Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Often considered to be a weed, most people would consider the growth or existence of nettles a nuisance. However, nettle is actually one of the most versatile herbs when cut and dried as the constituents that cause allergic reactions are only active when the plant is alive! It’s now one of my favourite weeds which I actively encourage to grow in a waste area of my garden although I must confess in my past to destroying this wonderful herb, its beneficial list is extensive to human, animal, insect and indeed other plants!
Nettle can grow from walls and survives in such situations due to its infinite root structure sucking up and storing all the vitamins and minerals it can when cut and dried releases these to the benefit of those that take it.
The strange fact is that nettle is often used in dogs for skin problems (the very thing it causes when alive). It can be used on scurfy coats and indeed hair loss and has an uncanny knack of encouraging the coat to grow back! Nettle is also used in products to help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis.
It can also be used for Anaemia as it has good iron content and is a good blood herb for the circulation. Nettle is a diuretic so is an aid to flushing the kidneys helping to eliminate the risk of urinary tract infections.
The nettle plant including the whole roots, stem, and leaves, have been examined by some of the world’s leading research institutions and found to have many powerful, positive benefits.
What Compounds Does Nettle Contain?
The plant is comprised mainly of complex sugars and lectins. Nettle contains prostaglandins which have properties that support resistance to redness and irritation. Nettle leaf also contains high levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin and beta-carotene and high amounts of the vitamins A, C, D, and B complex. Nettle is a rich source of beneficial phytonutrients such as chlorophyll, sterols, polyphenols, lignans, and gallic acid. It is also a diuretic, tonic and can also be applied to stop bleeding in open wounds. Nettle has been used for centuries to help treat stiff joints and aches and also helps to purify the blood and cleanse the liver and kidneys.
Nettle is a highly nutritive herb rich in vitamins & minerals with a broad range of actions and benefits to the body including, but not limited to:
The Health Benefits of Nettle Leaf
Nettle has been evaluated for antioxidant activity, its resistance to microorganisms, and other common, as well as serious, health ailments. The Department of Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology, University of California, Berkeley evaluated separate components of the nettle plant (roots, stalk, leaves) and discovered overall potent nutraceutical activity throughout.
Università di Pisa in Italy determined further evidence of the benefits of nettle by concluding that nettle had a relaxing effect that produced a decrease in blood pressure.
Relation to Defense Against Microorganisms
Research conducted at Turkey’s Institute of Transplantation and Gene Sciences of Baskent University performed a study designed to evaluate harmful organism toxicity in several plant extracts, including stinging nettle. Results indicated high activity in the nettle extract and even suggested it to be an extract of importance to the agricultural industry in a plant disease control capacity. This is not much of a surprise; nettle has repeatedly proven effective as a defence against microorganisms. A Netherlands study found significant activity against harmful organisms within nettle extract and noted it may be beneficial for some instances of diarrhoea.
Some Interesting Facts About Nettles
Leaves and steams of the nettle have small fragile hair called capsules, full of several liquid chemicals, including formic acid. While touching the leaf, a hair, sharp like a needle, gets into your skin, then breaks down, and liquid gets injected into your skin. Ouch! The sting of a nettle may be cured by rubbing the part with rosemary, mint, sage or docking leaf.
Nettle stems contain a fibre, which was traditionally used for making ropes, sails and fine linen cloth, suitable even for shirts and beddings. The first known nettle textile find in Europe is from the Bronze Age and there is evidence of nettle cloth production in Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, Russia and Ireland. In some of these countries nettle fibre was used for textiles up to 17th or even 19th century but finally was replaced by cotton. Recently there is again the interest in the fibre of nettle, as it grows very easily and the textile has good characteristics.
Fishermen if you want to preserve your catch on a hot summer’s day until you get home, wrap your catch in stinging nettles, this will greatly reduce bacteria from multiplying and stopping your prized fish from going off!
Modest nettle flowers have genders! The male or barren flowers have stamens only, and the female or fertile flowers have only pistil or seed-producing organs. A plant will bear either male or female flowers throughout, that‘s why the specific name of the plant, dioica, which means 'two houses.'
Leaves of the nettle may be used for producing beautiful and permanent green dye for woollen stuffs and even for food, while roots boiled with alum, produce a yellow colour.
In Dorset (UK) each year Annual stinging Nettle Eating Contest takes place. Held as part of a charity beer festival at the Bottle Inn in the village of Marshwood near Crewkerne, the event attracts participants from around the world.
Contestants are given two foot long stalks of stinging nettles and have one hour to eat as many leaves as possible. The winner is the person with the longest length of the empty stalk. Only nettles provided by the organisers can be eaten, competitors are not allowed to bring their own, no mouth numbing substances are permitted - although a swig of beer in between mouthfuls is always encouraged.
Nettle acts as a hair tonic and growth stimulant, restoring colour, and beauty to hair. It improves the health of skin, scalp, and hair; strengthens weakened hair follicles; and removes dandruff. It is composed into some shampoos, but also simple nettle tea can be used as a skin toner and hair rinse.
And finally nettles are a really good food, in springtime collect the young leaves from the top of the nettle plant taking just the most tender top 4 or so leaves which make a delicious soup, you can also add them to salads, pies nettle also makes a wonderful pesto. You can also freeze nettle leaves for storage out of season for enriching winter meals.
The nettle powder used in our products is grown and produced in Poland.
So you see it pays to be Nice to Nettles!