Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a plant known for its stinging leaves, but also for its numerous health benefits. These plants have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, and modern science has confirmed their many health benefits. In this article, I will discuss the health benefits of stinging nettles, and why it’s beneficial to harvest young plants for maximum nutritional value. The accompanying video is about my harvest of young Stinging Nettles in early spring, while there is still winter snow on the ground.
Stinging Nettles Health Benefits
Stinging nettles are high in nutrients and minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. They are also rich in flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and play an important role in reducing inflammation in the body. These flavonoids, along with the other nutrients, make stinging nettles a potent plant for preventing and treating a variety of health conditions.
One of the primary benefits of stinging nettles is their ability to reduce inflammation. It must be said, however that inflammation is a natural response by the body to injury or infection and as such is an important of out bodies’ self healing. But chronic inflammation is a whole different thing. Chronic inflammation can result in various health problems, including arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. Stinging nettles have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body by blocking the production of inflammatory cytokines.
Stinging nettles also have a diuretic effect, which can help with conditions such as edema, high blood pressure, and urinary tract infections. The plant can increase urine output and remove excess fluid from the body, which can help to reduce swelling and relieve symptoms.
Harvesting Young Stinging Nettles
Harvesting young stinging nettles is important for maximizing their nutritional value. Young plants are less bitter and have a higher concentration of nutrients than older plants. The best time to harvest stinging nettles is in the early spring, when the plants are still young and tender. When harvesting, be sure to wear gloves and protective clothing, as the stinging hairs can cause skin irritation.
How to Use Stinging Nettles
Stinging nettles can be eaten cooked or raw. When cooked, they lose their stinging properties and have a flavor similar to spinach or kale. Young leaves can be added to soups, stews, and casseroles, or sautéed with garlic and olive oil. My popular method to take Stinging Nettles is by steeping the leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes to make a delicious and nutritious tea.
Scientific Literature on Stinging Nettles
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has a long history of use as a medicinal herb, and its health benefits have been studied extensively. In this review, I will summarize the findings from several scientific studies on the health benefits of stinging nettle.
1. Anti-inflammatory and pain relief effects
A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology investigated the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of stinging nettle in rats. The study found that stinging nettle reduced inflammation and pain in rats with induced arthritis, and the effects were comparable to those of a commonly used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) called Indomethacin. The study concluded that stinging nettle has potential as an alternative treatment for inflammatory conditions in humans.
2. Allergy relief
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Planta Medica investigated the efficacy of stinging nettle in relieving symptoms of allergic rhinitis. The study found that stinging nettle significantly reduced symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose in participants with allergic rhinitis. The study concluded that stinging nettle may be a safe and effective natural treatment option for allergic rhinitis.
3. Blood sugar regulation
A study published in the Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences investigated the effects of stinging nettle on blood sugar levels in rats with induced diabetes. The study found that stinging nettle significantly reduced blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity in diabetic rats. The study concluded that stinging nettle may have potential as an adjunct treatment for diabetes in humans.
4. Antioxidant properties
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food investigated the antioxidant properties of stinging nettle leaf extract. The study found that stinging nettle leaf extract had high antioxidant activity, which may have potential therapeutic benefits in preventing oxidative stress-related diseases.
5. Prostate health
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Planta Medica investigated the effects of stinging nettle root extract on symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men. The study found that stinging nettle root extract significantly improved symptoms such as urinary frequency and pain in men with BPH. The study concluded that stinging nettle root extract may be a safe and effective natural treatment option for BPH.
Stinging nettle has been shown to have various health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and pain relief effects, allergy relief, blood sugar regulation, antioxidant properties, and prostate health. The best way to consume stinging nettle is by harvesting young plants, as they contain the highest nutritional value. Stinging nettle can be added to soups, smoothies, or used as a tea. However, it is important to consult a healthcare provider before using stinging nettle as a treatment option.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) is a plant known for its stinging leaves.
That painful burning sensation you experience when you touch Stinging Nettles, that’s the hollow hairs on their leaves and stems that break off and release a mixture of chemicals, like Histamine and Formic Acid.
Stinging Nettles are rich in vitamins A and C, and minerals iron and calcium. They are also a good source of Vitamin K, potassium, protein and fiber. In studies, they’ve been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may be beneficial if you suffer from things like arthritis, gout or allergies. They can also help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure.
Where they kick butt the most, is with BPH – benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is the doctor’s name for an enlarged prostate. However to get the most out of the herb if you have prostate issues, you may want to harvest the root of the plant, as that’s where the active ingredients are most concentrated. I harvest roots of Stinging Nettles later in the season. I’ll make a video about it later.
Identification of Stinging Nettles is quite easy, in my opinion. They have serrated leaves with these small, hair-like structures that contain the sting. The leaves are heart-shaped and grow in opposite pairs along the stem. The stem is also covered in small hairs.
The best time to harvest Stinging Nettles is in the spring when the young shoots are just starting to grow. While their stinging hairs give them protection against herbivores, they’re not wholly immune to mites, mold and even some caterpillars. But by harvesting them while this young, you get them before the pests got to them first. And they’re also the most tender and contain the highest levels of nutrients while this young.
A no brainer – avoid harvesting near roads or other areas where the plants may have been exposed to pollution or pesticides.
Stinging Nettles can be added to soups, stews, and smoothies, but you may want to cook them first to neutralize the stinging hairs. I just steep them in hot water for a few minutes to make tea.