All About Nettle: Uses and Benefits

Stinging nettle is a large, perennial wild nutrient-rich plant that can be used as food, medicine and fiber. This plant has sharp hairs that can irritate or sting when the plant is touched, hence the name.  Nettle is one of the richest sources of chlorophyll in the plant kingdom and contains a significant amount of vitamins, such as A, C, D and K, as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium and iron. 


OTHER NAMES: Common Nettle

FAMILY:  It is a member of the urticaceae family, or nettle family, of flowering plants.

PHYSICAL APPEARANCE:  It grows 2-4 feet tall, and the leaves are fine-toothed, somewhat heart-shaped. The plant has small hairs up the stalks and stems.  Thin, tiny green flowers grow from the leaf axils.  Sharp, stinging, tiny hairs encompass this entire plant and they have tiny, fuzzy-like white flowers.

ORIGIN: It is native to Europe and Asia. 

WHERE IT IS GROWN TODAY:  Today it has spread throughout the world where they thrive in rich soil, moist woodlands, along partially shaded trails and riversides.

HISTORY: Stinging nettle has been used since ancient times as a source of food, fiber, and medicine.  Burial shrouds made of nettle fabrics have been discovered in Denmark that date back to 2,000 BC.  Furthermore, Hippocrates and his followers reported 61 remedies using nettle. 

PARTS USED:  Leaves, stems and roots.  Never eat the leaves raw because of those stinging hairs!

ACTIVE COMPONENTS:  Caffeic and malic acids, lignans, steroidal compounds and polysaccharides.  The hairs of the leaves and stems contain formic acid, histamine and acetylcholine.

PREPARATIONS: Tea (infusion), extract, tincture, capsule, powder, decoction. 

DOSAGE:  350 to 1400mg daily


  • The leaves are excellent to treat anemia and act as a blood builder due to their high content of iron and vitamin C
  • Good for detoxification, as it stimulates the lymph system and promotes elimination of waste from the kidneys
  • Works as a diuretic, therefore reducing extra fluid retention and helpful in treating bladder infections
  • It can be used to treat kidney stones
  • Works as an anti-inflammatory
  • The leaves are helpful for treating hayfever, seasonal allergies, allergic rhinitis and hivesPromotes the elimination of uric acid from joints and therefore can be used to treat osteoarthritis
  • The leaves can be used as a topical rubefacient to treat arthritis, bursitis, rheumatism, gout, and tendonitis
  • The leaves can be applied topically to stop bleeding or sniffed to treat nose bleeds
  • It can be applied topically to treat burns, insect bites and rashes
  • It can be used topically to nourish the hair and treat dandruff
  • The root and leaves have a beneficial effect on enlarged prostate glands and stinging nettle has been used effectively in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  • It can be used to treat coughs and congestion
  • It can be used to improve circulation
  • It has shown to have anti-tumor activity
  • When applied internally and externally, stinging nettle can be used to treat acne and eczema
  • The leaf can be used to treat excessive menstrual bleeding and PMS
  • It can be used to treat diarrhea, nausea and ulcers
  • It can be used externally and internally to treat hemorrhoids
  • Can be used during pregnancy to nourish the fetus and can be used to help ease the pain during labor
  • Can be taken during breastfeeding to increase the amount of milk
  • Decreases blood sugar levels
  • The extract can be used to keep harmful pests out of gardens and the plant can be planted in gardens as a companion plant to increase the strength of other vegetables
  • Nettle root can be used to increase free testosterone levels and decrease the conversion of testosterone into estrogen

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:  My favorite reason to use stinging nettle is for the treatment of congestion, hay fever and seasonal allergies.  I also commonly use nettle leaf for a nutritive tonic in herbal tea blends and as a topical skin treatment.


  • Nettle leaf tastes like spinach and is a nutritious addition to salads. 
  • The fibrous stems of mature plants can be used to make twine, fishing nets, and snares, and were used by native Americans and Europeans to make sails.
  • In Europe the plants are harvested commercially for extraction of the chlorophyll, which can be used as a coloring agent in foods.   


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