If you’ve ever fallen into a patch of stinging nettle, you probably remember the experience. This hair fall can cause itching, burning at the slightest touch. She said the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) are incredibly nutritious, delicious wild foods with many uses.
As far as nutrition is concerned, few other plants can match these beauties. They are full of iron, calcium, vitamins C, K, A, and B, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. Nettles are also surprisingly rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein, and they also contain essential amino acids.
Isn’t it exciting? Here’s how to make use of all that goodness.
- 1 How to Harvest Stinging Nettles
- 2 How to Eat Stinging Nettles
- 3 stinging nettle medicinal uses
- 4 Uses for Stinging Nettle in the Garden
- 5 final notes
- 6 Stinging nettle root
- 7 Stinging nettle benefits
- 8 Antibiotics
- 9 Drinking
How to Harvest Stinging Nettles
These plants—and their equally delicious cousins—are grown extensively all over the world. In addition to being full of nutrition for humans, they are also incredibly beneficial in the garden.
Better yet, isn’t it awesome that you can benefit from all of the stinging nettle’s many uses by simply strolling along with the basket?
If you’re trying to figure out how to use such a painful plant, you’re not alone. Most foraging newbies have a hard time wrapping their heads around this one. The key to harvesting and using these kids is protective gear.
I wear leather gloves to cut them, plus a sturdy long-sleeved shirt. That way, I don’t risk exposing any of my (susceptible) skin to the prickly bristles. Unless you’re using them in the garden, you’ll want to remove their sting.
Once you’ve cut a large bunch of them, remove the leaves and put them in a large pot.
You can then either pour boiling water over them and blanch them for a few minutes, or cover them with water and boil them gently for a few minutes. This will dissolve their stinging bristles so they can’t attack you.
If you want to bring some nettle into your garden, dig up a young clump, roots and all, and plant immediately.
How to Eat Stinging Nettles
I like to boil stinging nettle and then use that mineral-rich water to make soup stock or cook rice, pasta, quinoa, etc. Remove the nettles from their boiling bath with a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. . This will shock them for staying nice and green instead of brown on you.
Working with fresh pesto is an absolute pleasure. You can spread it on toast, use it as a base for pizza, add it to pasta, or add it to soups for extra flavour.
In a food processor or blender, combine two cups of blanched and drained nettles:
- 2 Tbsp nuts (your choice, although I like pine nuts)
- 3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, Romano, or vegetarian grated “cheese.”
- 2 peeled garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon dried garlic powder (at least!)
- 3/4 to 1 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- little ground black pepper
Adjust olive oil, garlic, salt, nuts, etc., to taste. Once you have achieved a flavour and consistency that you like, transfer it to a jar. You can use it immediately for the above recipes or eat it with a spoon whenever you attack. It will keep in the fridge for about a week.
2. Wilted or Braised Greens
Stinging nettles are so delicious that one of the best ways to use them is lightly cooked and seasoned. All you have to do is sprinkle them with a little olive oil, salt, and garlic and roast them for eight to 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Then eat them with poached eggs on top, or use them to top pizza, add them to spanakopita… the options are endless.
Note: If you’re trying to get kids to eat stinging nettle, try making them cream by mixing 50/50 with spinach. Fry chopped greens in butter instead of olive oil, then add a bit of sour cream, heavy cream, salt, and garlic powder to taste. Serve on toast points or potato pancakes.
Soup is my favourite way to eat nettle. I will simmer the greens in the homemade stock over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon. Various ingredients are served depending on the day, followed by chopped cooked nettle greens. It can be pureed into a thick gruel or eaten as is.
4. Egg Recipes
Turn spinach or kale into your favourite quickie or egg muffin recipe. Stinging nettles add a delicious earthy flavour and add extra nutrients. Alternatively, whisk them into your scrambled egg mixture before cooking, or use them instead of greens in omelettes. Try pairing them with goat cheese or Brie for a delicious breakfast.
If you’re a fan of adding spinach, kale or watercress to smoothies, you’ll love stinging nettle. They add green flavour as well as intense nutrition to these beverages.
