“Stinging Nettles.” Many people know the herb as an annoying garden weed, or a dangerous plant to avoid. Others have been warned to be frightened of the plant, as it delivers quite a stinging bite when it comes into contact with the skin. And, while it is true that you should take care when dealing with nettles in the plant form, after you read about the incredibly powerful effects of this herb on many systems in the human body, you make rethink your initial aversion to this potent little weed.
During the springtime, this “wonder weed” can be found growing in massive groves, especially in places that provide the exact conditions that nettles love: a semi-shady spot in some rich soil. For hundreds of years, many cultures from all over the world have been ingesting nettles as a energy tonic. But what did these ancient people know about nettles that we don’t? Traditional practitioners of natural medicine seem to have intuitively known that nettles is an excellent source of iron, protein and other important minerals for healthy living.
Whether in teas or in tinctures, traditional practitioners of herbal medicine have used nettles to make the eyes brighter, the hair shinier, and the blood clean and potent. Nettles is also used to increase the strength and length of hair in beauty regimes. In fact, some herbalists swear by organic nettles ability to actually stimulate hair growth in balding men!¹
It’s also a well-known fact that drinking nettles can help improve the appearance of your skin, making it clearer and healthier. You can use nettles in a tea or tincture form, but it may also be used in the kitchen as an edible and tasty vegetable. You can cook with nettles just as you would any dark leafy green herb. With a 10 percent protein ratio, nettles are a wonderful additive to sauces, baked dishes or salads.
The History of Nettle Leaf
Nettle, or Urtica dioica, comes from the Latin root-word, “uro,” meaning “I burn.” This is most likely a direct reference to the curious stinging sensation that can accompany touching the plant. The Nettles plant has tiny little hairs on its leaves, and these hairs leave a stinging residue that affects human skin.
While today this plant can be found growing throughout the world — due to our newfound abilities to cultivate plants in controlled environments — it naturally grows in the more temperate regions. And although it grows perfectly well in the U.S., nettles is not native to North America, but was brought here, from England, by John Josselyn.
For hundreds of years, the root and leaves of this plant have been commonly used as a medicinal herb, a healthy vegetable for human consumption, as well as a tough material for making clothes. The ancient Greeks used the plant for a variety of everyday ailments such as arthritis, troublesome coughs, tuberculosis, and as a hair-growth tonic.² ³
The Health Benefits of Organic Nettles Leaf
The known benefits of organic nettles leaf are extensive, as this plant has truly been used for centuries on end. Currently, there are several well-known, well-documented benefits of organic nettles, including:
•Female tonic, especially for young women beginning menstruation and older women in menopause.
•May assist the body in the detoxification of chemicals and heavy metals
•Helps to reduce water retention, and is particularly helpful for PMS and menorrhagia, a condition where there is heavy menstrual flow in women.
•Helps Stimulate mothers milk, and increases energy after childbirth.
•Natural testosterone booster which aids in increased vitality in men.
•Diuretic that increases uric acid secretion, while at the same time, resisting nighttime bathroom urges. Great for urinary problems and bed-wetting issues.4
•Sterols, one component of nettles, reduce the activity of DHT, a type of testosterone, causing enlarged prostate.5
•Anti-inflammatory capacities act to help many of the symptoms related to arthritis. The robust amounts of boron and silicon minerals reduce pain of osteoarthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. The leaves can be made into a paste to be rubbed directly on painful areas of skin for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
•Anti-hemorrhaging qualities for internal bleeding, as well as small cuts and wounds
•Anti-asthmatic for both bronchial and asthmatic difficulties, helping to clear constricted bronchial and nasal passages6
•Magnesium components moderates the pain of Fibromyalgia
•Contains natural antihistamines. Wonderful for hay fever and allergies
•Natural kidney and adrenal-gland tonic
Natural Compounds in Nettles Leaf
While there has been some debate as far as the active compounds in nettles leaf, currently scientists believe that the plant is mainly comprised of complex sugars, called polysaccharides, as well as lectins. The anti-inflammatory properties are believed to come from the prostaglandins.
Active constituents in nettles leaf also include high levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and beta-carotene. The herb also holds high amounts of the vitamins A, C, D, and B complex. The leaves contain histamine, which causes the distinctive burning sensation, as well as sterols, boron and silicon compounds.
The Cultivation of Nettles Leaf
Nettles grow best in a temperate environment, with partial shade and mineral-rich soil. Once grown, the leaves are collected using rubber gloves to protect against their sting. The most useful and medicinal part of the plant is the smaller, younger leaves, which you can pick from the top of the stem. The best time for harvesting nettles is during the spring, before the plant begins to flower. During this time, the leaves are at their peak nutritive capacity.
Side Effects or Contraindications of Using Nettles Leaf
Consult with a health care practitioner before taking organic nettles leaf if you are currently being treated with medication. Some medicines may interact negatively with the plant. Also, the aforementioned stinging sensation is the most obvious side effect to be aware of when dealing with nettles leaf. The sting can also cause a red rash, which can be relieved through rubbing the juice of the nettle onto the burn, but the rash is not dangerous. Due to the detoxification elements of nettles, in tea, tincture or capsule form, nettles may cause mild gastrointestinal distress in some people. The leaf is considered safe for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
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3.Randall C, Meethan K, Randall H, Dobbs F. Nettle sting of Urtica dioica for joint pain–an exploratory study of this complementary therapy. Compl Ther Med 1999;7:126–31.
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5.Vontobel H, Herzog R, Rutishauser G, Kres H. Results of a double-blind study on the effectiveness of ERU (extractum radicis urticae) capsules in conservative treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Urologe 1985;24:49–51 [in German].
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7.Hirano T, Homma M, Oka K. Effects of stinging nettle root extracts and their steroidal components on the Na+,K+-ATPase of the benign prostatic hyperplasia. Planta Med 1994;60:30–3.