Stinging nettle, also known as ‘Urtica dioica’ is a perennial flowering plant belonging to the family of Urticaceae. The stinging nettle plant is a harmless stinging plant that you must have come in contact at some point of time in your life. The plant causes a slight discomfort by stinging or pricking but is widely known for its benefits. The benefits of stinging nettle are not just limited to being a natural allergy reliever but it is also beneficial for skin, bone, and urinary health.
The faith of humans in stinging nettle is not a recent one. The ancient Egyptians used it to cure arthritis and back pain. Romans too used stinging nettle to keep themselves warm. In the Neolithic age, it was widely used to make cloth and paper.
What is Stinging Nettle and How Does it Sting?
Stinging nettle is a perennial flowering plant which has been used for ages because of its medicinal values. Stinging nettle spans to approximately two to four feet in height and blooms in June-September. With its yellow and pink flowers, it has heart-shaped leaves and grows best in nitrogen-rich soil. The stinging nettle is known for its stinging effect when it meets the human body. However, despite the stinging or pricking impact that it has, it is known across the world for its medicinal properties and benefits.
It contains several chemicals which irritate. Chemicals such as serotonin, histamine, and acetylcholine are present at the base of the fine hairs on the nettle. When anything is brushed against the plant, the beautiful hair breaks away, and the remaining hair which contain these chemicals come into close contact with your body. When this happens, it causes irritation, swelling, and redness on the skin.
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Stinging Nettle Benefits
Since the stinging nettle are best known for its medicinal properties, let us look at some of the benefits that it provides to our health:
1. Stinging Nettle improves blood circulation
Stinging nettles are a rich source of vitamin C and Iron, and hence it promotes stimulation of red blood cell production in our body. With the production of RBC, blood circulation is improved. This helps in recovering from wounds and improving energy level in the body. Hence in case of anemia or fatigue, stinging nettle is often recommended.
2. Stinging Nettle helps in body detoxification
Since stinging nettle is an excellent source of nutrients, it helps in detoxifying our body. It helps in cleansing the body of toxins, neutralizing and eliminating toxins. It also promotes active intake of nutrients in our body.
3. Stinging Nettle is good for feminine health
It is an effective remedy for restoring and protecting female health. In the case of premenstrual symptoms, it gives relief from painful cramps and heavy blood flow. In the case of menopause, it restores the feminine health by providing a hormonal balance.
4. Stinging Nettle provides strength to our bones
Stinging nettle is a good source of boron which is known to maintain the calcium level in our bones. This means it gives a useful aid in case of osteoporosis. It helps in effectively maintaining bone health.
5. Stinging Nettle provides a healthy heart
Apart from the effect that it has on our blood circulation and hormonal balance, stinging nettle is also known to lower the blood pressure level and relieve tension and stress. Ultimately, it protects our heart health.
6. Stinging Nettle helps during pregnancy
Stinging nettle is a useful herb for fertility and helps in restoring feminine health during pregnancy and in the process of lactation. It is often recommended to women who suffer significant blood loss and undergo labor pain during pregnancy(1).
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7. Stinging Nettle prevents kidney stones
Stinging nettle has a lot of effects on our kidney. It has properties that slow down the formation of stones in the kidney and gallbladder. It prevents the formation of rocks in the first place, but in case of already developed, it prevents the painful condition from worsening.
8. Stinging Nettle cures respiratory issues
Stinging nettle is most commonly known to heal the respiratory problems as it has medicinal properties which help in curing allergies and allergic reactions. It is known to cure many respiratory issues in cases of asthma, hay fever, and seasonal allergies.
9. Stinging Nettle helps in skin care
Stinging nettle is also a good source of anti-oxidants. Because of this, it is known to protect your skin from skin problems like acne and other bacterial infections. It also helps in making your skin spot-free and maintains healthy skin.
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10. Stinging Nettle helps in prostate health
It helps in preventing prostate enlargement and other serious problems related to the prostate. Stinging nettle roots are used to prevent such ailments.
How To Consume Stinging Nettle?
Stinging nettle is quickly and widely available. You can buy them from food stores or grow them in your garden too. This will enable you to consume it daily. Some of the ways to consume it are as follows:
- The dried leaves and flowers of stinging nettle can be used to make herbal tea.
- Stinging nettle leaves, roots and stem can be cooked and added in your soups and pasta.
- It can be added to stews and smoothies.
- It can be consumed in a sautéd form with other vegetables in case you are a veggie lover.
Make sure you add some stinging nettle leaves, roots or stem to your meal in some form. However, avoid consuming it in a raw form as it may cause irritation and soreness. Rest, in sauté, fried or cooked form it can always be added to your everyday meal.
How to Prepare Stinging Nettle?
As already mentioned, stinging nettle can be consumed and used in your everyday platter in a cooked or sautéd form. In case of its raw form, the herb may cause irritation and hence is not advisable to be used. It can be steamed or sautéed similarly to other herbal plants. It can be consumed in the same form as chard, kale or spinach is. However, stinging nettle is sold in many pharmacies and food stores. It is available in the market in a dried and frozen form. If you plan to include stinging nettle in your daily meal, it is advisable to grow them in your kitchen garden.
Side-Effects and Precautions to Follow
Although consumption of stinging nettle is generally safe and is free from any side effects apart from the irritation, soreness, and redness that it causes because of its chemical affected beautiful hair. Let us look at some of the side effects and precautions that one must follow while using stinging nettle:
- It is essential to be cautious while handling stinging nettle in raw form. The beautiful hair may cause irritation and soreness on your skin.
- In some cases, people may be allergic to chemical barbs of stinging nettle. These allergies may be life-threatening.
- In case you are allergic to chemicals like acetylcholine, histamine, and serotine; avoid consuming stinging nettle.
- It must be avoided during pregnancy as it may cause urine contraction and may also lead to miscarriage.
- If you have diabetes or on blood pressure medication, consult your doctor before consuming stinging nettle.
- It may strengthen diuretics and cause dehydration in your body.
How Can You Treat the Sting?
- In case you have been stung by a stinging nettle plant, it is important not to scratch that area or part.
- Let the sting dry, and then wash off from your skin.
- You may use duct tape or wax removal product to remove the pain.
- This may lessen the effect of irritation and redness caused on your skin.
- Once the sting is dried, it can be washed from your skin easily without causing much trouble to you.
- You may also use anti-irritation materials like aloe vera, moisturizers and calamine lotion on the affected area to soothe your skin.
- It is important not to scratch and touch the affected area of your body as it may worsen the condition.
- Sometimes the crushed leaves of other plants like sage and jewelweed are used to provide relief to the affected area.
To conclude, despite the irritation and soreness that stinging nettle causes in its base form, the perennial herb is to be consumed regularly for the innumerable benefits that it provides. It can be used in multiple ways and can be added to almost all your meals in cooked or sauté form. Because of the medicinal properties that it contains, the herb helps in maintaining health in its best possible way. It ensures that you have a healthy heart, respiratory organs, prostate along with better blood circulation, and healthy skin to name a few.