photo by Sarah Smith

Common Names: Nettle, stinging nettle, greater nettle
Scientific Name: Urtica dioica
Family: Urticaceae

Identification:  Nettle is found all over the world, including the U.S, usually north of South Carolina, Colorado, and Missouri. It is native to Europe and Asia. It commonly grows in waste areas, along roadsides, in gardens and often prefers to grow along fences and walls.  Often found near water. It grows to be 2-5 feet high.  The leaves are opposite, cordate (heart shaped), deeply serrated, dark green above and paler beneath. The stems are square.  The flowers are small, greenish and grow in axillary clusters or racemes from July to September.  The flowers are wind pollinated, therefore they don’t need to be showy to attract bees.  Small stinging hairs cover the undersides of the leaves and the stem.

Growing Tips:  Nettle is a perennial plant (which means it grows back year after year).  It can be easily grown from seed or division.  It prefers rich, moist soil and a semi-shady area.  Only harvest less than 1/3 of the plant’s growth so that you don’t damage it.

Properties + Benefits:  Nettle is an astringent, diuretic, tonic, hemostatic, alterative, nutritive, expectorant.  One of my most favorite benefits of Nettle is as a nutritional powerhouse.  Nettle is high in iron, vitamin C, protein, amino acids, calcium, magnesium, chlorophyll, B vitamins, vitamins K & D, and potassium (among many others).

Uses:   My favorite ways to get the nutritional value of this plant are via an infusion (tea) or a tincture (I offer a wonderful organic nettle tincture in my Etsy shop here).  The plant is so high in iron, it’s a great treatment for anemia.

Nettle stimulates the skin and improves circulation. One of my favorite uses of nettle is using the root for external use on the scalp for hair loss. (I offer a couple of different hair oils with nettle infused into the oil, you can find them here)  The plant also create thick, glossy hair, strong nails, and smooth, glowing skin. Bath teas made from nettle are great for improving circulation.

The fresh juice or infusion (tea) can be used to stimulate the digestive system and to promote milk flow in mothers as well as provide a lot of nutrients for mothers and babies who need it so much.

Nettle can be used for blood in the urine, hemorrhoids, excessive menstrual flow, diarrhea, and urinary tract issues. Can be used externally for gout and internally for hay fever and high blood pressure.

Young plants in the spring can be eaten in a salad or cooked like spinach (see caution note below about eating older plants, though).

Nettle is high in nitrogen and therefore can be used as a fertilizer for your plants.  You can make a liquid fertilizer from nettle, see recipe below. Nettles are a great companion plant for other plants, including veggies.  They attract beneficial insects and stimulate plant growth and essential oils (making them great to grow with other herbs).

The whole plant can be used to dye fabric and yarn.  The root produces a yellow dye and the leaves & stems produce a green dye.

Caution/Interactions:  There is a reason why it’s called stinging nettle – the plant has lots of “bristles” or hairs that, when touched, inject an irritant substance under the skin which will hurt and can leave a rash.  Use gloves while harvesting. If you are stung, yellow or curly dock and mullein often grow nearby and if you crush the leaves and rub them on the sting, it can help treat and relieve it.  While young plants can be safely eaten, DO NOT eat older plants, they can damage your kidney and cause symptoms of poisoning.

Recipes:

  • Infusion (tea): steep 2 to 3 tbsp of leaves in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes, strain. Drink 1-2 cups per day.
  • Juice: Mix with an equal amount of water and take 1 tsp at a time.
  • Scalp rinse for hair loss: boil 3 to 4 oz of chopped leaves in 2 cups of water and 2 cups of vinegar for a short time.  Strain and allow to cool.  After shampooing, rinse (do not rinse out).  Store extra in the fridge to use the next day.
  • Use nettle instead of spinach for spanakopita.  You can also pickle nettles, just place them in a jar and cover with vinegar.  Add garlic if you’d like.  Allow to sit for 2-3 months, then enjoy.  Here is a great video on how to make nettle pesto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90DWJw5eFbE
  • Nettle fertilizer: Fill a bucket with nettles and cover with water.  Set it aside and allow to infuse for 1-3 weeks, then use to water your plants with.
  • For rheumatism:  Boil one pint of water and pour it over 1 cup of fresh nettle leaves and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.  Strain out the leaves and add the liquid to 3-4 cups of hot water in a foot bath.  Soak your feet for 8-10 minutes.

***All information provided is for informational uses only.  It is not intended as medical advice.  Always talk to your doctor before starting new supplements.  Rooted Earth is not liable for how you use this information as it is for educational purposes only***

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