Herb Spotlight: Stinging Nettle

I’ve always been a bit fascinated with herbs and their amazing benefits, both in adding flavor to culinary recipes and in their medicinal qualities.  For years, however, I didn’t do much with herbs since I allowed myself to succumb to the feelings of being overwhelmed in learning about herbs.  Then one day, I decided to focus on learning just a couple herbs each month so that by the end of a year, then two years, and on I would over time develop the knowledge I was seeking about using herbs in our holistic approach to health and wellness.

In honor of my herbal journey, I’m stepping back to share some of the insights and experiences that I have learned over the years so that you too can benefit from adding a few herbs to your repertoire.  It is my hope that you take the time to experiment with these herbs I share with you over the coming months so that you, too, can experience the amazing power of herbs in your life and in the life of those you love.

Stinging Nettle

When I was a kid growing up in rural Wisconsin, the stinging nettle was just a weed that my brothers, my sister, and I often felt was the bane of our existence.  Many a day out playing in the fields or riding horses through the woods was interrupted by the sharp pain caused by the skin brushing against those unforgiving fibers of the stinging nettle plant.  As an adult who now knows the powerful healing qualities of this amazing plant, I find myself actually planting stinging nettle on our homestead since it is not to be found readily in the area we live.

Every part of the Nettle has medicinal properties…stems, leaves, flowers, and roots…and is considered one of the best blood cleansing and blood building herbs.  Nettles contain high levels of chlorophyll, which is what gives plants their green color.  Chemically, chlorophyll is very similar to that of hemoglobin, which is what gives our blood the red color.  Chlorophyll has been shown to support the hemoglobin in our bodies and nettle has been known to stimulate the production of red blood cells.  Nettle also is rich in minerals, especially iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and silicon.  The iron content makes nettle particularly beneficial for those with anemic tendencies.

Stinging nettle is a diuretic, which helps the body flush toxins from the body through urination.  It is sometimes used in cases of prostrate issues.  The nettle has a remarkable ability to alkalinize the blood, balancing the pH, and aiding in the elimination of metabolic acid.  This quality makes nettle a great choice for post-workout or strenuous exercise, rheumatic afflictions, gout, arthritis, and kidney stones.

Nettles are hemostatic (stops hemorrhage), astringent (useful in cases of diarrhea), hypoglycemic (support balanced blood sugar levels), and galactogene (increases milk production, thus great for breast-feeding mothers).

Stinging nettle also supports the digestive system and can improve the assimilation of food in the digestive process.  Nettles contain small amounts of secretin, which is a hormone produced by certain glands of our intestine and which stimulates the secretion of pancreatic juices, stomach, and gall bladder.

Additionally, stinging nettle is an emollient herb.  Used both internally and externally, nettle can help with chronic skin conditions like eczema, acne, psoriasis, and skin eruptions.

Preparation (Internal)

  • Fresh Juice:  Often considered the best way to enjoy the medicinal qualities, collect fresh nettle plant and let sit for 12 hours to neutralize the stinging effect.  Press, juice in a juicer, or blend in a high power blender like a Vitamix and drink immediately.  Recommended dosage is between 4 to 8 oz. in the morning and another at noon.

  • Infusion:  Place fresh nettle plants in large glass jar such as a half gallon Mason jar.  Fill with purified water and let steep for at least 15 minutes or more.  Strain and drink 3-4 cups per day.

  • Tea:  Steep 1 tsp dried nettle per cup of hot water (not boiling) for 3-5 minutes.  Drink 1-4 cups throughout the day.

  • Tincture:  The roots, dug up in spring or autumn, are cleaned, chopped, and placed in a bottle to which 40% vodka is added.  Seal the bottle and let sit for a minimum of 14 days.  Add 10-30 drops of tincture to water, soups, teas, or other recipes 1-3 times per day.

  • Food:  Nettle is a great food or culinary herb.  Fresh Nettle makes a great spinach substitute in any recipe, with a similar flavor yet less sour.  Nettles are an excellent source of plant proteins, containing a similar percentage of protein as soy.  Dried nettle can be added to soups, salads, sandwiches, marinades, and a wide variety of recipes.  The beautiful green color makes it a great garnish in salsas, eggs, and other spreads.  Experiment and enjoy!

Preparation (External)

  • Lotion:  Apply juice of the fresh nettle plant (see above) directly to the affected area of the skin.
  • Compresses:  Soak fresh juice or tea (see above) in clean cloth and apply to affected area 3-4 times per day.
  • Foot Bath:  1 heaping handful of well washed roots and 1 heaping double handful of stems and leaves are soaked in 2 gallons of cold water overnight.  The next day, bring infusion to a boil then add to basin or tub.  Soak feet as needed.
  • Hair Wash:  4 heaping double handfuls of stems and leaves are placed in a large pot of water and slowly brought to a boil.  Turn off heat and let infuse for 5 minutes.  Let cool to comfortable temperature for touch, then pour over hair after shampooing.  Or, make tincture as described above and rub into the scalp daily.  Aids in reducing hair loss, stimulates hair growth for thicker, softer hair, eliminates dandruff, and gives hair a beautiful sheen.
  • Nose plug:  Due to it’s hemostatic qualities, nettle is fantastic at stopping a severe nose bleed.  Soak a gauze in nettle juice or tea then plug it into the nostril until bleeding stops.

In our home, we have made stinging nettle a part of our daily routine.  Instead of coffee in the morning, we have switched to herbal teas and stinging nettle is the basis for each tea blend we drink.  We add the dried herb to various recipes like in our omelettes, vegetable soup, and garden salsa.  I have used the hair wash with amazing results, and use it as the go-to herb for skin issues (the eczema on my elbows cleared up after the first month of use…along with a few other dietary changes).  Let us know how Stinging Nettle works for you!  If you don’t have nettles growing in your area, or if you’d just like to purchase the dried herb, here are a few resources we recommend:  Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Herb Store.  You can also find the tea, tincture, soap, and cream at SwedishBitters.com.

Herbs are so amazing and such a gift from God.  For centuries, herbs have been used exclusively in aiding the body with healing and it really wasn’t until recently that pharmaceuticals and man-made medicines took precedence over the use of natural sources.  Herbs are generally considered safe to use and when used correctly have little side-effects or create damage to the body as do many medicines.  Since they are generally plant-based rather than man-made, the body easily recognizes and assimilates the herbs.   According to a study done in 2010 by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, you are 7,750 times more likely to die from the adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs than from herbs, and another study done in 2009 over a 10 year period the cases found of deaths due to misdiagnosis, overdose, or misuse of herbs was only 1 in the entire 10 year period…whereas over 10,000 per year were found due to prescription drugs.  Herbs can be used for many things from enhancing flavor, cleansing, adding minerals, enzymes, and vitamins, detoxifying, and healing. That being said, it is still advisable to consult your doctor or an herbal specialist prior to making any changes if you have a specific health concern.

If you’d like more information about herbs and how they can benefit you and your health, visit our friends Vaughn and Mike at Spirit of Health.  They are a wealth of knowledge and can answer your questions about specific health concerns.  Tell them I said “hi!”  God Bless.

Pictures courtesy of ediblewildfood.com.

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