Stinging Nettle -Urtica dioica

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

Spring is the time to harvest nettles, always an adventure in maneuvering between those unassuming young nettle shoots, with leaves so fresh and lush and just so innocent looking in their growth. I remember –an understatement -from experience, the importance of wearing thick gloves, heavy jeans and long socks, socks that cover the ankles entirely, lest the sting of the nettle leaf should find its way the minutest area of open skin creating immediate swelling, tingling and numbness…Nettle Rash…ahhh yes, the joys of harvesting fresh herbs…

Not a pleasant experience, but one which I have embraced through my hands-on work with plant medicine. In my experience, the topical reaction from fresh nettle leaves will last anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days -depending upon the surface area and intensity of the sting. As with all of my personal experiences with plant medicine, this is yet another learning experience and I remember citations from ancient herbal texts traditionally using Nettles leaves to relieve the pain of arthritic joints, a procedure administered by brushing fresh nettle leaves topically over arthritic joints, producing a ‘counter irritation’ to help temporarily eliminate the pain of arthritic joints – would it work? Yes!Would it be pleasant? NO!!

You might ask, why go through the trouble to harvest a plant covered with such unpleasant stinging hairs? Well…overlooking the immediate discomfort of possible (and likely) skin-to-skin contact with fresh nettle leaves.The fresh shoots and stalk, when picked in the spring make a delicious vegetable, that can be steamed like spinach (and seasoned with braggs amino acids or lemon juice) or can simply added into soups, omlettes and quiche. The sting of the hairs is de activated when cooked, steeped as a tea or when dried, thus fresh nettle leaves can be conveniently made into tea and also eaten safely, once cooked. As the plant matures, the older leaves and stalk become very woody and are not as tasty, thus to be ingested as food, the nettle leaves needs to be picked when the leaves and stalk are young, ideally harvested from shoots no larger than one foot out of the ground.

Traditionally Stinging Nettle (Latin: Urtica dioica) is known as a master plant, as the saying goes… “if you don’t know what else to do for a health condition, then use nettles”. Known as an alterative herb, or blood cleanser, Nettle leaf gradually supports the return of optimal health of the whole body, improving the body’s ability to eliminate waste matter, tonifying the tissues and organs, while providing the body with essential nutrients for vitality.

Nettle leaf is a blood purifier which supports the function of the liver and kidneys and provides support for all stubborn skin conditions such as teenage acne, psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema. It combines well with Red Clover, Cleavers and Burdock root for skin ailments or can be purchased, mixed in our Clean Green Herbal Tea Blend used for cleansing and detoxification.

An excellent source of chlorophyll and packed full of minerals including vitamin C, vitamin K,iron, calcium, magnesium and silica. Nettle leaf is an excellent addition to the diet for conditions of anemia and depletion and can be consumed internally as a tonic herb for long periods of time for individuals who are recovering from a long illness.

An anti inflammatory and containing anti histamine properties, nettle is often used in combination with other herbs such for seasonal allergies, to alleviate the itching and irritation of hives and itching skin.

A gentle diuretic and mineral rich anti inflammatory herb, Nettle leaf can offer benefit for symptoms of arthritis and joint pain. Useful for clearing uric acid buildup from the body, Nettle leaves can also be ingested for symptoms of gout.

The root of stinging nettle root is used medicinally for urinary disorders associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), including nocturia, frequency, dysuria, urinary retention, and irritable bladder.

As a topical application, stinging nettle leaf can be brewed as a tea, strained, and then used as a scalp rinse for promoting healthy hair, treating seborrhea, oily hair, and hair loss (alopecia).

A great herb for women’s health, nettle contains properties used to decrease internal bleeding and traditionally is used with Red Raspberry leaf for heavy menstruation, drank as a mineral rich nourishing tea during pregnancy and consumed as a galactagogue (which promotes the flow of breast milk in breastfeeding mothers).

Like most herbal teas, any leftover cold tea can be fed to both house plants or garden plants to help them grow, trust me, they will show their appreciation the next day by showing off their extra shiny leaves.

For a refreshing tea blend, combine nettle leaf with some peppermint leaf and just a pinch of stevia leaves. Steep for 15 minutes, strain and enjoy 3 + cups daily as a general adult dose.

To purchase dried Nettle Leaves click here!

For more reading on the Stinging Nettle plant, visit the HerbMed site and insert ‘Nettles’ into the search engine at the bottom of the page.