By Cat, June 2, 2018 (image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
If you are familiar with nettles, you will know that their leaves can really give you a sore sting. But there are ways to gather and prepare them to avoid the sting, and they make an herbal tea that has many health benefits.
However, be sure to check with your doctor or herbologist before taking, since nettle can interfere with certain pharmaceuticals.
Nutrients in nettles
The following is from Mother Earth News (2)
- Minerals – iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, boron, strontium. Nettle may have more minerals than peppermint, sage, St. John’s wort, linden, and lemon balm.
- Vitamins – A, C, K, and B vitamins
- Phytonutrients – chlorophyll, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, quercetin, rutin
Benefits of nettle tea
Natural Society (1) provides a list of 29 benefit of nettles, and states that consuming them as a tea is the best way to get these benefits. To their list I have also added those additional ones form the Mother Earth News article (2)
- Eliminates allergic rhinitis
- Cures the common cold
- Reduces hypertension
- Reduces inflammation
- Decrease oxidative stress which in implicated in accelerated aging and may chronic diseases (via its natural polyphenols) (2)
- Relieve pain (via its analgesic effects) (2)
- Fights infections (via its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects) (2)
- Stops bleeding
- Minimizes skin problems
- Stimulates the lymph system to boost immunity
- Lessens nausea
- Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouth wash.
- Relieves arthritis symptoms
- Helps with osteoarthritis
- Promotes a release from uric acid from joints
- Brain & Nervous System
- Helpful to in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
- Relieves neurological disorders like MS, ALS and sciatica
- Gut, Digestive Tract
- Destroys intestinal worms or parasites
- Alleviates diarrhea
- Heal stomach mucosal lining, especially in case of ulcers (2)
- Helps with gastrointestinal disease, IBS, and constipation
- Hormone organs
- Helps to support the adrenals
- Supports the endocrine health by helping the thyroid, spleen and pancreas
- Helps with diabetes mellitus (by lowering blood sugar and cardiovascular risk factors) (2)
- For Men
- Reduces incident of prostate cancer
- Respiratory tract
- Helps with respiratory tract disease
- Helps asthma sufferers
- Urinary Tract
- Supports the kidneys
- Helps break down kidney stones
- For women:
- Strengthens the fetus in pregnant women
- Promotes milk production in lactating women
- Relieves menopausal symptoms
- Helps with menstrual cramps and bloating
Nettle Tea Recipe
I’ve adapted this recipe from Wiki-How (3), with added notes from Mother Earth News (2). I love the idea of using a French press (2), but I’ve not yet tried that.
In the following instructions, the tiny, superscript reference numbers in blue are from Wiki-How (3); go to that site for the links.
Before embarking on this task, know the medical risks.
Nettle is safe for most people, but may have dangerous interactions with some disorders and drugs. While more studies are necessary, most medical organizations give the following advice:
- Avoid nettle tea if you are pregnant, as it may cause contractions or miscarriage.
- Children and breastfeeding women should not drink nettle tea, as the effects on children are unknown.
- Talk to your doctor first if you have issues with blood sugar (including diabetes), blood pressure, blood disorders, or if you are on any medication — even an over-the-counter painkiller.
- Start with small quantities, especially if you have any medical ailment or history of allergies.
Method for gathering
- Identify the nettles. These grow throughout much of the world, and should be easy to find in partial shade, such as a fence line or forest edge. The plants are dark green, with heart- or lance-shaped leaves, growing in pairs opposite each other. They have a toothed ridge around the perimeter.
- You want young, spring nettles, before they’ve flowered, although some subspecies flower in late fall.
- Protect yourself from stings. Wear gloves, long sleeves, and long trousers to avoid the stinging hairs. Bring along a pair of scissors or garden clippers to make harvesting easier. (See the Wiki-How article for tips on gathering them barehanded.
- Pick healthy leaves. Check the top bud and leaves for holes or black specks, which are signs of pests. If they’re healthy, clip them off and toss them in your bag. Grab the stem and run your gloved hand upward to remove all the leaves at once. However, it is wise to harvest just the top 2 or 3 pairs of leaves so the plant will continue to live and make future generations.
- If it is a very young plant, clip the top off so the remaining plant will grow outward into a bushy nettle for later harvesting.
- (NOTE: The shoots are edible, but there’s no reason to put them in tea.)
Dry the leaves (optional)
You can use fresh or dried leaves to make tea. Each has its own flavor.
- To dry them, just leave them in a paper bag in a well-ventialated room until dry, but still green.
- NOTE: dry leaves usually don’t sting, but they may still cause splinters or minor irritation
Brewing the Tea
- Wash the nettles. Sift through your collection and remove any stowaway bugs.
- Wash them in a sieve under running water, rubbing off dust or other contaminants with gloved hands
- Bring a pot of filtered water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, measure amount of leaves: Note that one loosely-packed cup of dried leaves is enough for two glasses of tea, although you can make it stronger (more leaves) or weaker (less leaves).
- Steep the tea:
- Add nettles and let them continue to boil for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the water turns light green.
- Alternately, you can pour boiling water over the leaves in a bowl, jar or French Press. This will avoid getting your boiling pot mucky. Cover and steep for a minimum of a few hours or up to ten.
- Allow it to come to room temperature before straining and refrigerating. This long time allows for a more nutrient-dense tea, while the hot and then cool water pull out different constituents from the herbs. (2)
- Once steeped, the leaves will no longer sting you.
- Strain (optional)
- You can drink it plain, or with a sweetener such as a 1-2 drops of liquid stevia extract.
- Or turn it pink by adding lemon juice or other acid (such as apple cider vinegar). If you add some stems to the boiling/steeping mixture, you will get more red/pink color as they contain more of the color changing chemicals (anthocyanin and anthocyanin-glucosides)
- Store leftover steeped tea in the fridge