You can make a super-nourishing powder out of dried nettle and add it to just about anything. I add it to soups, smoothies and stews, as well as to scrambled eggs, curries, salty baked goods, and herbed cheeses. Check out our full article for a step-by-step guide to making your own churna at home. It will add a lot of nutrition as well as flavour to anything you add to it.
Surprisingly, you can make beer from stinging nettle? If you are a homebrewer, then nettle beer is a must-try. Add a little lemon, sugar, water, yeast and nettle, and you can make yourself a delicious drink. Homestead Honey has an excellent recipe you can use to make nettle beer.
stinging nettle medicinal uses
In addition to being incredibly nutritious, stinging nettles have a variety of medicinal uses. The leaves are best used in tea for these purposes, but you can also make decoctions and tinctures from the seeds and roots. Different nettle parts affect different aspects of health and well-being.
Nettle is transformative in that it balances and strengthens various metabolic functions. It is also an adaptogen, which helps our body adapt and recover from stress, inflammation, etc.
8. Blood Maker
People who suffer from anemia – especially women who have heavy periods – may benefit from eating stinging nettle. These plants are high in iron and contain about 1.5 milligrams of iron per serving.
One cup of cooked nettle can provide you with about 15% of your daily iron requirement. In addition, the vitamin C content of this plant helps you absorb this non-heme iron source more easily.
9. Reduce Adrenal Fatigue
People who are exposed to prolonged stress can often suffer from adrenal fatigue and insufficiency. Symptoms can include fatigue, lethargy, brain fog, anxiety, hair loss, weight loss, and emotional disconnection. Nettle seed — either taken in a tincture or eaten raw — can ease many of these issues.
Master herbalist Kiva Rose has observed that people who have suffered severe burns can show remarkable improvement after consuming nettle. These improvements can include greater mental clarity, increased lung capacity, physical and mental stamina, less anxiety and depression, and an overall sense of connectedness.
10. Supports Bone Health
Nettle’s high calcium content and anti-inflammatory properties make it helpful in treating osteoarthritis  and osteoporosis. Drinking nettle tea, making the leaves into soups or eating them cooked can greatly enhance bone health and stability.
11. Reduces swelling, redness and discomfort caused by inflammation
If you are dealing with an inflammatory problem, try a decoction of nettle root. The anti-inflammatory components of nettles can help ease this discomfort.
12. Kidney, Bladder, and Reproductive Health
Like dandelion, some of the uses of stinging nettle is that it has a mild diuretic and astringent effect. This means that they help in removing excess water from the body through urination. They can help reduce edema and premenstrual water retention.
Additionally, nettle can help tone the kidneys, bladder and reproductive organs. People who suffer from frequent urinary tract infections or kidney inflammation may benefit from taking nettle seed extract.
In fact, nettle seeds can help restore and replenish kidney health and function even after severely damaged or failing. While they may not turn back the clock and return an octogenarian’s kidneys as a pre-teen, they have been shown to help people out of dialysis, with considerable improvement.
Uses for Stinging Nettle in the Garden
Stinging nettle has many important uses in the garden. If you have a nettle patch nearby, you can get your hand’s free fertilizer, an easy trap crop, and a way to attract ladybugs and butterflies.
Collect some nettles, mash or chop them, and pack them in a bucket. Use some bricks to keep the nettle down and fill the bucket with water. You need about one cup of nettle to 10 cups of water. Let this mixture sit for about a month, and then add this 1:10 nettle soup to the water. Spray on your plants or use it to water the soil.
14. Trap Crop
Aphids love stinging nettles, so you can plant them around the perimeter of your garden to attract aphids there instead of your valuable vegetables and herbs. Pull them off, dispose of them once they’re covered in little critters, or spray the nettle with horticultural oil.
15. Attract Beneficial Insects
Butterflies and ladybugs love stinging nettle as much as aphids. If you plant nettles near your garden, you can attract these insects, which will benefit all the plants you are growing.
Would you please cut and use stinging nettles responsibly and ethically? Don’t take the first plant you see, nor the last. Although nettles self-sow with enthusiasm, it can take years for them to establish a healthy patch. Take only what you need, and let the plants breed and thrive.
