This article was originally published by Sara Tipton at Tess Pennington’s ReadyNutrition.com
Tess is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint: How To Survive ANY Disaster
Deemed a useless plant by many, nettle is often avoided and weeded out of yards because it can be annoying and irritating. But after being the subject of several studies, nettle has begun to prove its worth. While you may curse the plant for the temporary discomfort, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is actually a beneficial perennial that treats several conditions.
Stinging nettle is a perennial flowering plant that has been used medicinally for ages, dating back as far as Ancient Greece. Today, it can be found all over the world, but its origins are in the colder regions of Europe and Asia.
The first historically documented use of this beneficial herb was when Roman soldiers battled the cold by rubbing the leaves on their arms to induce inflammation and irritation, according to Mercola. The plant’s popularity has now spread across the world and has been used by medical practitioners since the 19th century because of its abundance of chemicals and compounds that can help the body function optimally.
Nettle plants can be differentiated from other plants through their leaves. The nettle leaf has an ovate shape with deeply serrated edges. These leaves also have long stinging hairs that inject chemicals into the skin when you accidentally touch or brush past them. These hairs often cause pain and inflammation in the affected area.
The stems of the leaves often have hairs on them and neither the male or female flowers have petals. The flowers form in string-like clusters at the leaf axis. The plant usually grows between two to four feet high and blooms from June to September. Nettle grows best in nitrogen-rich soil, has heart-shaped leaves, and produces yellow or pink flowers.
Stinging nettle contains a number of chemicals, such as serotonin, histamine, and acetylcholine, some of which can be very irritating to the skin. These chemicals cause the stinging irritation on skin and are found at the base of the fine hairs on the nettle. When brushed up against, the fragile tips of the stinging hairs break off. The remaining hair becomes a small needle, able to deliver the chemicals into the skin causing a reaction. The reaction to stinging nettle can cause pain, redness, swelling, itching, and numbness.
Perhaps its most popular use is turning the leaves into stinging nettle tea, which is a common natural allergy relief remedy. It’s also proven to benefit skin, bone, and urinary health as well. Nettle also contains vitamins C and K, B vitamins, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. It also has amino acids and antioxidants, which may help fight free radicals.
The antioxidant properties of the nettle plant have been observed to help minimize inflammation. It can be used topically to help relieve joint pain as well.
One of the more common uses of nettle is to treat allergies, as mentioned before. Nettle can alleviate an allergic reaction. While physical contact with the nettle leaf can cause allergic reactions, the ingestion of nettle tea is known to help dampen the body’s response to allergens by binding with the body’s histamine receptors. It can aid in the prevention of rhinitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose as the result of a virus, aka. the common cold) and act as a soothing remedy for the congestion.
BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) symptoms and urinary issues can also be treated using stinging nettle. Often the symptoms of BPH are caused by an enlarged prostate gland pressing on the urethra. BPH sufferers experience varying levels of increased urges to urinate, incomplete emptying of the bladder, painful urination, post urination dripping, and reduced urinary flow. A testosterone-induced BPH study on rats has shown that stinging nettle may be as effective at treating this condition as finasteride, the medication most commonly used to treat BPH.
How To Make Nettle Tea
It is important to take precautions first before using any herbal remedy. When making stinging nettle tea, only use younger plants that have not flowered or gone to seed. The older leaves on the younger plants are often sweeter if that is a flavor preference. Some medical articles state that when nettles flower and go to seed they can form cystoliths or calcium concretions (aka bladder stones) in the body. Don’t drink nettle tea if you are pregnant. It can alter the menstrual cycle and may contribute to miscarriage. Other doctors warn that people with heart disorders, kidney problems, or hormone-mediated cancers should use caution. Some studies have suggested that nettle raises blood sugar levels and others show that it lowers them, so if you are diabetic you should monitor your blood closely.
To start your tea, gather about one cup of nettle leaves while wearing gloves to prevent irritation to the hands. Stinging nettle leaves can be dried for later use as well, so consider harvesting more than you’ll need. The leaves will lose their “sting” when they dry out. Put some leaves in a dehydrator, or dry naturally by hanging them upside down in a cool, dark, and dry place. Next, boil 2-3 cups of water. Pour the boiling water over the dried (or fresh)nettle leaves and allow it to steep for a few minutes. Feel free to add mint and/or honey to help with the flavor and enhance the medicinal properties of your tea even further.
