Stinging Nettle (Urtica spp.)
Parts Used: young leaves, seeds, and roots
Energetics: cooling, drying
Plant Properties: nutritive herb, diuretic, alterative, adaptogen, astringent
Plant Uses: weak hair/bones/teeth, fatigue, arthritis, eczema, metabolism, seasonal allergies, urinary tract infections, sluggish metabolism
Plant Preparations: nourishing herbal infusion, tincture, tea, freeze-dried capsules, food
When preparing to eat fresh, it’s best to blanch the leaves to remove the sting!
Stinging Nettle is an herbaceous perennial that can grow from 3-6 feet in height. The stem is square in shape and the leaves are jagged and simple, growing opposite from one another. The stalk and leaves are covered in very fine, needle-like hairs or projections. Simply brush your hand across this plant and you’ll quickly identify the species. During the summer, small flowers grow in the leaf axils which later turn to green fruits. Lucky for nettle, both male and female flowers grow on the same plant making it very prolific.
Nettle grows in sunny places where there is rich, moist soil. Often found near rivers, streams, lakes, ditches, fences, and along the edges of cultivated farm fields. Obviously, avoid places that may be polluted or sprayed with chemicals. It’s best to gather fresh young leaves before the flowers start to bloom. I personally pluck the top cluster of leaves from the young plants and continue to do so until the plant starts to flower or the leaves loose their vibrancy. Here in New Hampshire, the month of April is ideal – the leaves are young and there are no insects residing in the plant! When harvesting it’s best to wear proper protection as you will get stung. A long sleeve shirt, pants, and gloves work just fine. Always wash your plant material after gathering. Seeds can be harvested after the plant blooms and roots can be dug up in the fall. The fall is also an excellent time to gather the stalks of the plant to make fiber!
Nutritive dense plant and eating it regularly can give you vitamins, minerals, and phyto-nutrients that may be missing in your diet
Great source for calcium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin K, protein
High minerals help strengthen bones, hair, nails, and teeth
Restores and supports healthy energy levels
Strong nettle infusions can boost iron levels, which often times relieves fatigue
“When in doubt, choose nettle” – David Hoffman
Stinging Nettle is an excellent spinach substitute and can be added to a wide range of meals – soups, pasta dishes, pesto, breads, and so on! Each year we make pesto and can or freeze for the winter months. We’ve also had fun experimenting with different meals.
Here are some ideas!
Refreshing spring soup – Stinging Nettle Soup
A sneaky way to get nutrients into breakfast – Stinging Nettle Crepes
Replace chive blossoms with nettle leaves – Chive Blossom Pasta
Replace nasturtium leaves/flowers with nettle leaves – Nasturtium Pesto
Stinging Nettle’s seasonal allergy response may be due to its natural histamine content, ability to decrease inflammatory markers, and the astringent properties it holds.
Some common ways to use nettle for allergies include:
Nourishing infusions daily in the months leading up to allergy season
Taking freeze dried capsules/powder in a titrating fashion – increasing the dosage until results are achieved
Stinging nettle tincture using fresh leaves
Some may experience headaches when drinking strong nettle infusions or teas due to its diuretic properties