      • if one can control their breath then obviously they can control their asthma.

        You are wrong. Asthma is an inflammatory airway condition, and its main symptom (airway constriction) is NOT under voluntary control. Every year, 1 in every 600 asthma patients literally suffocate to death because of this, usually because they fail to administer their medicine in time. Quite a few of these people thought they were doing just fine – right up until that one fatal attack.

        No matter what you believe, I hope that you are at least sensible enough to
        – keep a couple of doses of bronchodilator at hand, just in case your breathing control is not enough to get you through a severe asthma attack, and
        – get periodical check-ups of your lung function.

      • “What you said was so confused that one could not tell whether it was nonsense or not.”
        — Wolfgang Pauli

      • @ Martina : Forget that Yoga. Do brisk walking exercise. That’s the best.

  • Anybody prescribing medication for diabetes should be actively monitoring their patients, not only with markers for disease control (such as HbA1c) but also for early indications of complications (e.g. regular eye screening) and should be managing other relevant aspects of their lifestyle. If they are not, then their patients have more serious things to worry about than the effects of swapping their drugs for a herbal remedy.

    Hypoglycaemic episodes in diabetics are nearly always as a result of too much insulin (though as a junion doctor I did once look after a young non-diabetic man who had been snorting ground-up glibenclamide to get high and ended up with serious brain damage as a result of his blood sugar going too low – he was on our ward for months). I would be surprised if taking nettle supplements led to a hypoglycaemic episode.

    For type I diabetes the mainstay of treatment is insulin, without which they would rapidly die, though there are many other things that need to be managed in order to give insulin safely and effectively.

    For type II diabetes, the mainstay of treatment is exercise and diet, metformin (which has been shown to reduce the risk of strokes, coronary heart disease and other complications) and hypoglycaemic drugs if those aren’t enough. I would imagine that the additional effect of nettle extracts is going to be a lot less than that of suitable exercise.

    • @Dr. Julian

      Sir, you are correct in theory. However, in reality the mainstay of treatment for far too many Type II Diabetics that I have been familiar with is NOT food and exercise… but in fact medication (insulin). Most diabetics I’ve known do not exercise, and most only control their diets as much as the medication allows them to control their insulin.

      The easiest and most effective way to control insulin is to use fasting, or intermittent fasting. Fasting for a minimum of sixteen hours per day is sufficient for most people, eighteen is better. As an alternative, a patient can instead fast for thirty-six hours once per week for a nearly equal result of reducing insulin sensitivity.

      • James Joromat,

        in reality the mainstay of treatment for far too many Type II Diabetics that I have been familiar with is NOT food and exercise… but in fact medication (insulin). Most diabetics I’ve known do not exercise, and most only control their diets as much as the medication allows them to control their insulin.

        For type II diabetes insulin is a treatment of last resort as it does not address the underlying problem, which is a loss of sensitivity to insulin. From what you say, the diabetics that you speak of are being managed very badly, have not been educated about the nature of their disease or are failing to take control of lifestyle factors that will be far more beneficial to them in the long run than insulin.

        I don’t know very much about the physiological changes associated with fasting or how it affects type II diabetes, but it seems plausible that it could improve insulin sensitivity. I do know that exercise, even very short bursts of sufficient intensity, has a profound effect on the way the body metabolises glucose, particularly the muscles, and the diabetologist at the hospital where I used to work as an oncologist would always emphasise exercise as a fundamental component of management.

        The effect of exercise is plain if you look at an FDG PET scan, which is used for staging cancer and works by looking for abnormal glucose uptake within tumour deposits. Any strenuous exercise taken within 48 hours prior to the investigation renders it useless as all of the tracer is diverted to the muscles.

        • A patient of mine is an eminent (retired) endocrinologist and I discussed IF with him a few years ago. He said that it is a good way of helping but the main benefits it supplies are via weight loss through keeping insulin levels low – insulin, he told me, is basically a growth hormone. This paper (as I understand it) supports what he says. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32166554/

          • Lenny,

            insulin, he told me, is basically a growth hormone

            Most diabetics find that they start to gain weight as soon as they are put on insulin. It has many effects on the body besides facilitating the entry of glucose into cells. The insulin resistance that occurs in type II diabetes is only to some of these actions.

