If Sleeping Beauty were a gardener, she would have pricked herself on stinging nettles at some point. And if the fairy godmothers were familiar with foraging, they would use the plant to treat her stings and energize her. Stinging nettle, while a fair bit prickly, is a beneficial plant that can be added to the herbal cabinet.
A reader on the blog recently mentioned that they got rid of all the stinging nettles in their garden by pulling them out. They were tired of getting stung by them while gardening, so they decided it would be best to get rid of them.
While the stings of the plant may have been annoying to the reader, they were helping someone else to manage their chronic pain.
This phrase means that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
If you have stinging nettle on your property, you may be surprised to know that it is actually a very giving plant, despite its sometimes painful sting.
What is Stinging Nettle?
This plant is commonly known as nettle or common nettle, and its scientific name is Urtica dioica. It is a dark green perennial herb. As its name suggests, it is most commonly recognized for the sting it produces when touched. People who hike, garden, or forage are likely to come across this plant, hopefully on purpose and not accidentally.
When nettles sting you, you feel a slight stinging feeling and see a red rash. This is because of the tiny, hollow hairs on the nettle leaf, called trichomes. They contain formic acid and histamine. You can find these hairs on the stems and underside of the leaves of the plant.
The nettle plant’s stings can be both a source of irritation that lasts up to 24 hours, and a source of relief from that same irritation.
Stinging nettle is a plant that grows rapidly in wet areas, such as wetland areas, farmlands, and meadows. It can also be found in wooded areas, and it begins to grow in these areas in the spring.
The plant has serrated, heart-shaped leaves with a pointed tip. They grow opposite along a square stem and get smaller in size towards the top of the stem. The plant can also have tiny green flowers in the summer. It can grow anywhere from two to eight feet tall.
History of Stinging Nettles
Stinging nettles are a type of herb that have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The first known use of the herb dates back to 3000 BCE.
The stinging nettle was most popularly used as a cleansing tonic made from the leaves. Julius Caesar’s troops used the stinging nettle to keep themselves awake during night watches.
The stinging nettle plant had a variety of uses beyond just medicinal and nutritional ones. In Germany, France, and Sweden, it was also a popular fibre due to the strength of the thread it produced, which was 50 times stronger than that of cotton. When cotton was not available during the first and second world wars, stinging nettle textiles were used as a replacement.
6 Evidence-Based Benefits of Stinging Nettle
The leaves and stems of the plant are covered in tiny hollow hairs that, when touched, injection a mix of chemicals into the skin Itching, burning, and pain are the most common reactions to the nettle’s sting. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a plant that has been used in herbal medicine since ancient times. The leaves and stems of the plant are covered in tiny hollow hairs that, when touched, inject a mix of chemicals into the skin. Itching, burning, and pain are the most common reactions to the nettle’s sting.
The ancient Egyptians and Romans used stinging nettle for different purposes. The Egyptians used it to treat arthritis and lower back pain, while the Romans used it to help stay warm.
The stinging nettle’s scientific name, Urtica dioica, comes from the Latin word uro, meaning “to burn.” This is because contact with the plant’s leaves can cause a temporary burning sensation.
The leaves have tiny, sharp structures that can sting and cause irritation, redness, and swelling.
However, once it has been processed into a supplement, stinging nettle can be safely consumed. Studies have found it to be linked with a number of potential health benefits.
Here are some evidence-based benefits of stinging nettle.
Stinging nettle’s leaves and root provide a wide variety of nutrients, including:
- Vitamins: Vitamins A, C
and K, as well as several B vitamins
- Minerals: Calcium, iron,
magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium
- Fats: Linoleic acid,
linolenic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid
- Amino acids: All of the essential amino acids
- Polyphenols: Kaempferol,
quercetin, caffeic acid, coumarins and other flavonoids
- Pigments: Beta-carotene, lutein,
luteoxanthin and other carotenoids
Many of the nutrients in these foods act as antioxidants in your body.
The purpose of antioxidants is to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radical damage has been linked to aging, as well as cancer and other harmful diseases.
●Stinging nettle extract likely increases blood antioxidant levels, based on available research.
Nettle provides many benefits including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, polyphenols, and pigments. These all act as antioxidants in the body and provide numerous benefits.
Inflammation occurs when your body is fighting an infection or injury. It is your body’s way of healing itself.
However, chronic inflammation can inflict significant harm.
Stinging nettle contains several compounds that may help to decrease inflammation.
Some studies have found that stinging nettle can reduce levels of inflammatory hormones, which may be due to the plant interfering with their production.
The application or consumption of stinging nettle products appears to relieve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis in human studies.
In a study of 27 people, those who applied a stinging nettle cream to areas affected by arthritis experienced significantly less pain than those who received a placebo treatment.
Another study found that stinging nettle extract significantly reduced arthritis pain, to the point that participants felt they could reduce their dose of anti-inflammatory pain relievers.
Although stinging nettle has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory treatment, more research is needed before it can be recommended.
Stinging nettle may help reduce inflammation, which may help treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. More research is needed to confirm these effects.
At least half of all men over the age of fifty have an enlarged prostate gland.
The condition affects around 50 percent of men over the age of 60. An enlarged prostate that is commonly called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can lead to significant discomfort during urination. Scientists aren’t sure what causes BPH, but the condition affects around 50 percent of men over the age of 60.
A few studies have found that stinging nettle may help to treat BPH.
