Don’t Judge a Plant by Its Prickles: How to Eat More Nettles

Nettle is a contrary little herb.

If you run into it in the wild, happen to brush against its spiny body with your bare skin, it will feel like a thousand red ants are treating your arm like a giant taco and chowing down.

Your skin will turn into a terrain of red and white bumps and inflammation, appropriately called “nettle rash”. And you will itch and burn and curse the Mother of Nature.

However, if you consume nettles internally, either fresh and chopped up, pureed, cooked, or dried, the plant will have a soothing effect, taming the fires of inflammation, calming redness, swelling, and scratching, and nourishing the body.

Which means that if you ever get nettle rash, you can take nettles internally to help soothe the reaction.

Contrary, right?

Urtica dioica, stinging nettle, common nettle, or hey, just nettle if we’re being friendly, offers the perfect example of the saying “like cures like”.

Nettles leaves can be consumed fresh so long as they are crushed, macerated, cooked, or blended (otherwise their little stingers will prick you). In Ontario, they are in season in the spring, and for a short window, The Big Carrot often carries the fresh leaves. Otherwise, they can be more easily obtained in their dried form and readily added to teas, soups, tomato sauces and pestos, omelettes, salad dressings, and many more. Nettles have a rich, green, hearty mineral taste that tastes like something akin to spinach.

If you’re a purist, the dried leaves or roots can be used to make a simple herbal water decoction. According to herbalist Susun Weed, nettle leaves should be steeped for four hours and roots for eight hours. To do this, put the desired amount of nettles in a large mason jar, pour boiling water over top of it, and let sit for the determined amount of time. However, I often prepare and drink nettle tea just as I would any other loose tea…steep a couple of minutes n’ go!

Surely, you are itching to find out about the array of medicinal benefits nettles offer (get it?):

Allergies

Perhaps one of the most common uses of nettle is for seasonal allergies, or hay fever. Nettle leaves act as a natural antihistamine to reduce the inflammatory symptoms associated with allergies, like red, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, and nasal congestion [1]. I recommend people start taking at least 300 mg of freeze-dried nettle extract 2-3 times per day, starting about 2-4 weeks before allergy season hits.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia & Urinary Flow

One of the most disruptive symptoms of prostate enlargement is the urinary incontinence associated with incomplete bladder elimination. Nettle root (not the leaves) extract has been shown to improve urinary flow and proper bladder emptying in men with non-cancerous prostate enlargement. The same study also showed a modest decrease in prostate size. [2] Urinary symptoms improve especially when nettle is taken in combination with saw palmetto extract [3].

Inflammation

Consumption of nettle extract has been shown to reduce the inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha [4] as well as the inflammatory marker C-Reactive protein [5]. Inflammation is believed to underlie many disease processes such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic illness in general.

Testosterone

The research is limited on this claim, but nettle appears to reduce sex hormone binding globulin so that more testosterone is freed to take action on the body. [6]

Lactation

Nettles have long been used as a traditional remedy to increase lactation in breastfeeding women.

Minerals

A nettle water decoction (especially if it’s brewed for 4 or so hours, as suggested above), is a great nutrient booster. Nettle infusions are incredibly rich in calcium, beta carotene, vitamin K, zinc, and trace minerals like selenium, boron, sulfur, and chromium. Nettle is often considered in herbal medicine as a non-stimulating energy tonic, probably due to its nutrient-dense, and therefore nourishing and restorative profile.

So let’s put that sh*t on everything! Here are the recipes…

Nettle Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

Nettle and Garlic Sooca (Chickpea Pancakes)

Nettle, Mint and Rosemary Iced Tea


Alex Picot-Annand, BA (Psych), Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Certified Life Coach

www.alexpicotannand.com