From Westfall RE. Galactagogue herbs: a qualitative study and review. Canadian Journal of Midwifery Research and Practice. 2003, 2(2):22-27.
Stinging nettle leaf (Urtica dioica L. [Urticaceae]) was one of the less-used galactagogue herbs among the participants in this study, though has a long-standing reputation for enriching breast milk (Gladstar, 1993; Weed, 1986; Yarnell, 1998). The herb is believed to be completely non-toxic (Yarnell, 1998). Nettle contains many nutrients, including iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K (Lieberman, 1995), as well as phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, and vitamin D (Weed, 1986). They also contain some B vitamins and appreciable amounts of magnesium (Duke, 1992). They contain up to 20% mineral salts, mainly calcium, potassium, silicon, and nitrates (Blumenthal et al., 2000). Nettle extract has been found to contain all of the essential amino acids (Bombardelli and Morazzoni, 1997).
Nettle is believed to support lactation by providing essential nutrients (Weed, 1986). It has no medicinal action, apart from being mildly diuretic and hemostatic (Bradley, 1992). Dried nettles mixed into cattle fodder are known to boost milk production in cows (Grieve, 1971; Phillips and Foy, 1990). Nonetheless, the herb’s astringent qualities could theoretically reduce milk production (Edmunds, 1995; Weed, 1986). There are no known contraindications to its use during pregnancy or lactation (Blumenthal et al., 2000).
To support lactation, nettle leaves are typically brewed as a tea, often in combination with raspberry leaf.
Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998.
Bradley PR. Editor. British Herbal Compendium, Volume 1. Bournemouth: British Herbal Medicine Association; 1992.
Duke JA. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale; 1997.
Edmunds J. Remedies. Birthkit 1995 (Autumn):7.
Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster 1993.
Grieve M, ed. A Modern Herbal [reproduction of the 1931 original]. New York, NY: Dover; 1971.
Lieberman L. Remedies...to file for future reference. Birthkit. 1995;5(Spring):1.