If you are stung by nettle and develop a rash, add a little baking soda to the water and apply it to the area to neutralize the reaction.
As always, please do thorough research before taking herbs as part of your personal health regimen. If you are concerned about any contraindications, consult your health care practitioner and make sure you identify these plants thoroughly before taking them.
The information here is given in the form of suggestions on the uses of plants, but it is up to the individual to educate himself well before using the plants as food or medicine.
- Jacquet A, Girodet PO, Parturient A, Forrest K, Mallet L, Moore N. Phytalgic, a food supplement, in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip versus placebo: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Arthritis Res There. 2009;11(6): R192. DOI: 10.1186/AR2891. Epub 2009 Dec 16. PMID: 20015358; PMCID: PMC3003499.
- Phytomedicine. 2003; 10 Supplies 4:53-5. Long-term efficacy and safety of PRO 160/120 (a combination of Sabal and Urtica extracts) in patients with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Bondarenko B, Walther C, Funk P, Schlafke S, Engelmann U.
Stinging nettle root
Stinging Nettle root is a perennial herb. It is one of three herbs that make up the Allium family. It is scientifically known as Ficus Lumbricus and was first described in a catalogue in 1820. Stinging Nettles has a distinctive aromatic odour which is reported by some to contain a bit of sulphur. The plant has very long roots, reaching about two to five feet long. The plant produces one flower per year, approximately two inches in length.
Stinging nettle benefits
Stinging nettle can be used in many ways. Its tall-growing height allows it to be cultivated as a vine and a popular ornamental plant at garden centres. It can also be used to make tea and as a vegetable. The herb is a nutritious and healthy herbal resource. Nettle root contains significant quantities of vitamin C, iron, phosphorus and chromium.
The combination of these ingredients makes stinging nettles a powerful antioxidant, responsible for a range of health effects such as strong bones and muscle strength, improved circulation, stronger immune function, reduced LDL cholesterol levels, reduction of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, eczema, gout and asthma, enhancement of digestive system function, protection against Alzheimer’s and cancer, and many others.
Besides having antiseptic and antibiotic properties, stinging nettle has a powerful capacity to relieve insect bites and stings. When applied topically, it quickly relieves itching, redness and swelling associated with insect bites and stings. The minor skin reactions resulting from contact with insects and plants can be treated using stinging nettle.
When stinging nettle is ingested, the herb delivers enzymes and histamine that quickly combat histamine released by bacteria or viruses. Histamine triggers allergic reactions such as hives and itchy skin. This results in rapid breathing and increased heart rate. This can cause dizziness and tension in the muscles.
Drinking or taking water pills may help relieve symptoms of inflammation and diarrhea. However, these diuretic medications should not be taken without the advice of a medical professional. Diuretics can affect potassium levels and cause rebound potassium loss. This can lead to frequent rebound constipation. Water pills are a superior alternative to diuretic medications for stinging nettle when diuretic side effects are a concern.
Stinging Nettle improves blood circulation, especially to the kidneys. An increase in blood flow to the kidneys can relieve symptoms of inflammation such as cramping, pain and excess gas. Blood flow to the liver boosts metabolic functions of the gall bladder and bile ducts. The liver produces bile for the digestion of fat. Bloating is a common problem for people suffering from abdominal pain, including cramping and heartburn.
The stinging nettle has many benefits, including the ability to reduce joint pain and swelling. It promotes blood circulation, reduces stiffness, as well as relieving arthritis pain. This includes arthritis pain resulting from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other joint pains include Lupus, fibromyalgia, herpes, shingles, tennis elbow, and multiple sclerosis.
The stinging nettle also has diuretics, which is good news for kidney stones sufferers. It reduces water retention, fluid retention, and salt retention (common in diabetic patients). Dandelion Root is a product similar to this. It is currently being developed for human consumption. To treat water retention, both diuretics and stinging nettle root can also be consumed. While stinging nettle may prevent and treat urinary tract infections, it cannot prevent or treat kidney stones. Consult your doctor if you suffer from kidney stones and are on medication for this condition.