Nettle (Urtica dioica) — One Of The Great Medicinal Plants of the Western Herbal Tradition

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Each spring, I like to share my excitement about nettle, one of the great medicinal plants of the western herbal tradition.

There is nothing quite like nettle for energizing our bodies. High in protein, vitamins and minerals, nettle is one of the great nutritive tonics. You can drink nettle tea instead of coffee when experiencing a mid to late afternoon energy slump.

I like to make nettle soup early in the spring, when the green shoots have just emerged from the ground. If it were not so common and accessible, nettle would be marketed as one of the amazing super foods. So, instead of buying expensive powdered greens, we would do well to gather some local nettle for teas, soups, and vegetable dishes.

Caution: The leaves have small hairs that become like needles when touched, and produce a pins and needles sensation, and possibly a rash. Both the stinging and the rash can be addressed by rubbing yellow dock or plantain leaves on the affected area. Most people prefer to use gloves when harvesting for protection. Fresh nettle sting is deactivated by boiling the leaves in water or by drying. Do not consume fresh nettle.

Nettle is excellent for:

  • reducing allergic reactions
  • addressing low thyroid function and low blood pressure
  • helps with iron deficiency anemia
  • supports adrenal health
  • and it is one of the few local adaptogenic herbs

I like to combine nettle with holy basil (tulsi) and licorice for a delicious, energizing tea. Because it helps remove uric acid, nettle is specific for gout. Nettle helps address arthritis, muscle soreness and weakness. To support bone density, drink nettle, oat straw and horsetail tea. For a safe, nourishing tea and iron tonic during pregnancy, combine nettle with red raspberry. To diminish allergic symptoms and strengthen the kidneys, make an infusion of two parts nettle to one part goldenrod and a pinch of licorice. Drink two cups a day.

Nettle root is specific for benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Finally, a nettle rinse helps to condition hair and promote hair growth.

Madelon Hope is a clinical herbalist and licensed psychotherapist, who directs the Boston School of Herbal Studies. She teaches herbal apprenticeship programs, advanced training, and a variety of classes. Level 1 in-person Herbal Apprenticeship begins May 1, 2021.