            I suppose regarding it as a growth hormone isn’t too far off the mark.

  • @Dr. JMK

    Yes doctor, you could characterize insulin that way.
    “Chronic exposure to refined carbohydrates and simple sugars can cause elevated levels of insulin, which drives glucose levels down. This can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Over time, tissues may become less sensitive to insulin and as a result glucose cannot enter the cells as easily. This means more glucose in the bloodstream and a greater tendency to convert it into fat instead of energy. Elevated insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) cause the body to have difficulty breaking down fat also.”

    For anybody interested in lowering insulin resistance, read the book “Why We Get Sick”, by Dr. Benjamin Bikman.
    He explains the dilemma, the science and the solution. Reading the book is the easy part, making changes is more difficult. If folks with insulin resistance want to exchange insulin resistance for insulin sensitivity, they will make the necessary changes to both diet and eating habits and exercise. Most patients are not aware it exists, even more that it’s a good chance they are being effected by it. If ill patients don’t become aware, they will suffer disease, or worse die from some of the far reaching effects of sugar overload (not limited to diabetes).
    High insulin levels in women leads to increased testosterone which throws estrogen out of balance. Increased insulin also leads to increased adrenaline and cortisol levels, which will cause the body to deplete progesterone, leaving your body estrogen dominant.

    So insulin resistance effects negatively and causes imbalances in other hormones. Insulin resistance leads to metabolic disease, inflammation, which evidences itself in arthritis and other chronic immune system loads. Chronic insulin overload (resistance) effects skin, kidneys, liver, heart, thyroid, and brain…. just to mention the important ones.

    So, put down the fork, get outta the chair, and stop eating so many times per day. If you NEED to eat. healthy fats and proteins you won’t spike the insulin hormone as high or as frequently.

    https://www.theunconventionaldietitian.com/insulins-affect-on-hormones/

    • @James Joromat (a.k.a RG/Listener/Ruthy)

      No matter how many times you change your moniker, regular commenters knew it was you all along buddy! You peddle the same crap most of the time.

      Not too long ago you (Ruthy) said farewell to this blog, remember?

      I bid you farewell
      I stumbled on to this website three years ago. At first glance, I assumed that the participants here were seeking solutions to medical issues. In a large way, I was wrong, nothing to see here… move along.
      …..
      This forum is full of closed minds, minds made up with, and polluted by CONmed fallacies. Sheeple, following the modern day Western medical narrative…. all under the guise of “SCIENCE”. Oh yes, there are some bright people here, perhaps too clever for their own good health.

      Back then others predicted that you’d be back with a new sock puppet, lo and behold here you are again.

      I gotta ask, what brings you back? Can’t stay away from all these “close-minded CONmed sheeple” that you love to hate?

  • Talker

    That’s a very clever moniker you’ve got there chap ! But who are YOU ?

    However, I don’t know you, so don’t pretend to know me. Have you read the red banner at the top of the page. “If you make a claim, support it with evidence.”

    I shared with everybody my scientifically sound facts about fasting, yet you not only attacked who I am, you completely ignored all of the content of my post. So I’m at the blunt end of your jabs.
    Why don’t we have a conversation about the content of my message rather than who I am ?

    I stand by my statements
    https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/research-intermittent-fasting-shows-health-benefits

    • @James Joromat (a.k.a RG/Listener/Ruthy)

      That’s a very clever moniker you’ve got there chap !

      Thank you. I am not in the habit of using other people’s name to stay anonymous.

      Have you read the red banner at the top of the page. “If you make a claim, support it with evidence.”

      Yes, I know what the red banner says and I have already provided necessary evidence in my last post. But the question is, why haven’t you provided evidence to support the claims you made here, here, here, here, here & here? That is just a small sampling of your evidence-free rants.