Animal research suggests that this plant may be able to prevent testosterone from being converted into dihydrotestosterone, which is a more potent form of testosterone.
Stopping this conversion can help reduce prostate size.
The stinging nettle is effective in treating both short-term and long-term urination problems in people with BPH, and does so without any side effects.
There is no clear evidence that stinging nettle is more effective than conventional treatments.
Stinging nettle may help to reduce the size of the prostate gland and alleviate symptoms in men who suffer from an enlarged prostate gland, a condition known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).
Hay fever is an allergic reaction that causes inflammation in the lining of the nose.
Stinging nettle is a plant that some people believe could be a helpful treatment for hay fever symptoms.
Test-tube research has shown that stinging nettle extracts can inhibit inflammation, which can trigger seasonal allergies.
This refers to the prevention of histamine receptors from initiating allergic reactions, as well as the halting of immune cells from releasing chemicals that would otherwise cause allergy symptoms.
Although stinging nettle is widely believed to be an effective treatment for hay fever, human studies have found that it is no more effective than a placebo.
Although this plant may be effective in treating symptoms of hay fever, more research is needed to determine its long-term effects.
Some research suggests that stinging nettle may help to reduce the symptoms of hay fever, although it is not clear how effective it is. More studies are needed to investigate the potential benefits of stinging nettle for people with hay fever.
Around 33% of American grown-ups have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a serious health concern because it greatly increases your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and strokes – both of which are leading causes of death worldwide.
Traditionally, stinging nettle has been used to treat high blood pressure.
According to animal and test-tube studies, hibiscus can help lower blood pressure in a few different ways.
This increases blood flow, which can enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to exercising muscles It may help to stimulate nitric oxide production, which has vasodilating properties. This means that it can help to relaxation the muscles around blood vessels, which will in turn increase blood flow. This can be beneficial for improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles during exercise.
Stinging nettle not only has antihistamine properties, but it also contains compounds that work as calcium channel blockers. This allows the heart to relax by reducing the force of contractions.
Stinging nettle has been shown to lower blood pressure levels and raise the heart’s antioxidant defenses in animal studies.
More research is needed to understand how stinging nettle affects blood pressure in humans. Until then, no recommendations can be made.
Stinging nettle has the potential to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and reducing the force of heart contractions, though more research is needed to confirm these effects.
Studies in both humans and animals suggest that stinging nettle may help to lower blood sugar levels.
This plant contains compounds that have similar effects to insulin.
Stinging nettle extract significantly lowers blood sugar levels compared to a placebo, based on a three-month study of 46 people.
Despite the promising findings, there are still too few human studies on stinging nettle and blood sugar control. More research is necessary.
Stinging nettle may help lower blood sugar levels, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Edible Uses for Stinging Nettles
Stinging nettle is a richly green-tasting plant that has been enjoyed by people for centuries. Nourishing plants like stinging nettle are typically rich in green flavor.
This food is high in minerals and plant protein, containing a lot of calcium, magnesium, silica, and iron, as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K. It is actually one of the richest sources of minerals from edible plants.
Nettle has a salty umami taste, similar to seaweed, because of its high mineral and chlorophyll content. You can use nettle as a substitute for spinach and it will go well with many other dishes. Blanche fresh nettle and add it to pesto, pizza, and pasta.
The leaves of the nettle plant can be dried and used to make tea, or ground up in a coffee grinder for use in recipes. The seeds of the plant can also be eaten. Many people enjoy nettles as a traditional herbal remedy, to be consumed every day.
Stinging nettle juice can be used to make green juice. The plant contains nutrients that help to detoxify the body, making it beneficial to consume in the spring after eating heavy foods like root vegetables, grains, and meats during the winter.
Using Stinging Nettles in the Garden
If you have a stinging nettle plant on your property, it may be an indication of the quality of your soil. Stinging nettles are known for their ability to improve the quality of soil, and having them on your property may mean that you have acidic, heavily cultivated, and compacted clay soil. However, if you leave the plant alone, it will eventually work to break up the compacted clay.
Stinging nettle is rich in nitrogen, copper, potassium, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, and iron, which makes it beneficial for accumulating minerals in the soil. You can also use stinging nettle as part of a weed tea fertilizer.
Adding stinging nettles to your compost bin helps speed up the process due to the high nitrogen content. Add them before they have gone to seed, or between layers.
Stinging nettle provides a home for the red admiral butterfly, which is found in North America, Europe, and western Asia.
Harvesting Stinging Nettles
The best time to harvest stinging nettle is in the spring, when the leaves are darker and more nutrient-rich. By summer, the leaves get lighter and leggier, which allows the plant to keep growing for other wildlife to enjoy.
When you harvest the plant, be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, and pants to avoid any stings. Cut only young leaves, no more than 1/3 of the plant. Cut the leaves and stems at nodes.
Don’t handle the plant until it wilts. Once it wilts or is dried and cooked, the sting will go away.
Stinging nettle is known to have many benefits and can be used in many forms such as extracts, infusions, and capsules. You can harvest any part of the nettle plant for these uses.
People sometimes mistake wood nettle (Laportea canadensis) for stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) because they look very similar. The main difference is that the leaves of wood nettle are more rounded. Wood nettle is edible used traditional for herbalism, but it’s not as useful as the stinging nettle.
I hope you learned something new about stinging nettle today and are now reconsidering pulling it all out of your garden. Be brave and try using it in your next recipe!