My first encounter with stinging nettle was when I got “bit” by the plant as a child. Nettles have hairs filled with a mixture of substances that include histamine and formic acid which cause inflammation and pain. So, for many years I steered clear of this plant.
Then, in my teens, I learned it was edible. Boiling the leaves in water removes the sting, and the leaves have a flavor similar to spinach. Drying also removes the sting. Nettles were the first wild plant I tried eating, and they were delicious. In fact, the plant is so nutrititious that it probably has to sting animals to protect itself from being eaten by everyone. Nettles are rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. These minerals give nettles their slightly salty flavor.
Dried nettle leaves can be mixed into soups and stews or made into a decoction for drinking. I once had a case involving a vegan woman who was severely anemic. At my recommendation she bought marshmallow and nettles in bulk, simmered them as a decoction, and blended them in her blender. She then drank the mixture without straining it. Her iron levels responded by rising dramatically within weeks. This shows the incredible nourishing power of this food herb.
The high iron content of nettles is one of the reasons they are included in the blood-building formula I-X. The nourishing qualities of nettles are also responsible for its ability to increase the production and nutritional value of breast milk.
The plant has many medicinal uses beyond its value as a food. The leaves are anti-inflammatory, nourishing, alkalizing, diuretic, and slightly astringent. The roots and seeds are also medicinal.
In European countries, people rub nettles onto areas of the body afflicted with arthritis. It works as a counterirritant, relieving pain and inflammation. The practice dates back to Roman times. There are, of course, less painful ways to obtain the benefit of nettles. Taking nettle leaf internally over a period of time also has a healing effect on arthritis and gout.
One of the benefits of nettle leaves is their antiallergenic effects. This is interesting because they actually contain histamine, the chemical involved in producing allergic reactions. It almost sounds like a homeopathic effect. Their antiallergenic action makes nettles very beneficial for asthma and other respiratory conditions involving swelling (inflammatory reactions) in the mucus membranes. This is why they are included in the histamine-blocking combination, Hista-Block.
The astringent properties of nettles make it useful for stopping nosebleeds and heavy menstrual bleeding. It is especially valuable for heavy menstrual bleeding because it also helps overcome the anemia associated with it. This is why it is included in the formula Mesnstrual-Reg for heavy menstrual bleeding.
Nettles is also an excellent remedy for problems in the kidneys. It will break up and remove coarse material from the bladder and increase the flow of urine. It is a highly alkalizing remedy that aids the kidneys in their job of removing acid wastes from the blood, particularly uric acid. As an interesting signature, nettles actually thrive near the compost pile or over an old out-house pit, anywhere where a large amount of urine and fecal matter has been concentrated. They help break this waste material down. The seeds of the nettle are a specific for kidney failure. According to David Winston, a tincture of nettle seed can halt and even reverse kidney failure.
Nettle root is a good prostate remedy. Clinical trials confirmed its benefit on benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is why nettle root is included in Men’s Formula.
I respect nettles and their power to “sting,” but I respect them even more as a valuable herbal ally in nourishing our bodies and helping them to heal.
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier
PDR for Herbal Medicines by Medical Economics Company
The Book of Herbal Wisdom by Matthew Wood