Stinging Nettle: The Herbal Series

I wanted to space this post out a bit from the one I wrote on purple dead nettle because I didn’t want you to confuse the two. The stinging nettle is another early spring forageable that has excellent nutritive and medicinal properties, so you won’t want to miss out on this one!

***PLEASE NOTE***
I am not a doctor and do not recommend any remedies in any way as an alternative to medical care. If you are having serious health problems, be sure to consult a physician.
Stinging Nettle

Identifying Stinging Nettle

One of the easiest ways to identify stinging nettle is to happen upon it, just once, in bare feet. The sharp still will alert you that you’ve stepped on the sharp barbs that can be quite painful. Luckily, there are other ways to tell this plant is true stinging nettle.

The leaves of this plant are toothy and look serrated all around the heart-shaped perimeter. The younger the plant, the more heart-shaped the leaves. They are veined deeply, and the stingers are located on the underside of the leaves, which are arranged directly opposite one another. The whole of the plant can stand two to five feet tall.

The flowers of the stinging nettle are tiny and hang off the stems in a way that is reminiscent of poplars or willows. Male flowers are purple or yellow, and female flowers are white or green.

This plant is most often confused with another plant called clearweed. Clearweed is non-toxic but is not good to the taste, nor does it have the same stinging hairs that stinging nettle is known for.

Clearweed (Pilea pumila)

Nutritional Benefits of Stinging Nettle

***NOTE***

DO NOT eat stinging nettle after flowers appear in late spring! At this point, it creates a particular alkaloid that could damage your kidneys if you ingest very much.

When made into flour, nettle leaf flour has less than half as many carbs as barley and wheat flour but three times as much protein. For every 100 grams of blanched stinging nettle, you get nearly seven grams of fiber and 481 mg of calcium.

You can cook and use stinging nettle the same as spinach, as it is even interchangeable with the leafy green in any recipe. Make sure you don’t overcook it, though. As with any other green, it will destroy the nutritional value.

You’ve heard me tout the many benefits of teas made with herbals, and this one is no different. Steeping fresh leaves in hot water is the best way to release the earthy flavor. For an even stronger mix, pack a mason jar loosely with fresh leaves, cover with boiling water, close with a lid, and allow it to sit overnight. Enhance this with mint, save it in the fridge, or use it on your plants. It’s extremely versatile!

A literal powerhouse of nutrition, here are some of the components found in stinging nettle:

  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Strontium
  • Boron
  • Vitamins A, B, C, and K
  • Beta-carotene
  • Quercetin
  • Lutein
A flowering stinging nettle
Another picture of a flowering stinging nettle. Do NOT eat at this point.

Medicinal Benefits

Just like some of the other herbs I’ve covered so far, stinging nettle is an excellent treatment for allergies, especially of the seasonable variety. Isn’t it amazing how God provides the cure for seasonal allergies exactly when seasonal allergies start? I just love that. Be sure to drink this tea regularly during the spring season for excellent anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties.

Nettle tea is also known for pain-relieving qualities, with an analgesic effect. It is antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial, so it’s great for fighting infections. Taking this herb is also known to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, which is especially beneficial for people with diabetes who struggle with high blood sugar levels.

When used as a tea, it works well for ulcers since it heals the lining of the stomach but is known to increase overall health in general. It’s great for muscle cramps and can be particularly nourishing, especially after prolonged bodily stress or illness.

It is also beneficial for treating UTIs (urinary tract infections), water retention, gout, skin rash, eczema, and kidney stones. Since it can work to tighten mucous membranes, it can be especially useful for heavy periods or frequent nosebleeds and works to combat anemia, night sweats, fatigue, edema, and more.

For pregnant women, herbalists often prescribe stinging nettle before labor to lessen the change of hemorrhaging during the birthing process, and it even works to enrich your breast milk.

To get the greatest amount of medicinal usage from nettle tea. Be sure to use boiling water and allow it to steep for roughly ten hours. Allowing it to cool naturally creates a tea that is heavy with nutrients, and the heating and cooling process each pulls different nutrients from the plant.

Harvesting Stinging Nettle

Be sure to suit up before attempting to harvest this useful spring herb! Rose gloves are extremely beneficial, cover more of your arms, and are longer lasting. However, they are more expensive, so dishwashing gloves will work too. Wear long sleeves to protect your arms as these nettles grow in dense groupings. While that’s great for the amount you’ll be able to harvest in a short time, it also means there’s more chance of getting “stung” as you brush up against the leaves and stems.

If you do get stung, know that the pain won’t last long. Rubbing the affected area with plantain or dock can bring some relief.

Pinch or snip off the tender new growth, right from the top, which leaves the rest of the plant to grow and flourish. Be sure to have a basket or bowl with you to collect in.

Storing Your Harvest

If you’ve read along with the Herbal Series so far, you know that I am a huge fan of the dehydrator. However, this is the worst possible way to save stinging nettle. It diminishes ALL the nutritional and medicinal properties the same way that overcooking does.

Freezing works very well. Just bring in your harvest, wash it well in cold water, and then blanch entire leaves. These can then be placed in freezer bags and frozen for later use in recipes or teas.

Another way to freeze is to puree the leaves right away, steep in boiling water, and then cool. Pour this mixture into ice trays and, once frozen, pop them out and into a freezer bag. It’s simple to add a cube to a boiling cup of water for tea or smoothies or even use it as a pesto.

If you want to go ahead and make a large batch of tea concentrate, you can can it. I suggest using pint jars, which you can then add to make half-gallon or gallon pitchers later on, and no freezer space will be necessary.

Resources

Here are some beneficial uses of stinging nettle, including information, recipes, and more.

Thanks for Joining Me!

Thanks for reading along for this week’s Herbal Series! If you found the information helpful, be sure to consider sharing it via email or social media, and don’t forget to meet me back here again next Monday for another installment!

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