Stinging Nettles: The Many Health Benefits of This Overlooked Herb

Nettles (Urtica spp.) are among the more versatile and therapeutic, yet maligned and under-utilized, western herbs. Commonly used in earlier centuries for fiber and netmaking, nettle's medicinal value is now being recognized. Though nettles make an excellent potherb for use in soups and casseroles, nowadays they are often part of herbal formulas for specific conditions, addressing an array of health issues.

Nettles are a valuable source of protein, chlorophyll, assorted minerals including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, boron, zinc, and selenium. They also contain beta-carotene and ascorbic acid.

The entire nettle plant is used medicinally. An extract of the roots serves to reduce prostate inflammation, usually in conjunction with other herbs, dietary, and lifestyle changes. Nettle seeds, a rich source of essential fatty acids, are used to restore kidney function. Their use has also been indicated for thyroid disorders. Nettle's foliage is most commonly used as food and medicine. Having a unique capacity to sting passersby, several authors have compared this process to needling by a micro-hypodermic syringe which releases pressurized fluid into the skin.

Much evidence remains of nettle's use cross-culturally for centuries, including "urtication", the"laying on" of nettles, as the sting injects its medicinal virtues. This practice has served to reduce inflammation and pain.

Other studies point out the boron content of nettles as contributing greatly to reduced arthritis symptoms. Boron helps retain calcium in humans, a potential help in osteoporosis, especially when combined with other nutritive foods, herbs, and supplements. Nettle is a nutritional powerhouse that can easily be grown and included in one's diet as food or tea.

Nettles are a very exciting herbal medicine for seasonal allergies. Sneezing in a field of flowering chamomile, in minutes I experienced dramatic relief after using a nettle extract mixed with other herbs. I find them useful for ragweed and animal allergies as well. I've gathered nettles in the spring along eastern streams for many years. While visiting family earlier this spring in New Jersey, I harvested young nettles along the Saddle River. They were very small, inches of foliage growing above the sandy riverbank soil, only evident after moving brush that had covered them. In my opinion, the leaves are most potent at this stage of growth.

My mom had accompanied me to this riverside refuge, and she allowed me to apply some nettles to her shoulder, which was aching from bursitis. Then, she wanted to throw me in the river, so I rubbed on some salve to ease the stinging. I used the rest to make a tincture, which hopefully she'll still be willing to try.

In average moist soil, nettles will thrive and reproduce rapidly. Gather lots, and try nettles in casseroles and savory pies. Seeds can be purchased from Horizon Herbs, Williams, Oregon.

Written by Michael Altman


One Response to “Stinging Nettles: The Many Health Benefits of This Overlooked Herb”

  1. Natalina on April 7th, 2013 15:37

    thanks for useful ideas and simply excellent info

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