Botanical source: Nettle, also known as stinging nettle, is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant. It grows well in nitrogen-rich soil, blooms between June and September, and usually reaches between 2-4 feet in height. It’s stem is rigid, and leaves are heart shaped, with fine teeth and tapered ends. Flowers are yellow or pink. The hairs, located mostly on the underside of the leaves and stem, release stinging chemicals when touched. Nettle is native to Asia, Europe, and North America.
Latin Name: Urtica dioica
Most popular modern use:
Some individuals use nettle to treat allergies, arthritis, chest congestion, muscle spasms, and urinary tract disorders or painful urination. The root is also widely used to treat early stages of an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)), where it is often combined with herbs such as saw palmetto and pygeum. It also has reported uses in hay fever, or in compresses and creams in the treatment of joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites (https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/stinging-nettle).
The high iron content in nettle helps combat anemia and lethargy, making it excellent in easing menstrual cramps and preventing heavy bleeding during menstruation. Nettle also has benefits for expectant mothers, guarding against excessive bleeding, eases labour pains, and improves lactation (https://blog.ncascades.org/naturalist-notes/two-burning-houses-a-natural-history-of-stinging-nettle/).
Interestingly, the juice of the plant’s own leaves will heal it’s sting (https://blog.ncascades.org/naturalist-notes/two-burning-houses-a-natural-history-of-stinging-nettle/).
Leaves, stem, and root are used medicinally.
Between 58 and 45 BCE, there are records of Nettle’s properties being use to help keep the troops of Julius Caesar awake and alert during the night (https://blog.ncascades.org/naturalist-notes/two-burning-houses-a-natural-history-of-stinging-nettle/).
One of the most well-recorded uses of stinging nettle, stretching back over 2,000 years, is urtication. Employed by indigenous tribes and many countries worldwide, it involved beating their limbs with stalks of stinging nettle, with warriors and hunters of many clans also using the sting to keep themselves alert during battle or the hunt. There are several documented ceremonial uses, with several Nevada tribes, burning nettle leaves in sweat lodges serving as not only an offering, but also in the treatment of pneumonia and the flu (https://blog.ncascades.org/naturalist-notes/two-burning-houses-a-natural-history-of-stinging-nettle/)
In medieval Europe, stinging nettle was used as a diuretic (to rid the body of excess water), and to treat joint pain. For hundreds of years, it has been used to treat aching muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia (https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/stinging-nettle).
Nettle has also been used as a textile and has the ability to be dyed or bleached like cotton. It can also be used to create natural cordage, which can assist in the creation of shelter, fire, clothing, tools, and more.
Harvesting: The best time to harvest nettle is in late March and April, if the plant has begun to flower. If you wait to harvest the leaves after the plant blooms, the leaves will have a stronger bitter flavour. It’s recommended to harvest away from roadsides, where there is the risk of having been sprayed with chemicals or contaminated by care emissions. Nettle thrives in the same conditions as blackberries and can be found competing in the same areas.
Infused oil: Using dried nettle, grind the leaves to make smaller pieces, the smaller the pieces the better the extraction. Place the dried nettle in a jar and cover with a carrier oil, extra virgin olive oil works well, and cover the leaves completely. Place in a double boiler and simmer, ensuring the temperature remains low (no higher than 50 C / 122 F) to preserve all medicinal properties. Strain through a cheese cloth, storing the infused oil in a dark place away from direct sunlight. For a cold infusion fill the jar with dried leaves and stems, covering with oil, and covering the jar with a lid. Place in a warm spot for four week, shaking from time to time. After four weeks have passed, strain and store.
Salve: melt beeswax in a double boiler, once melted remove from heat and let cool to 50 C / 122 F. Mix with a nettle infused oil slowly, until the mixture is homogenous. Optionally, you can add an essential oil of your choice. Thyme, clove and eucalyptus can help enhance the anti-inflammatory effect, with peppermint, chamomile, tea tree, or lavender in anti-itching creams. Pour into a container and store in a cool dry place. An anti-itch salve is suitable for dogs and cats, applying 3 times a day to the affected area on dry skin. Do not use near eyes.
Syrup: Take 40-50 finely chopped, and then mashed fresh nettle leaves and fill a jar up to 3/4 of the way and then fill with honey until full. Close the lid and vigorously shake before placing it in the fridge for 30 days, shaking daily. After 30 days, filter to obtain the syrup and store in the fridge. A spoonful a day on an empty stomach for 3 weeks can help ease joint pain and coughs.
