Nettle or Urtica dioica is the bane of many a childhood. Who doesn’t remember the pain of pitching off their bike or running head long into a huge bush of stingers? The hives they cause are horrible, hence the name Urtica from the word urticaria which means hives.
net·tle, net·tled, net·tling
1. any plant of the genus Urtica, covered with stinging hairs. Compare nettle family.
2. any of various allied or similar plants. verb (used with object)
3. to irritate, annoy, or provoke.
4. to sting as a nettle does.
5. grasp the nettle, Australian. to undertake or tackle an unpleasant task.
What does nettle mean to you? Do you reach for the weedol and spray the weeds in your garden? Kill them, get rid of them, spoiling the perfect view in your garden… stop for a moment next time you see nettles and pick yourself some of those fresh new leaves. I’m sold. I’m hooked. I am a nettle tea convert. The herbal tea bags have been in my cupboard for years, and I do enjoy a mug of nettle tea when I feel particularly groggy, allergy infested and in need of cleansing. However the frest stuff is something else.
You simply must experience the zingy zestyness of fresh nettle tea. You can pick nettles everywhere, for free; the fresh new shoots from the top of the plant taste best so get out there now.
I will never look at the humble nettle in the same light.
You can buy nettle tea bags in most health food shops but making your own is out of this world.
It also looks really pretty, tinging the water a very pale green like dappled shade under an oak tree. You can tell this taste has sent me all poetic.
How to make nettle tea
- Wear gloves and pinch off the top cluster of fresh new leaves
- Wash the nettles
- Steep in boiling water
- Marvel at the simple fresh taste which hits your sense of smell first, and no it doesn’t sting your lips or mouth at all
Benefits of nettle tea
Drinking tea made from nettles has many known benefits including:
- Hay fever or allergic rhinitis – nettle tea can relieve your stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, headaches and coughing, all of which can be associated with allergies.
- It has traditionally been used to treat eczema and allergies as well as other ailments.
- It works by reducing inflammation in the body, a common problem with both eczema and allergies.
- It can also help relieve symptoms such as swollen sinuses and the discomfort of feeling bunged up.
So what exactly is in a nettle that makes it so good?
Nettles are packed full of nutrients and vitamins:
- Iron rich
- Calcium – 43% RDI in 3 ozs of nettle
- Loads of vitamin c, which helps the body absorb all that iron
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Bursting with Vitamin K
- Small amount of folate
Scientific proof, nettles are great for hay fever, asthma, allergies and eczema
A study conducted by the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon found positive evidence of freeze-dried nettle leaf for treating hay fever, asthma, seasonal allergies, and hives. Australians have been using nettle for years as a treatment for asthma, but Americans didn’t catch on to this until about 1990. “In a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized study of 98 patients with allergic rhinitis the effect of a freeze-dried preparation of Urtica dioica was compared against placebo. Based on daily symptom diaries and the global response recorded at the follow-up visit after one week of therapy, U. dioica was rated higher than placebo in relieving symptoms.”
Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, McMichael M, Alberte RS. Phytother Res. 2009 Jul;23(7):920-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2763.
Complementary and alternative interventions in asthma, allergy, and immunology.
Bielory L. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2004 Aug;93(2 Suppl 1):S45-54. Review.
Like with everything, someone somewhere could have an allergy to nettles or some kind of adverse reaction from consuming it, so if you have any odd symptoms, stop drinking it and see your doctor.
Me? I’m well and truly grasping the nettle and it’s about time I had another mug today. Has anyone else found nettle tea helped with their hay fever or allergies? Did nettle tea help cleanse your system and improve your eczema? I have found sometimes it can make me a little itchier but I think this is because it’s cleansing out the nasty stuff and for me, sometimes that comes out through my skin. It’s no worse than a slight eczema itch, so bear with it and it should begin to really reap benefits.
Nb: Only ever pick nettles from an area you know has not been sprayed with pesticices or other nasties
References and further reading
Dr Christopher’s Herbal legacy
What a wonderful thing!! My nettles are getting fairly tall here in the midwest of America. Can I still use them? My oldest daughter is suffering terrible from seasonal allergies right now. THe lavender oil I use for myself, that has worked wonders for me, doesn’t seem to have the same effect for her. So I’ve had to resort to over-the-counter medication. I hate using it, but saw no other alternative. Until now! We are tea lovers here, so it won’t be a problem getting her to drink it, but I was just wondering if I can still use them? Also, can I pick them and freeze them for later use? She also suffers from allergies in the fall.
Hi there Emily, well the younger the leaves the better they are, and the top kind of cluster are the newests and sweetest. I haven’t tried making it with old leaves but I’m guessing it just might get a little more bitter… like dandelion leave do. I’ll try that! Just take the top most newest shoot leaves and give it a go. WEAR GLOVES – these babies fight back! I’m here in the UK and mine are not that tall. I haven’t tried freezing but you can dry the leaves, I’m pretty sure you can freeze them, I do freeze lots of herbs in sealed bags but I’ll see if I can find out whether this affects the goodness – but it would mean you could make one bumper harvest in the spring and then drink it all year round! I like your thinking. I want to pick more but it’s pouring with rain here now.
In answer to the freezing question, here is a website from someone who does just this – lightly steam and then freeze. I reckon you could just freeze them fresh in bags. I do this with other herbs and they seem to be fine.
I often used to give a nettle/urtica homeopathic cream for itchy skin in-clinic and it worked a treat. I think Weleda or Helios do one now. I can’t bring myself to drink it or pick it, though. When I was a tiny toddler, I fell into a patch when I had very little on and apparently the reaction was so bad, I was put in a bath of ice. I reckon that might be one of the traumas that started my immune system going downhill! Either way, you can keep yer nettle tea 😉
I think you’d rather like it Micki… I’m doing dandelion tea next, perhaps you might prefer that?
Ha, maybe, Ruth; I have plenty of those in the garden!