Extracts from the roots of the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) are used in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. The mechanisms underlying this treatment have not been elucidated. We set out to determine whether specific extracts from U. dioica had the ability to modulate the binding of sex hormone-binding globulin to its receptor on human prostatic membranes. Four substances contained in U. dioica were examined: an aqueous extract; an alcoholic extract; U. dioica agglutinin, and stigmasta-4-en-3-one. Of these, only the aqueous extract was active. It inhibited the binding of 125I-SHBG to its receptor. The inhibition was dose related, starting at about 0.6 mg/ml and completely inhibited binding at 10 mg/ml.