The superpowers of stinging nettle

Written by Endeavour College of Natural Health | 2 September, 2022

Stinging nettle is one of the most misunderstood members of the medicinal plant community, typically sprayed with pesticide or forcefully yanked out of the ground – but once you get past the stinging hairs, this prickly plant holds some pretty interesting superpowers.

Let’s learn more about the history, use, and benefits of stinging nettle!

Botanical name: Urtica dioica
Common name: Stinging nettle
Medicinal parts used: Leaves, root and seed
Family: Urticaceae

History

Stinging nettle – a strong-fibred plant that has appeared in many fables and myths and its use documented throughout European, Asian, and American history. The use of nettle has been recorded as far back as the Bronze Age. It was utilised medicinally, as cordage for fishing nets, and as a textile (Bergfjord et al., 2012) and was a common household textile in Scotland during the 16th and 17th centuries. In France, they used nettle for the production of paper and also discovered that a nettle leaf decoction would curdle milk and serve as an excellent substitute for rennet.

We could go on and on as the historical use of nettle are well documented, but we’ll round it out with this interesting fact: Fresh nettles were used to whip (yes, whip) paralysed arthritic or gout-ridden limbs and were even used in the same way for erectile dysfunction.

Uses

Medicinally, nettle is thought to have a positive impact on a variety of health conditions. Due to its high content of protein, it can help to rebuild weakened tissues. As it also contains many vitamins and minerals, it's often used as an all-around nutritive tonic (especially as an iron tonic during pregnancy) (Wood, 2008).

Here are some common uses of stinging nettle:

  • Arthritis
  • Blood sugar control
  • Hair loss
  • Inflamed prostate
  • Kidney support
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Natural diuretic
  • Rebuild weakened tissues

Nutritional profile

Our misunderstood friend is incredibly nutritious and high in iron and protein. Nettle also has one of the highest chlorophyll contents of any plant and is high in several essential vitamins and minerals (Upton, 2013).

It also contains:

  • Vitamins A, C and K, as well as several B vitamins
  • Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium
  • All of the essential amino acids
  • Kaempferol, quercetin, caffeic acid, coumarins and other flavonoids
  • Beta-carotene, lutein, luteoxanthin and other carotenoids

Most often, you’ll find nettle as a whole plant, dried leaves, capsules, and as tea. The leaves, stem, and roots will add vitamins, minerals, and protein to soups, stews, stir-fries, smoothies, and beyond. We hope this article has encouraged you to give this prickly plant a chance – with its high content of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, stinging nettle deserves a role in your daily life.

References

Bergfjord, C., Mannering, U., Frei, K. M., Gleba, M., & Scharff, A. B. (2012, September). Nettle as a distinct Bronze Age textile plant. Scientific Reports, 2(1), 664. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/231614477_Nettle_as_a_distinct_Bronze_Age_textile_plant

Upton, R. (2013, March). Stinging nettles leaf (Urtica dioica L.): Extraordinary vegetable medicine. Journal of Herbal Medicine, 3(1), 9-38. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2210803312000978
Wood, M. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. North Atlantic Books. https://thepracticalherbalist.com/advanced-herbalism/nettle-myth-and-magic/ https://www.terriwindling.com/blog/2019/06/the-folklore-of-nettles.html

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Endeavour College of Natural Health

Endeavour College of Natural Health is Australia's largest Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses.

The College is known as the centre of excellence for natural medicine and is respected for its internationally recognised academic teams and high calibre graduates. Endeavour offers Bachelor of Health Science degrees in Naturopathy, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine, Acupuncture Therapies and Chinese Medicine, Undergraduate Certificates, a Diploma of Health Science and massage courses.

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