Properties and Benefits of Nettle

Properties and Benefits of Nettle: The common nettle, also known as stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is probably most known for its sharp, stinging small hairs which cause itchy bumps all over our skin at the slightest touch. However, this common weed makes a rather exquisite culinary vegetable and a potent medicinal herb. Nettle is a great source of calcium and vitamins A and K, three nutrients with impressive benefits on bone health and the immune, digestive and cardiovascular systems.

The plant has been traditionally used as a natural galactagogue to stimulate milk flow in nursing mothers. Stinging nettle extracts help control blood sugar levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Moreover, the plant is an efficient natural anti-inflammatory used in the treatment of gout, rheumatism, arthritis and allergy symptoms. Herbal infusions are said to improve symptoms of respiratory tract infections, while regular consumption of the green has been found to have tonic, energizing properties.

Nettle benefits

For many people, stinging nettle is nothing more than an upsetting weed that simply refuses to go away. You can find it in gardens, fields, roadsides, meadows, on river banks, anywhere from Canada and the US to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. It thrives on animal waste and poultry waste in particular makes an ideal fertilizer for nettle plants. Abundant rainfall creates optimal conditions for the plant to thrive. Nevertheless, nettle is just as beneficial as it is annoying.

Nettle for garden. Stinging nettle not only makes a great companion for broccoli, tomatoes and basically every garden vegetable and increases soil fertility, but it also invites good garden insects to your little patch of land.

What does stinging nettle look like? Nettle is a tall, green plant that can reach 2 meters in height. It is best known for its stinging, serrated, pointy leaves which may cause a serious rash. Both nettle leaves and stems have small hairs that pierce the skin when touched and inject irritating chemicals such as histamine and formic acid which cause a highly unpleasant urticaria. But stinging nettle makes a delicious culinary vegetable and potent herb as well.

Young nettle, picked in early or mid-spring, is very tender and makes a great puree. Mashed nettle goes extremely well with polenta, garlic, baked potatoes or boiled eggs. Stinging nettle soup is refreshing and light, and the vegetable is also a good substitute for spinach in pies. What does nettle taste and smell like? Cooked nettle has a slight cucumber fragrance with a mushy, spinach texture and a sort of wild green, refreshing fragrance.

Nettle

Traditional medical practices recommend eating nettle because it is a great tonic, rich in protein (25%) and vitamins A and K. According to popular beliefs eating stinging nettle in spring purifies the blood and helps the body recover after heavy wintertime foods. Picking nettle in autumn, when the plant has reached maturity is also an option. It can be cleaned, dried and used in herbal infusions.




Nettle is an herb with great health benefits. For instance, the plant contains prostaglandins, natural compounds with powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Stinging nettle tea or tincture appear to be highly effective in reducing pain associated with arthritis, rheumatism, hemorrhoids and kidney inflammation. Applying a nettle poultice is believed to help treat eczema.

Drinking nettle infusions regularly is said to be a great natural remedy for cough, help with nasal decongestion and treat dry sinuses. Nettle juice and tea make a great diuretic, help keep allergy symptoms under control and are said to reduce nosebleeds and other minor hemorrhages. Nettle appears to be beneficial for swollen hemorrhoids and anemia and helps regulate blood sugar levels in diabetes sufferers.

Believe it or not, the juice of the nettle plant calms itching and redness from nettle stings. Being a wonderful source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamins D and K, calcium, iron, magnesium and proteins, the leaves strengthen the immune system. The plant is also a natural diuretic and helps detoxify the body and purify blood.

Stinging nettle-based shampoos are said to be excellent against oily hair and dandruff due to the astringent properties of the plant. Last but not least, it is considered to be an efficient natural galactagogue and recommended alongside fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, vervain, alfalfa and anise to increase milk flow in nursing mothers.

Overall, stinging nettle makes a great diuretic, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, anti-anemic, galactagogue and detoxifying natural agent. It is also an excellent culinary vegetable, full of flavor and highly versatile. It can even be added to pizza or ravioli. However, some people may experience mild stomach pain, sweating and skin rash when exposed to the plant, meaning it might be best they avoid consumption.

Although it is relatively safe for consumption, if you are under medication of any sort, it might be best to consult with your doctor to see if nettle can interact with the medication you are being prescribed. I admit I am a big fan of both nettle puree and nettle tea, which I find refreshing and soothing. To get rid of the sting, I either blanch or dry my nettle, depending on what I plan on doing with it.




2 Replies to “Properties and Benefits of Nettle”

    • Hello, Harris. There is research that shows stinging nettle is both good and bad for diabetes and blood sugar control. For example, there is evidence from some studies that it can raise blood sugar, making it potentially unsafe for consumption if you have hyperglycemia or diabetes. However, the majority of studies portray stinging nettle as a good food to eat for diabetes and hyperglycemia. The leaves and stems in particular have been shown to decrease carbohydrate digestion and absorption by inhibiting the activity of certain pancreatic enzymes, resulting in a controlled rise in blood sugar and improved insulin activity with potential benefits for diabetes sufferers.

      Stinging nettle leaf extract has been shown to help control blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance in patients with advanced type 2 diabetes. Another study shows an extract made from 100 g of powder stinging nettle and 100 ml of water efficiently inhibit a pancreatic protein responsible for the digestion of carbohydrates called alpha-amylase, resulting in slower digestion of carbohydrates, slower rise in blood sugar levels and improved glycemic control. In another study, diabetic participants were given either a placebo or a hydroalcoholic nettle extract for 8 weeks. Results showed the nettle extract significantly improved inflammation markers (interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein) and was concluded it has potential benefits for diabetics. Animal studies on insulin-resistant rats given 50, 100 and 200 mg/kg a day of nettle extract showed the rats receiving nettle extract had significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

      References:
      1) Kianbakht S, Khalighi-Sigaroodi F, Dabaghian FH. Improved glycemic control in patients with advanced type 2 diabetes mel-litus taking Urtica dioica leaf extract: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Clin Lab. 2013; 59 (9-10): 1071-1076.
      2) Rahimzadeh M, Jahanshahi S, Moein S, et al. Evaluation of alpha- amylase inhibition by Urtica dioica and Juglans regia extracts. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2014; 17: 465-469.
      3) Ahangarpour A, Mohammadian M, Dianat M. Antidiabetic effect of hydroalcholic Urtica dioica leaf extract in male rats with fructose-induced insulin resistance. Iran J Med Sci. 2012; 37(3): 181-186.
      4) The Use of Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle) as a Blood Sugar Lowering Herb: A Case Report and a Review of the Literature. Available from http://www.researchgate.com
      Most studies show nettle extracts lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin production and use, often potentiating the effects of regular diabetic medicines. However, it is recommended to ask your doctor whether nettle is safe for you to use and monitor your blood sugar levels constantly. Also, remember that stinging nettle can produce allergic reactions so, again, make sure you are not allergic and it’s safe for you to use. Hope this helps and wishing you lots of health.

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