If you had asked me a couple of years ago I would have told you Nettles are just prickly weeds, with a sting, to be avoided. That may even be what you are thinking now. But bear with me, I haven’t gone mad, Nettles are actually full of lots of nutrients & vitamins that are really good for you. As well as having lots of medicinal uses too. So let me tell you why you should be including Nettles in your diet, and all of the benefits you will get.
I have even included some lovely simple recipes (scroll to the bottom of this post) to give you some ideas for how to use and cook with Nettles.
Why you should be including Nettles in your diet
What benefits do Nettles have?
The leaves and roots of Nettles have been used for centuries for healing. The Egyptians would use nettle for treating arthritis and lower back pain.
Nettles provide a wide variety of nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and many B Vitamins. Minerals including Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium. Fats such as Linoleic acid, Linolenic acid, Palmitic acid, Stearic acid is and Oleic acid. All of the amino acids and many polyphenols and pigments too. Many of which act as antioxidants in your body.
Let’s break it down for you so you can see all of the health benefits as well as how you can use them for natural remedies too:
Hair & Skin
Nettles are full of B vitamins – B1, B2, B3 and B5 to be exact which all help your body to break down and release energy from food in various ways, as well as contributing to a healthy nervous system, producing red blood cells, and keeping your skin and eyes healthy.
Vitamin B3 (Biotin) is also included in skin, hair, and beauty supplements to help with hair growth & healthy skin and nails. The other B vitamins that help create red blood cells improve hair health too – red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients to your scalp and hair follicles, which is also an important process for hair growth.
Drinking nettle tea will make your hair shinier and thicker, your skin clearer, nails stronger, and moisturise you from the inside out!
Not only do nettles help detox and cleanse your body of toxins & reduce water retention, they help your digestive system in many ways.
Their anti inflammatory properties can help with conditions that inflame your intestines such as IBS and Chron’s disease, regulating digestion and reducing constipation, diarrhea, and upset stomach. In turn this protects your gut bacteria and microbiome. Keeping your gut stocked with the right balance of good bacteria and a healthy microbiome prevents a wider spectrum of illness and disease.
Your endocrine system consists of a series of glands, your pancreas and ovaries (female) or testicles (male). The glands in your endocrine system produce hormones that regulate your metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, reproduction, sleep, and mood. But affects almost every organ and cell in your body.
Nettles support the health of your endocrine system by supporting the thyroid, spleen and pancreas functions. Nettle seed is considered a thyroid tonic, and nettles contain Vitamin B1, B3, and Vitamin A. Deficiencies of which can all lead to underactive or overactive thyroid function.
Nettle can be taken to help relieve symptoms of menopause, PMS and menstrual cramps. The root of nettles can be taken for conditions such as POTS as it has the ability to balance androgen and estrogen & works to stabilise and optimise the endocrine system. Nettle root does this by binding to excess androgen and estrogen hormones, then removes them or distributes them where they are needed.
Nettles contain many compounds that are able to help your body fight and reduce inflammation.
Although inflammation is your body’s natural way of dealing with infections and healing itself, chronic inflammation that comes from conditions such as arthritis, ME etc. are not beneficial to your healing and can cause pain.
Drinking a nettle tea or using an ointment infused with Nettle applied to the affected areas can help reduce inflammation and pain both internally and externally in muscles and joints.
Allergies & Asthma
As with consuming local honey it is said that drinking or eating nettles that you have picked locally can help to reduce symptoms of hayfever and pollen allergies such as sneezing, itchy eyes and a stuffy nose. The hairs of the nettles which ‘sting’ do so by causing a histamine reaction in your body. But by consuming the nettles in tea form their anti inflammatory properties can inhibit the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
In the same way Nettle can also be taken to help relieve asthma attacks where the airways become inflamed and make breathing difficult.
There are two kinds of eczema; wet and dry. As nettles are ‘heating’ in their properties they should only be used for the wet variety of eczema, NOT dry eczema.
Because of their histamine reducing properties when consumed Nettles will help to reduce inflammation and swelling, soothe itching, speed up your healing, and minimise scarring. To get these healing benefits take nettles in tea form, or allow a brewed tea to cool and apply the liquid directly to the effected areas of your skin.
Amongst their many properties Nettles have the ability to help reduce blood flow. They can be taken in tonic form to help stop bleeding, nose bleeds, heavy periods, or hemorrhaging within the body.
In this instance I recommend seeking a professional opinion from a Naturopath or Doctor before self treating for these more serious conditions.
Nettles are full of Iron, they also contain vitamins A, K1, C and many B vitamins that help your body to absorb the Iron it needs. If you suffer from an Iron deficiency taking a Nettle tonic, or regularly drinking Nettle tea can help to relieve many of the symptoms including weakness and fatigue.
Because Nettles are full of SO many vitamins, minerals, essential nutrients and immune boosting compounds they combine to promote a healthy working body. Specifically Nettles are high in Vitamins C and A.
These antioxidants help protect immune cells from damage (which can weaken your immune function), and simultaneously strengthen your body’s immune response to fight infection and other pathogens in your body. Nettles also stimulate the lymph system in your body to boost immunity.
As a diuretic Nettles promote the production of urine in the body. They help reduce water retention in the body, as well as simultaneously work as a natural remedy for urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and kidney stones. Take in capsule form combined with a Cranberry supplement to treat UTI’s.
Pick your own Nettles
It is so easy to pick your own nettles as they are growing wild. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how readily they grow… EVERYWHERE! These are all my tips and tricks for foraging for, & picking your own nettles:
- Take scissors, a bag, & gardening gloves with you
- Make sure you pick nettles that are further back from paths and pavements to reduce the risk of any ‘dog interference’
- Choose the newer plants – you can tell these from their younger and lighter green looking leaves
- Pick just the top 4 – 5 leaves
- Start picking young nettles from early March
- You can pick nettles all the way through the year, but only pick before they flower. Once flowered nettles become much more bitter to taste
- Once picked you can deactivate the ‘sting’ from nettles by either drying the plants, or blanching for 1-2 minutes (depending on how you want to use them)
The simplest way to start including Nettles in your diet is by drinking nettle tea or using it as seasoning.
You can buy teas from health food stores. But it’s also really easy to make yourself!
To make nettle tea you need to dry your nettles. You can do this by laying them out on a towel or piece of absorbable paper.
Once dry simply cut or crush the leaves into small pieces.
Place about 2 teaspoons of dried leaves into a strainer
Pour boiling water over the leaves and let it steep for 5-10 minutes
This tea can be stored in an airtight container to be consumed regularly
Using the crushed nettle leaves as above you can simply mix the nettles with pepper and/or salt and sprinkle on savoury dishes as and when you would normally use seasoning.
Easy as that!
You can find a simple and nutritious nettle soup recipe on my blog here that is perfect for Spring time lunches or light evening meals.