1887

Abstract

Stinging nettles ( spp.) have been used in a diverse range of traditional and historical medicines from around the world for the treatment of skin diseases, wounds, urinary disorders, respiratory diseases, bone and joint pain, anaemia and other circulatory problems, as well as in cosmetic preparations for skin and haircare. As part of an interdisciplinary exploration of nettle-based remedies, we performed a systematic review of published evidence for the antimicrobial activity of spp. extracts against bacteria and fungi that commonly cause skin, soft tissue and respiratory infections. We focussed on studies in which minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assays of were conducted on the common bacterial opportunistic pathogens , , and . No studies used fresh leaves (all were dried prior to use), and no studies prepared nettles in weak acid (corresponding to vinegar) or in fats/oils, which are common combinations in historical and traditional preparations. We addressed this gap by conducting new antibacterial tests of extracts of fresh leaves prepared in vinegar, butter or olive oil against and . Our systematic review and additional experimental data leads us to conclude that there is no strong evidence for nettles containing molecules with clinically useful antimicrobial activity. It seems most likely that the utility of nettles in traditional topical preparations for wounds may simply be as a ‘safe’ absorbent medium for keeping antibacterial (vinegar) or emollient (oils) ingredients at the treatment site.

Funding
This study was supported by the:
  • Royal Society (Award APX\R1\180053)
    • Principle Award Recipient: HarrisonFreya
  • UKRI (Award MR/T020652/1)
    • Principle Award Recipient: ConnellyErin
  • Medical Research Council (Award MR/N014294/1)
    • Principle Award Recipient: Furner-PardoeJessica
  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
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2022-03-24
2022-05-18
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