Spring is a wonderful season, full of hope for the summer to come. This year Spring has offered us some wonderful sunny days, little or no rain and gentle cool nights. It’s been perfect conditions for plants to grow and thrive. One plant that is really thriving at the moment (and is generally seen as a nasty weed) is the good old nettle.
Nettles get a lot of bad press. We even use their name to suggest irritation when we say something left us feeling nettled! But if you take a closer interest in this humble plant you will find that it has some remarkable healing properties and health promoting qualities.
Stinging nettles have been used for health purposes for centuries. There is some evidence that the Ancient Egyptians used the plant to treat arthritis and lower back pain and Roman soldiers used it to keep themselves warm – the stinging sensation generates heat. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting trying that!!
Once you cook nettles they lose their sting. You can easily make them into nettle tea. Pick some young, bright green leaves and pop them into a pot of hot water. Let them brew for 5 minutes, strain and then drink the liquid. It tastes great and is a good way of getting the nutrients from the plant.
Some evidence-based health-promoting properties of nettle tea:
- The leaves are packed with nutrients. They contain:
- vitamins: A,B, C and K
- minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium
- healthy fats
- There is some evidence that the plant may reduce inflammation and so may be good for conditions such as arthritis
- Stinging nettles have traditionally been used to treat high blood pressure. This might be because they contain nitric oxide which can relax and widen blood vessels. There needs to be more research in this area but if it worked for the Ancient Egyptians…
- Another one that needs more research… Studies have found that the plant can lower blood sugar levels. It contains a substance that mimics the effects of insulin so could potentially be good for treating high blood sugar levels
Although cooked nettles are safe to consume, raw nettles have a nasty sting. Make sure you wear thick gloves when collecting fresh nettle leaves and don’t be tempted to try them raw!
Processed and dried nettle supplements are available if you would prefer to avoid close contact with the raw leaves.
Please note: this Blog does not constitute or replace medical advice.