Stinging nettle sounds like a plant to be avoided (and it can give a nasty sting or rash when the fresh leaves brush up against skin). But despite its name, nettle has many health benefits and is one of the most widely used plants in herbal medicine.
Used for everything from anemia to skin problems to rheumatism, nettle is a very benevolent and safe herb to use once the ‘stingers’ are taken care of. It also makes a very nourishing and revitalizing tea.
Here’s more about the surprising benefits of nettle leaf, plus how to use it for your health.
It’s very common to find stinging nettle growing in the wild across the U.S., Canada, and many other countries. Nettle has its origin in the colder regions of Europe and Asia, and its medicinal use dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.
Fresh nettle can easily be gathered in the spring or fall by looking for it in semi-shaded areas, especially close to stream banks and other moist, fertile spots. Be sure to wear gloves when harvesting it fresh to avoid getting the typical stinging nettle rash.
Nourishing for the Body
Many of nettle’s benefits come from its high nutrient content. It contains vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K along with easily assimilated calcium and iron. Other nutrients include magnesium, potassium, protein, beta-carotene, and chlorophyll.
Stinging nettle also has a high antioxidant content and contains polyphenols. Antioxidants help to defend the body against free radicals which can cause aging, some types of cancer, and other diseases. (1)
Research on polyphenols is showing that they may help to prevent and manage inflammatory diseases such as certain types of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. (2)
The range of nutrients in nettle can also be helpful for anyone recovering from prolonged sickness or stress, and the iron content is easily digestible for those with anemia. (3)
Nettle Benefits for Women’s Health
The nutrients and compounds in stinging nettle are especially beneficial for women through all stages of life. Nettle can increase the overall health of the female reproductive system and is often used in blends for PMS, fertility, and menopause. (Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, pg. 176)
The nourishment of nettle can also help with fatigue that comes from iron-deficiency related to a heavy menstrual cycle as well as supporting mother and child during pregnancy. It can also help to enrich breastmilk for nursing mothers. (3)
Seasonal Allergy Relief
While studies are still ongoing, there is some evidence that stinging nettle can help to provide relief for seasonal allergies and hay fever. This seems to be due to its anti-inflammatory effects which can help with allergy symptoms. (4)
In one study, using freeze-dried nettle for hay fever was found to be more effective than the placebo. (5) Although more studies are needed to determine how nettle may help with allergies, herbalists have been using nettle to deal with seasonal allergies for many years.
The Herbal Academy recommends using a nettle tincture or freeze-dried capsules one or two months before the allergy season begins and continuing until it ends. (3)
Help for Pain and Arthritis
The anti-inflammatory compounds within nettle also show promise for helping with osteoarthritis, gout, and joint pain caused by inflammation. (5)
One study showed that applying a stinging nettle cream to an area of the body affected by osteoarthritis was significantly more effective than the placebo. (6) Nettle also seems to work against inflammation and pain when taken internally. A supplement containing nettle, fish oil, and vitamin E significantly reduced arthritis pain, and participants felt like they could reduce their dosages of pain relievers. (7)
Along with all the other benefits, the high nutrient content of nettle can also help with recovery from prolonged stress and adrenal fatigue.
With its full spectrum of easily assimilated vitamins and minerals, an infusion made from the leaves can help the body and adrenals recover from fatigue. It can also provide extra nutrients during pregnancy and lactation. (3)
Apart from its stinging leaves, nettle is a very safe herb that typically does not have any side effects. Once the leaves are heated or dried, the formic acid (which causes the sting/rash) is destroyed.
Stinging nettle may have a diuretic effect. Speak with your doctor before using if you take blood thinners, blood pressure medication, diuretics, or diabetes medication.
Ways to Use Nettle
Nettle is available in various forms including the fresh leaves, dried/freeze-dried leaves, capsules, tinctures, extracts, and creams.
Nettle Tea: One of the best and easiest ways to use nettle is to make an infusion (a strong tea) using the dried leaf. Simply steep 1-3 tablespoons of dried nettle leaf in 1 cup of water for 4-8 hours. After it’s done steeping, strain out the herb and add honey or maple syrup to taste. Make a large batch if you know you want to keep drinking the tea throughout the day. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Cooked Nettle: Nettle is considered to be a medicinal food, which means that it can be cooked and eaten in recipes or as its own dish. The whole plant is edible, but most often it’s the fresh leaves that are harvested and steamed. (Once cooked, the leaves lose their sting.) Season the steamed nettle with lemon juice and herbs or add it into soups and recipes in place of spinach or other greens.
Using Nettle with Other Herbs
Nettle is often combined with other herbs like green oat tops, raspberry leaf, and alfalfa leaf. These blends can be even more beneficial for the body because of the combination of different herbs and compounds.
Adrenal Love Tea combines nettle leaf with adaptogenic herbs to help the body recover from stress and adrenal fatigue. Womb Wellness Tea contains nettle, alfalfa, raspberry leaf, and other herbs that work to nourish the womb.
To restore iron levels during pregnancy or after heavy menstrual cycles, the Iron Tonic Tea is a blend of nettle and other iron-containing herbs to strengthen the body. For allergy and immune support, ImmuniTea is thoughtfully blended with elderberry, echinacea leaf, astragalus root, and lemon balm leaf.
Discover the Benefits of Nettle Leaf
Nettle leaf is a very nourishing and nutrient-rich herb that is also readily available both in the wild and in its dried form. Whether for fatigue, seasonal allergies, or to help with inflammation, nettle has been used for many years and is still popular with herbalists today.
Try it in an infusion, as food, in capsule form, or in a nourishing tea blend. You’ll be glad you did!