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Nettle sting effective for treatment of osteoarthritis pain

Nettle sting as a treatment for osteoarthritis pain has a long history of traditional use, but few clinical studies have investigated the effectiveness of this practice. This small, placebo-controlled study showed that daily application of fresh stinging nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) was significantly more effective than placebo in relieving osteoarthritis pain at the base of the thumb. For the study, 27 people applied stinging nettle leaf to the painful area once daily for one week. After a five-week washout period, the treatment was repeated using placebo (Lamium album, or white deadnettle, which looks similar to stinging nettle but does not sting). Patients and physicians were both unaware of the treatment order; patients were told that the researchers were investigating two different types of nettle and that they might experience a harmless stinging sensation. According to the results, reductions in pain and disability scores were significantly greater with nettle treatment than with placebo. The investigators concluded, "The stinging nettle is a freely available plant and its sting seems a safe treatment for musculoskeletal pain." Randall C, Randall H, Dobbs F, et al. Randomized controlled trial of nettle sting for treatment of base-of thumb pain. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2000; 93:305-309.

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