Most of us grow up hating stinging nettle. I’m sure, thinking back to our childhood, we have all experienced the pain it can inflict, when playing happily in the yard, our skin brushed against this plant, and whatever game we were playing came to an abrupt end, as we rushed to our mother’s arms for comfort, tears in our eyes from the sting.
It is a plant that, for this reason, my mother spent years trying to kill off in our backyard.
However, decades later, after learning of its numerous benefits, she is actually now delighted when they spring up!
Stinging nettle can help our health in countless ways, so much so that people have been known to cultivate them, steam them to remove their sting, then eat them, like a green vegetable!
It has a wonderful nutritional content, including high levels of calcium, silicon, chlorophyll, iron, vitamin C, magnesium and fibre. The fresh leaves contain formic acid, which gives the plant its antisceptic properties.
The Pantothenic acid found in the plant’s leaves gives it its ability to treat arthritis.
Additionally, nettle contains potassium phosphate, potassium chloride, linoleic acid, nitrogen, oleic acid, palmitic acid, phosphorous, protein and sulphur.
Below is just a few ways it can be used to heal our ailments.
1. Whip it good…
One of the things nettle is renowned for is its ability to relieve the pain of arthritis…but the way this is done may not be what you had in mind.
Rather than eating the herb, arthritis sufferers can ease their pain by using a gloved hand to hold a bunch of nettle, and whipping it against their affected joints. The joints swell up due to the sting, and when the swelling subsides, the arthritis pain is gone, or much improved.
While this may seem like something that should earn you a place in a padded cell, it actually dates back to around 2,000 years! This tells us that it is effective or else the practice would have died out YEARS AGO! (after all, why would ANYONE inflict such pain on themselves unless some good came out of it?) It is still around precisely BECAUSE IT WORKS!
One thing that has changed between the biblical times when this practice first emerged, and now, however, is that we all want scientific explanations for every remedy.
So how does this practice, known as urtication, work?
It is thought that when the plant is whipped against the skin, its tiny stingers actually microinject us with several chemicals, which is what gives us the stinging sensation.
These same chemicals also begin an anti-inflammatory action which can help to relieve arthritis’s symptoms.
2. Breathe easy with nettle roots
Nettle has been used for helping asthma sufferers, as it is effective in opening up the lungs and wind pipe. In fact, an old Australian recipe of the juice of nettle roots and leaves combined with honey, has been used to relieve bronchial problems. A recent American study has shown that nettle does indeed have strong antihistamine properties, and as a result, it is often used for hay fever as well as asthma.
3. Nettle may prevent balding
Nettle tincture has been used to prevent balding in those who are experiencing thinning of their hair. So if you are one of the millions of men worldwide whose lovely locks aren’t quite as luscious as they were in days of yore, perhaps this herb could be your answer!
But wait! There’s more! Women can be helped in the hair department by nettle too! The wonderful nutritional content of nettle doesn’t stop at internal consumption—women’s hair can benefit from it too, through making a nettle hair rinse from the fresh leaves.
Wearing gloves, gather handfuls of the plant’s leaves. After thoroughly washing them, place them in a saucepan with enough cold water to completely cover them.
Bring saucepan to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a container and allow to cool. After washing your hair, do a final rinse with this mixture, which should be stored in a bottle in the fridge.
4. Cure the bug
Nettle tea has long been used as a remedy for coughs, colds and whooping coughs. It helps to clear the lungs and ease congestion, and is far more beneficial for children than the sugary cough-mixtures the pharmacist will recommend.
5. Throw away the fluoride toothpaste!
Nettle has been shown to have antibacterial properties, which makes it an effective herb for maintaining oral hygiene (you may notice it is contained in a lot of dental products in health food shops for this reason). Steamed alongside dandelion, purslane (another common garden weed) and spinach leaves, and eaten, it provides you with a boost of magnesium as well as keeping gingivitis and plaque under control.
