Urtica Dioica, the scientific name of stinging nettles, is in the Urticaceae family. Both the leaves, roots, and seeds are used, with the leaves being most common. It is a cooling and drying herb with a salty taste due to it being high in minerals.
This plant can grow up to 10 feet tall but is often removed because of it’s sting. When brushed against, the hairs, known as trichomes, brush against your skin and leave behind a sting feeling that will sometimes turn to a blistered rash. The plant is very fibrous and can be used to make textiles.
When you use this plant, it is often cooked to break down the hairs. Another option is to mash the leaves to break the hair. It goes well into a pesto as the leaves are blended and break down the hairs. When eating the leaves fresh, it is best to have the younger leaves as they are more tender. It can be eaten just like spinach. Best thing is though, it is up to ten times more nutritious than spinach!
Stinging nettles is a diuretic, classic alterative, nutritive herb, anti-allergic, and anti rheumatic herb. It’s anti rheumatic properties are generally attributed to increasing the circulation with the fresh sting. Formic acid is found in the hairs and is an excellent anti-inflammatory. Internally the leaves reduce inflammation by inhibiting the COX2 pathway, similarly to NSAIDs.
As a diuretic, it helps get more water out of our system, mostly due to nettles tannins. It has traditionally been used in a syrup for diarrhea and chronic bladder problems. It can be used topically for similar tanning properties, to tone and dry up juicy eruptions on the skin and scalp.
Freeze dried nettles are their own medicine. Working differently than other preparations, the constituents that are best preserved in this preparation are supportive for allergic rhinitis, nasal challenges associated with allergies.
Nettle’s best uses is really to support fatigue and malnourishment due to it’s super high nutrient content. It contains a number of minerals including vitamins A, E, C, and K. If you are experiencing any wastings diseases, malnourishemnt, or just want an herbal multivitamin, a strong tea of nettles is an excellent option.
Stinging nettles is a wonderful, safe and nutritious herb. The only thing to watch out for is it’s sting. Go to town when taking this herb in tea. It is great to take 8-10g every day in 3-5 cups of water. Let it sit overnight for a cold infusion and drink through the day to get the best nutrients with out damaging them with heat.
Want to learn more about nutritive herbs and healthy food choices? Check out our free class series on our website for more on nettles.