      You want people responding to you to stay on topic and follow the rules, but you are more than willing ignore them and ramble off-topic when it suites you.

      Keep up your “James Joromat” act RG! You are fooling no one.

      • @Talker

        Sure… professor Ernst

        Somebody omitted posting a response from me to the “Talker” yesterday just because it would have supported my position and put the “Talker” in a bad light. I was very cordial in the message, and on topic, so there would have been no valid reason to not make public by post. Nobody other than EE himself could have managed that.

        So now we know that EE is the Talker moniker…. lol
        I can play the detective game also.

  • There’s a homeopathic mother tincture (1X) of Syzygium Jambolanum sold on Amazon (!), that has antidiabetic effects:

    The homeopathic drug, mother tincture of S jambolanum significantly decreased fasting blood glucose levels and improved carbohydrate metabolic key enzyme activities in hepatic tissue i.e., hexokinase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and glucose-6-phosphatase in diabetic rats. Alongside, serum lipid profile biomarkers i.e., triglyceride (TG), total cholesterol (TC), low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLc), very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDLc) and high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLc) levels were significantly ameliorated in homeopathic drug supplemented diabetic animals in compared with the untreated diabetic animal.

    So it’s possible to buy glucose-lowering medication on Amazon without a prescription …

    • S. Jambolanum had quite a powerful effect of lowering fasting blood glucose in diabetic rats:

      STZ induced diabetic animals resulted in a significant elevation (P 300 mg/dL) in respect to untreated control animals. After the treatment of homeopathic remedy S jambolanum to diabetic animals for 40 days, a significant reduction (P < 0.05) of fasting blood glucose level was noted in compare with untreated diabetic animals. During experimental period, on tenth day by 19.1%, twentieth day by 47.2%, thirtieth day by 60.0% and fortieth day by 69.4% reduction of fasting blood glucose level.

      • S. Jambolanum had quite a powerful effect of lowering fasting blood glucose in diabetic rats:

        What effect does it have when administered to healthy rats?

        • What effect does [Syzygium Jambolanum] have when administered to healthy rats?

          I don’t know. I wondered about that sort of thing too – what kinds of pitfalls there might be for people who buy this on Amazon.
          From an article on homeopathic treatments for diabetes,

          Most homeopathic remedies for diabetes have only been tested in animals and not in human clinical trials. For example, black plum (Syzygium jambolanum) is a common homeopathic remedy for diabetes. Studies show that this treatment may help control blood sugar in animals like rats and rabbits. But in studies with people with type 2 diabetes, there was no effect.

          In the study I linked to, they gave the rats streptozotocin to make them diabetic. Streptozotocin is toxic to the beta cells in the pancreas, so they were giving the rats an imitation of type 1 diabetes, not type 2.

          • Streptozotocin is a nasty cytotoxic drug that is occasionally used for treating hepatocellular cancer. I have never prescribed it so I don’t have a feel for how it behaves in humans (or rats) but it wouldn’t surprise me if it had other permanent effects besides those on the beta cells of the pancreas.

  • Streptozotocin is a nasty cytotoxic drug that is occasionally used for treating hepatocellular cancer. I have never prescribed it so I don’t have a feel for how it behaves in humans (or rats) but it wouldn’t surprise me if it had other permanent effects besides those on the beta cells of the pancreas.

    They had a control group of rats that received streptozotocin but not S. Jambolanum, and their fasting blood glucose didn’t improve over that same time period. They remained diabetic.
    They say STZ injured the rats’ livers:

    observed increase in the activities of GOT and GPT in serum of diabetic rats may primarily be due to leakage of these enzymes from liver cytosol into bloodstream as a consequence of hepatic injury by STZ as proposed by other. Oral administration of S jambolanum to diabetic rats significantly decreased the activities of these enzymes, suggesting the hepatoprotective nature of S jambolanum mother tincture in experimentally induced diabetic hepatic injury and this observation is supported by other researchers.

    The interpretation that S. jambolanum was protecting the rats’ livers sounds like it could be wishful thinking, though.

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