Why we love them
Many of us think of nettles as the prickly plant that packs a painful or prickly touch. But don’t keep your distance just yet! Nettles just happen to be Nature’s MULTI-vitamin bursting at the seams with vitamins and minerals in the perfect balanced ratios. Don’t believe me? Download our handy nettles chart. It showcases nettle’s nutrients vs. similar “super-nutrient” foods. Nettles usually grow from June to September and produce heart-shaped leaves with yellow or pink flowers. Most of the health benefits come from the stem and the leaves, but the roots have some healing properties too.
Throughout history, nettles have been used for many different purposes. Most commonly, nettles have been used as a diuretic and to heal other urinary issues. However, the number of potential medicinal benefits range from anti-tumor properties and anti-inflammation to immunity boosts, blood pressure reduction, relief of rhinitis, arthritis, rheumatism, diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention. The most robust research stems from nettle’s capacity to reduce joint pain and soothe arthritis, as well as, reduce the symptoms of hayfever.
One of our favorite attributes of nettles though are the minerals they offer for bone health- particularly iron, calcium, magnesium, silicon, potassium, manganese zinc, copper, and chromium. Alongside the minerals are vitamin K [an important bone builder] and vitamin C [a key antioxidant shown to reduce fracture risk] along with most of the B vitamins. While there is still more research to be done in regards to nettle’s capacity to heal the body from head to toe, it’s well worth your time [especially if you are sick of taking a multi-vitamin] to consider nettles a staple in your cupboard. Herbalist Susan Weed says that, “there is no denser nutrition found in any plant, not even bluegreen algae” and after looking at the science behind this herb, we agree!
Selection + Storage
Nettles can be found in several different forms. If you’re looking for fresh leaves, try looking in the late summer and find deep green leaves, just before they begin to flower. Harvest with gloves on and hang upside down to dry [at which point the “stinging properties” will dissipate. Dried nettle leaves [easily used in nettle tea] are found in your local health food store. Nettles can also be purchased in a powder or capsule form from local sources or Rose Mountain Herbs.
Fresh leaves can be kept in a plastic bag in your fridge for 2-3 days [Or the fresh leaves can be frozen for use throughout the year].
Feast on nettles
One of the most common ways to get the benefits of nettles is by drinking nettle tea. Enjoy this tea cold-brewed overnight or freshly brewed hot. Nettle leaves can also be sauteed similar to spinach. After being sauteed to remove the stinging hairs, nettles can be used in soups, stews, smoothies and pesto.
Here are some of my absolute favorite recipes from around the internet to help you give nettles a try!
- 1 quart water
- 1/4-1/2 cup stinging nettles dried
- 2 Tbsp spearmint leaf optional; dried
Heat kettle on the stove to just below a boil.
In the meantime, place dried herbs in a quart jar.
Pour hot water over the leaves, cap, and place in the fridge to steep for at least 4 hours [but it could be overnight].
Once steeping is finished, strain tea through fine mesh sieve. You can either heat up and enjoy as a hot tea or simply enjoy as a cold beverage.
Tip: You can also do a cold infusion by pouring COLD water over the loose leaf tea in your jar. Allow the jar to steep in the fridge for about 8 hours minimum to enjoy a full extraction.
Upton, Roy. “Stinging nettles leaf (Urtica dioica L.): Extraordinary vegetable medicine.” Journal of Herbal Medicine3.1 (2013): 9-38.