I know I've said it before, whether it was in another blog post or a comment or something else, but it's absolutely perfect how God designed it: as our problems grow, so do the answers.
This is the case in everything. As a problem is presented, God is already working on the answer.
This is part of why I am amazed at winter herbs. Their fortitude for the weather, their strength and resilience. It's all a testament of how God created us: resilient and strong. Even a plant that you could easily step on and crush, rip up and tear, can still be available during the early and late winter months, gone only during the harshest points of mid-winter.
That's simply amazing to me.
This time last year I started my first winter herb series that included witch hazel, the pine, and finally birch. I've decided to do another one this year starting with stinging nettle Urtica dioica.
This herb fascinates me, maybe even more so than witch hazel.
The herb grows in Northern America, Europe, and Asia. Found mainly near water such as a creek or a stream or in areas of moist soil, this herb is an invasive plant and even listed as a noxious weed in Canada. When wildcrafting this herb, be sure to wear gloves! The needle-like hairs on the plant can cause a sting-like pain when touched and even possibly a rash. The entire plant is covered with them.
The plant is a perennial, and can be found in every season including some months of the winter.
Harvesting and Preparing
Stinging nettle is super nutritious and very medicinal. When harvesting, of course, you want to wear gloves as I stated due to the needle-like hairs.
The herb freezes in the deep frost and starts coming up in late winter / early spring. I've included it in my winter series because it survives early winter and comes back in late winter. So overall, it's really resilient in my mind.
This herb is super powerful in nutrients! I'm really excited to share it for that reason alone. A study was done on some of the traditional Native American food sources and one of the plants chosen was stinging nettle.
In this study, they decided that blanching the herb was the best way to cook it down as you wouldn't want to eat the herb raw due to it's needle-like hairs. They boiled the herb for a minute and then drained it.
For teas and other medicinal preparations, simply drying the herb will do!
The study looked at the macro and micronutrients of the herb after it had been prepared, and I was very pleased with the results.
A serving size of stinging nettle would be 20g. In those 20g, the data from the study is as following:
Calcium - 452mg
Magnesium - 54mg
Potassium - 352mg
Sodium - less than 9mg
Phosphorus - 87mg
Copper - 86μg
Iron - 1,260μg
Manganese - 591μg
Zinc - 363μg
Selenium - 0.3μg
Just look at those stats! Maybe you're thinking of something else that is higher in nutrients, but I'm impressed either way. Stinging Nettle has been used for it's nutrition value for a long time, and one common reason is for anemia!
By the way, remember that this is after boiling in water. Usually, it's more nutritious to eat an vegetable steamed as boiling removes most of the nutrients into the water.
In terms of medicinal value, I was no less satisfied than I was with the nutritional value.
Traditionally, the herb has been used for arthritis . This is due to its anti-inflammatory properties. I found a research review titled "Antinociceptive and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Urtica dioica Leaf Extract In Animal Models" and it was on the properties of the extract of stinging nettle. (Hajhashemi and Klooshani, 2013)
The test was held on animals, particularly mice, and it was an "acid induced writhing" situation that was characterized mainly by paw licking. The solution that induced the writhing was the acetic acid. Between the control group and the group induced with the stinging nettle extract, the extract showed a high percentage (at the most, 81%) of stopping the abdominal writhing and the control group chemical Indomethacin at 84%. (Hajhashemi and Klooshani, 2013)
So, even though this herb could stand to have more tests done on it, it shows great signs of helping lessen inflammation and spasms.
So aside from an extract for arthritis, what other medicinal purposes does it have?
Stinging Nettle may help BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia), easing the discomfort and helping reduce symptoms. In Europe, it is widely accepted and used for this purpose. It won't decrease the size but it does help the symptoms such as lack of urination and constant need to urinate. (Ehrlich, Steven 2017)
According to the American Botanical Association, Germany has not only approved the use of the root of the herb for BPH, but also has approved the use of it for eczema, inflammation of the urinary system, and herpes. (American Botanical Council, 2000)
There was also a study done on the use of the leaf for allergic rhinitis that showed great results. Allergic rhinitis is also known as "hay fever". The form of nettle used was an extract and shown to ease the symptoms of all 98 individuals in the study. The individuals had to take a daily account of their symptoms, and the results were gathered from there. (American Botanical Council, 2000)
So whether you eat it for it's nutrition, or you make an alcohol or water extract of it, or even simply a tea, there are so many reasons why you would want to do it.
There's so much out there on this herb! I may have to make a part 2 for this herb! I feel like this post didn't even do it justice. I want to spend some more time on this herb but I should move on with the next herb in this series and maybe I'll return to the lovely but harsh nettle. I also found many different nettles, aside from the common stinging nettle, that I want to touch on such as the deadnettle - an herb I can almost guarantee you've seen in your own backyard!
Now isn't that exciting?
Leave a comment below, if you will, and don't forget to support your local herbalist! Thanks for reading.
Ehrlich, Steven D. 1, January 2017. University of Maryland Medical Center https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/stinging-nettle
NC State University https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/urtica-dioica/
Homolka, Katie April 2011 Urtica dioica http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/2011/homolka_kail/
Expanded Commission E Monographs, 2000 American Botanical Council. Published by Integrative Medicine Communications. http://cms.herbalgram.org/expanded/StingingNettleherbandleaf.html?ts=1518406216signature=7b6464fdaeb5c757b013671d6ae577f&ts=1518433978&signature=2f5c14e4af20efb5c328d2852eb0d90a
Hajhashemi, Valiollah and Klooshani, Vahid (2013), Antinociceptive and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Urtica Dioica Leaf Extract in Animal Models https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075706/
Phillips, Katherine M. (2014) Nutrition Composition of Selected Traditional United States Nothern Plains Native American Plant Foods https://digitalcommons.unl.ed/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=2474context=usdaarsfacpub
Author: Tina Potter
Master Herbalist, I've graduated as an American Healthcare College Alumnus, I've become a member of American Herbalist Guild and author of survivalist series Survival Ember co-authored by professional survivalist Kenny Dietrich of Ashland, KY. I've been beyond blessed with the constant desire to learn and teach.
COMMON SENSE NOTICE: I do not claim to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. What you do with the information I post is up to you, but it is advised to consult with a doctor before acting on alternative methods of medicine. I wish you all the best!