How does it feel?
Nettle leaf when cooked has a taste and aroma similar to cooked spinach. This reminds us that above all this is a food plant. The lack of strong taste and other impacts is also associated in traditional medicine with a diuretic action and this is one of the other distinguishing features of this plant.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of nettle’s key qualities below to learn more:
What can I use it for?
Nettle leaf is very nutritious, rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, chromium, zinc, potassium, phosphorous and silicon. The nutritional content, particularly the iron, makes this herb an excellent support for fatigue, convalescing after illness, and anaemia.
Nettle is classed as a diuretic and is reputed to remove the body’s acidic metabolites through the urine. The best leaves are collected in the spring and nettle was long used for ‘spring clean’ detox regimes. This cleansing effect was particularly applied in European tradition to relieving arthritic joint pain and more general aches and pains.
More robust benefits for arthritis were in the widespread rural habit of beating stinging nettles on painful joints. The stings set up a counter-irritation that in effect generates healing responses similar to those provoked by inflammation.
Nettles perform like natural anti-histamines, calming allergic reactions, particularly in seasonal allergies and the skin.
Into the heart of nettle
Nettle is sometimes described as a ‘pirate plant’: it invades almost any environment and is often prolific enough to be classed as a troublesome weed. This is evidence of its ability to extract nutrients out of even the most challenging soil, and explains its rich nutritional properties.
It’s an incredibly nutritive herb that supports convalescence, nutritional disorders and blood based disorders, nourishing and strengthening the whole body. Almost in contrast to this, nettle also helps to cleanse the body and is a traditional herb chosen to ‘spring clean’ your insides. It will remove excesses of uric acid and general acidity from the body in addition to supporting the general phases of detoxification that take place in the liver. Its anti-histaminic activity within the immune system also means that nettles have the ability to regulate the immune response, restoring a sense of balance, particularly for allergic skin reactions and reactions that target the respiratory system.
The nettle plant itself also contains very strong fibres that were traditionally used to make cloth.
Traditional indications for nettle leaf in Western herbal medicine include uterine haemorrhage, epistaxis and cutaneous eruptions. Medicinal monographs in Europe support the traditional use of nettle leaf in rheumatic and arthritic conditions. There is a long tradition, going back to at least Roman times, of using nettle stings as a counter-irritant for the relief of arthritic pain.
What practitioners say
Skin: Nettle is indicated in allergic skin conditions and reactions such as eczema and allergic dermatitis, partly due to its ability to calm the allergic immune response but also because it purifies the blood supply by supporting natural detoxification and cleansing processes within the body.
Immune: Nettle is anti-histaminic and is indicated in any allergic reaction, particularly seasonal disorders such as hay fever but also in allergic skin reactions. It will balance and calm and overactive immune system.
Musculoskeletal: Indicated where there is excessive acidity within the joints, such as in gout. Nettle will also act as a general diuretic, removing any excessive levels of heat and fluid around the joints.
Metabolic: Nettle has demonstrated the ability to balance the blood sugar, particularly targeting hyperglycaemia.
Liver: Nettle supports the phases of detoxification in the liver, enhancing natural cleansing and detoxification processes.
Urinary & Kidney: As nettle is a diuretic, it can help to reduce fluid accumulation and inflammatory congestion within the kidney and urinary systems, including the prostate where there may be early signs of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia).
External Uses: Apply fresh juice or tea to bleeding cuts & wounds, haemorrhoids, nosebleeds, burns, sunburn, scalds, bites and stings. Ointment/cream for irritating skin conditions, eg. eczema. “Urtication” involves stinging skin with fresh nettles to stimulate circulation, relieve pain and swelling of arthritis.
Did you know?
‘Grasping the nettle’ is actually a familiar country trick. If you grasp a stinging nettle firmly from the base you can run your closed hand up the plant with few or even no stings: the stinging hairs point upwards. Not everyone is brave enough to try this!
Nourishing Nettle Tea
Earthy, herbaceous, grassy and brimming with minerals, this nourishing nettle tea is the quintessential herbal tea.
- Nettle leaf 30g/1oz
This will serve 2–3 cups of nettle brew.
- Put the nettle leaf in a pot.
- Add 500ml (18fl oz) cold water.
- Leave to steep for 2–4 hours (or even overnight) and then strain for a truly nourishing brew that you can drink throughout the day.
This recipe is from Cleanse, Nurture, Restore by Sebastian Pole
Nettle leaf is very safe and is often eaten as a vegetable.
Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are
- Rasa (taste) Astringent, bitter, sweet, salty.
- Virya (action) Cooling.
- Vipaka (post-digestive effect) Pungent.
- Guna (quality) Light, dry, sharp, penetrating.
- Dosha effect: strengthens vata, and reduces excessive pitta and kapha.
- Dhatu (tissue) Rasa/plasma, rakta/ blood, majja/nervous.
- Srotas (channels) Rakta/circulatory, prana/respiratory, mutra/urinary, stanya/ lactation, purisha/excretory
There are a number of research studies of variable quality that point to benefits of nettle on relieving arthritic pain (including reducing the need for pain relieving drugs) and impairment.
There are positive results for nettle in a study to explore the effect of various herbs on high blood pressure.
Traditional reputation for easing hayfever and allergies is supported by a study showing positive benefits in the relief of allergic rhinitis.
Two randomised controlled clinical trials involving patients with advanced type 2 diabetes have shown that nettle could effectively and safely control a number of measures of that condition.
Another clinical study has demonstrated positive benefits for nettle in reducing menopausal hot flushes.
There is evidence that the use of stinging nettles externally can relieve arthritic pain.
To see the references used in this summary check our downloadable Expert Herbal Reality Resource pdf
6–12 g/day of dried leaf as a tea; 4–6 g/day of dried root by decoction or as a tea
- nettle hairs contain leukotrienes, neutrophil chemotactic activity and histamine, also silicon