*This article is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or disease. It is for information purposes only and should be taken as such. Please contact your physician before giving anyone, including yourself, natural remedies.
Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.
Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals.
Visit her website at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.
I had a ton of this on one of my properties. And I hated it because it really does sting. But I learned how to deal with it and made tea and ate it like a vegetable. By cutting it down when it’s young, it is like weeding only you use it and throw out what you don’t need. I had mint growing in a huge pot too.
Rellik, I seem to remember that you always have a surplus of eggs available and I thought that you might find this interesting. The Top 6 Historical Egg Preservation Techniques!
In this video, they explore six egg preservation methods that were used in households from the 18th century to well into the 20th century. Early tests reveal that some of these methods were incredibly effective. You won’t believe how successful the top-rated method worked!
When I lived in MI I used to curse the stinging nettles when I mowed around them, now in KY I’m trying to get em to grow for all their benefits. Also have nine dozen eggs in a bucket (water glassing) hydrated lime is not all that easy to find though.
Won’t be drinking nettle tea, no thanks. Could however be effective when tossed into clothes dryers in the laundromat in libtown.
Or plant them 10ft. wide all around your property! Keep the antibrains out lol.
Good write up. Yep, Nettle is one of those top tier plants you wanna get to know and practice with. If processed right the fibers make pretty good cordage (second to dogbane) I believe. It’s not strong enough for a bow string or bow drill but will do other tasks well: Paiute dead fall trap,binding gourds and other possibles for transport etc, etc.The tea ain’t so bad with a touch of real honey.
This one is also used for fiber.
To the best of my understanding, many of the plants around you used to be staple foods, in their wild state. This one was very traditional food.
But, fruits, vegetables, and animals, marketed for mass consumption, originally began as weeds. In theory, any poisonous, prickly, or undesirable thing, might be improved for human use.
Look it up. Nettles are typically the number one cause of contact urticaria WORLDWIDE. Do you really want to risk ingesting as a tea…unless you carefully take the smallest amount and wait for two hours to ensure you don’t have anaphalaxis???
Have some common sense…especially if you have known allergies and breathing disorders
If is far safer to carefully harvest it and dry it. And then put it in capsule form where it is far less likely to cause a reaction. YOU STILL must take care.
I wrote a better longer post but it got suppressed.
Are you sure you submitted the longer post you wrote? I don’t see it at all – and I searched for it. Weird!
Nettles aren’t that bad. I grew up with them, and even developed an immunity to the sting. One winter, after being without vegetables for many weeks, my father made us dig under the snow to harvest shoots for supper. You can eat them raw, but your mouth might get itchy; boiled or steamed, though, they’re fine though the taste is somewhat bitter, like endive.
It was very cold, and I just couldn’t hold it anymore so I jumped out of my sleeping bag and exited the rain flap pulling my willie as I dashed for the bushes. The poor little guy was greeted instead with a head full of nettles. He recovered, and I never forgot it.
Actually what happens is mast cells release the histamine. What typically happens is a sensitive person is exposed and it creates a white blood cell response in IgE. Then the next time you are exposed, you have a powerful immune response due that former exposure . It’s difficult to understand unless you take Histology, Physiology, and Immunology. So the first reaction is typically mild, but the later ones are not.
You may see nutritional information discussing protein levels in nettles but these are geared to livestock that are ruminants and therefore have additional ways to digest than humans. Don’t be fooled into thinking nettles are something that will give you significant protein. Even livestock will refuse them unless the plants have been affected to render them less irritating.
Note the actual nutritional information for humans. Some folks have looked at agricultural information for LIVESTOCK and presumed the same for humans. It ain’t so. A cup might give you 2.4 grams of protein. Then consider how many grams of protein a human needs per day.
You often will see wild claims but they didn’t understand what they were reading and just how much biomass a cow or sheep might ingest.
Some herbs are not safe during pregnancy like pine needle tea, some are safe like raspberry leaf, and some are unknown.
Nettles are in several pregnancy teas BUT THIS IS CONTROVERSIAL. See the link. I would not use it as it seems unwise.
Whenever you have an herb during pregnancy, you have to consider if it’s either a mutagen or if it might interfere in complex ways with nutrition or if it might cause a spontaneous miscarriage. People neglect to consider the ramifications with herbs when docs are very reticent to allow any common drugs during pregnancy.