Dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, is an especially potent hormone derived from the male sex hormone, testosterone. Production of DHT may be involved in several disorders in men, including benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Genetically determined sensitivity to DHT is also a cause of hair loss in men. Nettle tea is a traditional remedy that may help reduce levels of DHT, potentially preventing or improving this condition. Talk to your doctor about nettle tea to decide if it might be helpful for you.
Testosterone and DHT
Testosterone, the predominant male sex hormone, is converted into DHT through the action of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. The enzyme is present in a number of locations in a man's body, including the oil glands associated with individual hair follicles. In a man who inherited the gene for male pattern baldness, hair follicles in the area of the hairline and the crown are very sensitive to DHT. After years of exposure to the hormone, these follicles begin to shrink, eventually becoming unable to produce hair, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Cells in the prostate gland of some older men also contain 5-alpha reductase, which produces DHT that may encourage prostate cells to multiply, eventually causing BPH. Although a non-cancerous condition, BPH may cause urinary symptoms that produce discomfort and interfere with everyday life.
Nettle as Treatment
Stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, has been a traditional herbal remedy for centuries. The plant is named for its tiny, stiff hairs that cover the leaves and stems and release a stinging chemical when you touch any part of the plant. Practitioners often recommend nettle root as a diuretic or to treat painful muscles and joints, skin problems, arthritis, gout and anemia. Nettle contains natural, biologically active compounds, including amines, flavonoids, tannins and several different acids. These components are responsible for the medicinal properties of nettle.
Actions of Nettle
Nettle root and tea made from the dried root may be helpful for both BPH and hair loss in men. According to experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the effectiveness of nettle in preventing or reversing BPH is comparable to that of a prescription medication commonly recommended for the condition. Although not yet tested in human subjects, a laboratory study published in "Andrologia" in 2011 found that laboratory animals with BPH that were fed nettle had reduced prostate size and fewer markers of prostate growth. Because nettle seems to suppress DHT production, it may also slow or potentially reverse hair loss through its action on 5-alpha reductase in hair follicles. However, this possibility still needs to be tested in laboratory and clinical research.
Recommendations for Nettle Use
Dried nettle root is available from most health food stores and may be prepared as a tea by adding 3 to 4 teaspoons of dried root to 2/3-cup boiling water. Allow the tea to steep for five minutes, and consume it several times daily. Nettle root is generally considered safe, although it may cause mild stomach upset. Nettle may interact with some medications, including hypertension drugs, diabetes medicines or blood thinners, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute and University of Maryland Medical Center. If you suspect you have BPH, consult your doctor to rule out other conditions before self-treating with nettle tea.