As the weather gets colder, many of us turn to a warm cup of tea for a bit of comfort. This can become a lovely ritual at the beginning or end of the day. It can provide a moment of solitude when paired with reading a book, watching a show, or writing in a gratitude journal. For others it may be an opportunity for connection by enjoying it in person (or even over the phone) with a friend or loved-one.
But the benefits of good quality tea can go beyond that of simple comfort. Many herbs have incredible healing properties that can support many systems in the body. Let’s take a look at one of these herbs today and learn how stinging nettles can improve your health.
What are Stinging Nettles?
Urtica dioica is known as common or stinging nettle. It is a perennial flowering plant native to Europe, as well as parts of Asia and North Africa. Not all of the plants are stinging, but those that do have trichomes on the leaves and stems. These hollow stinging hairs act like hypodermic needles, and inject histamine and other chemicals upon contact. When this happens it produces a stinging sensation. As unpleasant as that sounds, when harvested and prepared properly stinging nettle has many health benefits.
The Health Benefits Of Stinging Nettle
When you start learning about the benefits of stinging nettles, you might wonder why you haven’t heard of them before and if there is anything that nettles can’t help! Let’s take a brief look at the healing properties now.
Nettle is a great tonic containing an abundance of chlorophyll, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, as well as vitamin A, C, D, and K. It is rich in protein and minerals, including trace minerals such as selenium, sulphur, zinc, chromium, and boron. Due to these properties nettle is thought to support your health in the following ways..
- Boosts Immunity
- Alleviates Muscle Pain
- Supports Heart Health
- Assists in Detoxing the Body
- Fights Seasonal Allergies
- Supports Kidney Health
- Strengthens Digestion
- Clears Skin
- Highly Anti-inflammatory
- Treats Menstrual Cramps
- Encourages Prostate Health
- Treats Urinary Tract Infections
- Helps Anemia
- Increases Energy
Science Confirming What the Ancient People Knew
Since ancient times people have used nettle for medicinal purposes. Ancient Egyptians used it for lower back pain, Roman soldiers carried it with them to the British Isles, and Hippocrates considered it a useful remedy for many ailments. Scientific studies are beginning to confirm the benefits people have experienced from the use of nettles for centuries.
Researchers out of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences found “in vitro inhibition of several key inflammatory events that cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies.” While studies done at the University of Maryland Medical Centre showed that “stinging nettle helped to reduce sneezing and itching in people suffering with hay fever.” Another study reported that 57% of patients considered nettles effective in relieving allergies, with 48% considering nettles “more effective than allergy medications they had used previously.”
The Journal of the Royal Study of Medicine reports a 2000 study that found nettle “reduced the intensity of pain” for people experiencing osteoarthritic pain in the index finger or thumb. The “antirheumatic effect of the stinging nettle leaf extract IDS 23 in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis” is also highlighted in a 1999 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology.
The diuretic and natriuretic effects of nettle were looked at in a 2000 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. These affects would imply a positive positive impact on renal function.
Another study, published in the Archives in Oral Biology in 2016 found that “nettle may be effective in accelerating new bone formation and reducing inflammation in the maxillary expansion procedure.”
How to Use Stinging Nettle
Find a good quality nettle
While you can find the nettle plant in the wild and harvest it on your own, this can be difficult. I prefer to find a good, trustworthy source so that you can get the health benefits of nettle without exposure to the irritating trichomes.
Mountain Rose Herbs is a trusted source that offers many varieties of nettle, as well as a nettle & blossom tea. (I order the nettle from Bulgaria.) Urbal Health is another trusted site with many different varieties of nettle tea.
Prepare your tea
Making tea from a tea bag is simple. If you can boil water you cannot go wrong! The package will have the specific details of how hot the water should be and how long to steep the tea, but if you get the water too hot or leave the tea steeping too long that is okay.
If you are making your tea from dried nettle, you may want to add some other flavors (dried fruit, honey, etc.) as it can be a little bitter.
To make a nettle infusion you will want 1 part Nettle leaf and 4 parts hot water in a glass jar. Cover the jar and leave it to steep for 4-8 hours in the refrigerator. Once it is done steeping, simply strain it and store the liquid in the refrigerator. When you are ready to drink it add ice for a cold drink, or more hot water for a warm tea. (Suggested intake: 2 quart per week.)
Using Nettle During and After Pregnancy
“Pregnant women can especially benefit from nettles due to its many positive plant actions. Nettles is a kidney tonic and diuretic which can help with edema and also supports the kidneys since a pregnant woman must process one and a half times her normal blood supply through her kidneys during pregnancy.
Nettles can help ease leg cramps and spasms due to its high magnesium content and due to its high calcium content it can diminish pain during and after childbirth. It is a wonderful source of Vitamin K which can help prevent hemorrhage after birth and its mild astringency can help reduce the likelihood of hemorrhoids and improves venous resilience. Drinking a nettles infusion after childbirth is also a wonderful way to increase the richness and amount of breast milk.” -Susun Weed
I enjoyed my nettle tea this morning. How about you? There are so many health benefits that you get from such a simple practice. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a cup of tea!