Tincture: Put 1 pint of 90 proof alcohol (such as gin or vodka) with 4 ounces of dried nettle leaf, in a jar. Stir and cover with a lid, store in a cool dark place, and shake daily for 2-3 weeks and then strain. Once strained, store in a dark bottle and seal the lid tightly.
Tea: 1 teaspoon of dried nettle leaves, or 1 tablespoon of fresh nettle leaves in 10 ounces of water. Once the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat, and add in the nettle leaves in a tea strainer (or straining after steeping). Steep for 5 to 10 minutes, the longer you steep, the more powerful the flavour will become.
Related Foothills Naturals Products:
Benefits with growing research and popularity:
Osteoarthritis: Studies, while limited, suggest benefits in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee (Jacquet A, Girodet PO, Pariente A, et al. Phytalgic, a food supplement, vs placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip: a randomized double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial. Arthritis Res Ther. 2009;11(6):R192), and of the hand (Randall C, Randall H, Dobbs F, et al. Randomized controlled trial of nettle sting for treatment of base-of-thumb pain. J R Soc Med. Jun 2000;93(6):305-309).
Gonarthritis: More M, Gruenwald J, Pohl U, Uebelhack R, A. Rosa Canina – urtica dioica – Harpagophytum procumbens/zeyheri Combination Significantly Reduces Gonarthritis Symptoms in a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Double Blind Study. Planta Med. 2017 Dec;83(18):1384-1391.
Benign Prostatic Syndrome: Studies have suggested benefits with symptoms associated with benign prostatic syndrome (Schneider T, Rubben H. Stinging nettle extract (Bazoton-uno) in long term treatment of benign prostatic syndrome (BPS. Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled multicenter study after 12 months. Urologe A. Mar 2004;43(3):302-306; Safarinejad MR. Urtica dioica for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study. J Herb Pharmacother 2005;5(4):1-11; Lopatkin N, Sivkov A, Schlafke S, et al. Efficacy and safety of a combination of Sabal and Urtica extract in lower urinary tract symptoms – long-term follow-up of a placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial. Int Urol Nephrol. 2007;39(4)1137-1146).
BPH and Urinary Tract Symptoms: A combination of saw palmetto and nettle was similar to tamsulosin or finasteride for moderate to severe lower urinary tract symptoms and BPH (Oelke M, Berges R, Shlafke S, Burkart M. Fixed-dose combination PRO 160/120 of sabal and urtica extracts improves nocturia in men with LUTS suggestive of BPH: re-evaluation of four controlled clinical studies. World J Urol. 2014 Oct;32(5):1149-54).
Glycemic Control in Type-2 Diabetics: Other studies have show improved glycemic control in type-2 diabetic patients (Kianbakht S, Khalighi-Sigaroodi F, Dabaghian FH. Improved glycemic control in patients with advanced type 3 diabetes mellitus taking Urtica dioica leaf extract: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Clin Lab. 2013;59(9-10)1071-1076).
Nettle interactions with Herbal Supplements and Prescription Drugs:
While clinic relevance is yet to be determined, it is suggested to avoid consumption of nettle if you are taking CYP450 substrate drugs (Ozen T, Korkmaz H. Modulatory effect of Urtica dioica L. (Urticaceae) leaf extract on biotransformation enzyme systems, antioxidant enzymes, lactate dehydrogenase and lipid peroxidation in mice), due to potential risk of side effects, and diuretics or blood pressure drugs (Tahri A, Yamani S, Legssyer A, et al. Acute diuretic, natriuretic and hypotensive effects of a continuous perfusion of aqueous extract of Urtica dioica in the rat. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov 2000;73(1-2):95-100) as there may be additive effects.
“Stinging nettle contains vitamin K and so could interfere with the anticoagulant drug, warfarin (Coumadin). Stinging nettle can lower blood pressure, which means it could heighten the effect of blood pressure medications. Stinging nettle can act as a diuretic and may increase the effects of drugs that increase urination (diuretics). Because of its diuretic effects, stinging nettle may also affect the way the body eliminates lithium. It also can increase the effects of drugs for diabetes, possibly leading to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).” Pregnant women should avoid stinging nettle because its hormonal effects could lead to miscarriage. (https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/herbs/stinging-nettle/)
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Guide to Botanicals, Supplements, Complementary Therapies, and More. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/diagnosis-treatment/symptom-management/integrative-medicine/herbs/about-herbs