6. Get relief from Multiple Sclerosis
There are some diseases for which sufferers would try just about anything to get relief, one of which I think is MS. Just as it does for arthritis, urtication, or whipping oneself with stinging nettle, is said to provide relief for MS. One of the compounds that is micro-injected when we are stung by nettle is a type of histamine, which helps with MS
7. Put the sciatic nerve at bay
Urtication has also been said to assist with sciatica, with sufferers whipping their sore backs with the herb. While it does cause short-term pain, it can ease the symptoms of the ailment. The chemicals contained in the stingers of the nettle cause inflammation, which triggers the release of natural anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body. Additionally, nettle poultices can be used as a remedy for sciatica.
8. Make a healthy, bone-strengthening broth
Perhaps due to its high calcium content, nettle is also used as a remedy for osteoporosis. It can be used as part of a bone-strengthening broth for this purpose, with the following recipe: place in a large pot leftover fish bones, along with a couple of litres of water. (Small bones can be collected together in a cheesecloth bag for easy retrieval later, if necessary.) Boil then cover and simmer for 30 minutes, before adding two handfuls of dandelion greens, stinging nettle greens, finely-chopped cabbage, parsley, pigweed and purslane. Simmer the mixture so that the greens soften, then season with salt, pepper and any other seasonings you wish to add. Before serving, remove the fish bones. This dish can be served as a vegetable soup on its own, or as a stock to make heartier soups. This broth contains high levels of magnesium, calcium, vitamin A, boron, vitamin D and silicon.
9. Prevents miscarriage, gives your baby superb vitamins, AND increases milk supply!
Nettle is a wonderful herb to take during pregnancy. As well as for the nutrition it provides, nettle is believed to help prevent miscarriage. The following tea can be used for this purpose: take two tablespoons of lemon balm and partridge berry leaves, along with one tablespoon of stinging nettle leaves, oatstraw and raspberry leaves. Steep all ingredients in a litre of boiling water, and drink at least 3 cups daily.
After the pregnancy, breastfeeding mothers make use of nettle to increase their milk supply. Nettle is a galactogogue, and helps the milk ducts to produce more milk, and milk of better quality.
10. Nettle is a liver detoxifier
Nettle is a helpful herb for detoxification of the liver. It helps the liver to slowly process oestrogen, which can in turn, help to relieve symptoms of PMS, bloating and breast tenderness. Ladies, is there finally a solution for those monthly blues?
11. End nightly visits to the toilet
Men’s health can also be improved with nettle. Studies have shown that nettle has helped the prostate, and taken daily by men over 60 years old, their need to urinate at night was greatly reduced.
12. TB or not TB
Those suffering from tuberculosis were encouraged to consume as much nettle as possible, in the form of nettle juice, nettle tea, mincing it and adding it to soups, or eating it steamed. It has a wonderful ability to clear out the lungs and bronchial tubes, which may explain this use for it.
13. Aids with ulcers
Nettle helps aid digestion and the absorption of organic minerals, when taken regularly, as well as treating internal haemmorages, and stomach ulcers. So if you want to get more benefits out of your daily supplements, start making nettle one of them!
14. Helps with anaemia
Nettle is high in iron and, therefore, has been used successfully to treat anaemia. Taking a tea of it twice daily is good for this purpose. Due to the high demands on a woman’s body in pregnancy, and in particular, her iron levels, it is good to take throughout for this reason.
15. Keep it for your garden
Nettle is fantastic for the garden as well. It is used as a companion plant; the tomatoes like it because it helps them to become resistant to disease. It can also help other plants to increase their natural essential oils when planted nearby.
Valerian is one such example. Include nettle in your compost pile, because it adds more humus in the soil. Mixing water with nettle then make an organic manure in three to four weeks. Nettle will attract the beneficial insects while at the same time discouraging those unwanted, pesky flies.
As it turns out, my aunt Agnes had the last laugh! While everyone thought she was crazy, she was making use of a remedy that had been passed down from generation to generation, BECAUSE IT WORKS!
Next time you get stung by stinging nettle out in the garden, instead of cursing it, thank God for this wonderful herb, and all that it helps us with! It truly is nature’s gift. The example of nettle begs the question, how many other herbs that we have dismissed as annoying herbs, actually hold the key to good health?
Common names: stinging nettle, common nettle
Scientific name: Urtica Dioica
Part used: entire plant
Medicinal properties: pectoral, diuretic, astringent, tonic, styptic, rubefacient