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Stinging Nettle- One of the Worlds Most Versatile Herbs

Stinging Nettle- One of the Worlds Most Versatile Herbs

The rose is often found near the nettle


Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a plant with pointed leaves and white to yellowish flowers.The the gifts or uses of stinging nettle may outnumber the names it goes by. It is often known as common nettle, burning nettle, stinging nettle (although not all plants of this species sting) nettle leaf, or just a nettle or stinger. Some of its lesser known names include “weed of mars”, “fire in the garden”, “giant nettle”, and “dwarf nettle”. The plant has a long history of use as a source for traditional medicine, food, tea, and textile materials in ancient (such as the Saxons) and modern societies.

Originally native to Europe, much of temperate Asia and western North Africa, it is now found all over the world including New Zealand and North America. Nettles thrive in damp, nitrogen-rich soil. You’ll often see it along rivers and streams, around old farm-steads, along roadsides near canals, and much to the dismay of gardeners, homeowners, and hikers alike- in gardens and along hiking trails as it loves full-sun to partially shaded areas with well fertilized and moist dirt.

 It is steeped in mysticism and in folklore. According to the Anglo-Saxon "Nine Herbs Charm," recorded in the 10th century, nettles were used as a protection against "elf-shot" (mysterious pains in humans or livestock caused by the arrows of the elvin folk) and"flying venom" (believed at the time to be one of the four primary causes of illness). In Norse myth, nettles are associated with Thor, the god of Thunder; and with Loki, the trickster god, whose magical fishing net is made from them. In Celtic lore, thick stands of nettles indicate that there are fairy dwellings close by, and the sting of the nettle protects against fairy mischief, black magic, and other forms of sorcery. Stinging nettle also appears in indigenous folklore, often being associated with the coyote, suggesting that nettle is the trickster of the plant world. Nettle folktales also remind us of man’s foolish decision to label the plant as a weed.

Records indicating the use of nettle are plentiful throughout European and Asian history. Nettle use has been recorded as far back as the Bronze Age (3000 BCE – 1200 BCE), and it is still used in herbalism today. Between 58 and 45 BCE, there are records of Nettle’s stinging properties assisting Julius Caesar’s troops in helping them stay awake and alert during the night. In fact, warriors and hunters of many clans also used the sting of the nettle to keep themselves alert during battle or the hunt. Ancient Egyptians used stinging nettle to treat arthritis and lower back pain. It was a common household textile in Scottish households during the 16th and 17th centuries, and also during the First and Second World Wars.

Indigenous peoples have enjoyed a strong relationship with the stinging nettle plant since time immemorial. One of the most well-recorded uses of stinging nettle, stretching back over 2,000 years— is urtication. This practice was employed by indigenous tribes in many countries worldwide. It involved beating ones limbs with stalks of stinging nettle. For practitioners, it serves as a cure for painful, arthritic joints. The theory is that once histamine from the trichomes is injected into the body, an anti-histamine reaction occurs, with the body attempting to draw down the inflammation. It is thought that perhaps this reaction by the body also serves to reduce arthritic swelling. 

Does the thought of what stinging nettle feels like when brushed up against your skin make you cringe at the thought of ingesting it?  Don’t let the barbs of this plant scare you away from consuming it in order to receive it’s plentiful benefits. Once it is processed into a supplement, dried, freeze-dried or cooked, stinging nettle can be safely consumed. Stinging nettle’s leaves and root provide a wide variety of key nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, amino acids, polyphenols and pigments. What’s more, many of these nutrients act as antioxidants inside your body.

Antioxidants are molecules that help defend your cells against damage from free radicals. Damage caused by free radicals is linked to aging, as well as cancer and other harmful diseases. Read on for a list of some of the top health supporting benefits of stinging nettle:

  • May Reduce Inflammation- Stinging nettle harbors a variety of compounds that may reduce inflammation. In animal and test-tube studies, stinging nettle reduced levels of multiple inflammatory hormones by interfering with their production. In human studies, applying a stinging nettle cream or consuming stinging nettle products appears to relieve inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.
  • May Support Prostate Health- An enlarged prostate is commonly called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Scientists aren’t sure what causes BPH, but it can lead to significant discomfort during urination. Animal research reveals that this powerful plant may prevent the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone — a more powerful form of testosterone. Stopping this conversion can help reduce prostate size. Studies in people with BPH demonstrate that stinging nettle extracts help treat short- and long-term urination problems — without side effects.
  • May Treat Hay Fever- Test-tube research shows that stinging nettle extracts can inhibit inflammation that can trigger seasonal allergies. This includes blocking histamine receptors and stopping immune cells from releasing chemicals that trigger allergy symptoms.
  • May Lower Blood Pressure- Stinging nettle was traditionally used to treat high blood pressure. Animal and test-tube studies illustrate that it may help lower blood pressure in several ways. For one, it may stimulate nitric oxide production, which acts as a vasodilator. Vasodilators relax the muscles of your blood vessels, helping them widen. In addition, stinging nettle has compounds that may act as calcium channel blockers, which relax your heart by reducing the force of contractions. In animal studies, stinging nettle has been shown to lower blood pressure levels while raising the heart’s antioxidant defenses.
  • May Reduce Seasonal Allergies- Compounds have been found in nettles that help combat the inflammation and reactivity of allergy sufferers. For example, composites in nettles appear to inhibit inflammatory pathways and also act against the histamine receptors. 

Stinging Nettles other potential health benefits may include:

  • Blood Sugar Control- Both human and animal studies link stinging nettle to lower blood sugar levels. In fact, this plant contains compounds that may mimic the effects of insulin.
  • Reduced Bleeding- Medicines containing stinging nettle extract have been found to reduce excessive bleeding, especially after surgery. 
  • Liver Health-  Nettle’s antioxidant properties may protect your liver against damage by toxins, heavy metals and inflammation.
  • Natural Diuretic- This plant may help your body shed excess salt and water, which in turn could lower blood pressure temporarily.
  • Wound and Burn Healing- Applying stinging nettle creams may support wound healing, including burn wounds.

Contraindications- Pregnant women should avoid consuming stinging nettle because it may trigger uterine contractions, which can raise the risk of miscarriage. Speak to your doctor before consuming stinging nettle if you’re taking one of the following:

  • Blood thinners
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Diabetes medication
  • Lithium

Stinging nettle could interact with these medications. For instance, the plant’s potential diuretic effect may strengthen the impact of diuretics, which can raise your risk of dehydration.

As you can see from this brief over-view, stinging nettle has a rich history, multiple uses, a vast nutritional profile, and many medicinal uses. Try Khroma Herbs USDA certified Organic, Vegan, and Kosher Stinging Nettle to see its benefits for yourself!