Lipophilic stinging nettle extracts possess potent anti-inflammatory activity, are not cytotoxic and may be superior to traditional tinctures for treating inflammatory disorders

Phytomedicine. 2013 Jan 15;20(2):143-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2012.09.016. Epub 2012 Oct 23.


Extracts of four plant portions (roots, stems, leaves and flowers) of Urtica dioica (the stinging nettle) were prepared using accelerated solvent extraction (ASE) involving water, hexanes, methanol and dichloromethane. The extracts were evaluated for their anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic activities in an NF-κB luciferase and MTT assay using macrophage immune (RAW264.7) cells. A standardized commercial ethanol extract of nettle leaves was also evaluated. The methanolic extract of the flowering portions displayed significant anti-inflammatory activity on par with a standard compound celastrol (1) but were moderately cytotoxic. Alternatively, the polar extracts (water, methanol, ethanol) of the roots, stems and leaves displayed moderate to weak anti-inflammatory activity, while the methanol and especially the water soluble extracts exhibited noticeable cytotoxicity. In contrast, the lipophilic dichloromethane extracts of the roots, stems and leaves exhibited potent anti-inflammatory effects greater than or equal to 1 with minimal cytotoxicity to RAW264.7 cells. Collectively these results suggest that using lipophilic extracts of stinging nettle may be more effective than traditional tinctures (water, methanol, ethanol) in clinical evaluations for the treatment of inflammatory disorders especially arthritis. A chemical investigation into the lipophilic extracts of stinging nettle to identify the bioactive compound(s) responsible for their observed anti-inflammatory activity is further warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cytotoxins / chemistry
  • Cytotoxins / pharmacology*
  • Flowers / chemistry
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mice
  • Molecular Structure
  • NF-kappa B / agonists
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Plant Stems / chemistry
  • Urtica dioica / chemistry*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cytotoxins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Plant Extracts
  • Luciferases