Nettle originated in Europe and Northern Asia. Its scientific name is urtica dioica. You can easily identify nettles because of the hairs or spines on the leaves and stems; hence the name stinging nettle. Some people say that the leaves and stems contain chemicals which can irritate the skin.
Nettles come in over 500 species which can be found all over the world especially in the tropical countries. The plant loves to grow in soils rich in nitrogen. You will usually find nettles in waste places, stream banks, and edges of the fields.
The plant is known to cause irritation but because of its nutritional and medicinal values, many people have treasured the plant for centuries. The plant boasts of properties including anti-inflammatory, tonic, galactagogue, expectorant, and astringent. The tonic decoction is used for blood cleansing. It can even be combined with other medicinal plants like burdock root, cleavers, dandelion, and yellow dock.
By the 20th century, most health benefits of nettle have been noted and updated, including these facts:
1. Juice of root and fresh leaves can be used as asthma treatment
2. Nettle seeds have been used for treating mad-dog bites or other venomous creatures; seeds also serve as antidote for poisonous herbs like henbane and nightshade
3. Infusion of nettle leaves can be used for urinary tract infections
4. Strong infusion for hemorrhoid treatment
5. Increase milk production in breast-feeding mothers
6. Concentrated root extracts of nettle combined with saw palmetto and pygeum evergreen tree bark is used to address symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia
7. Tea infusion or tincture of nettle is used for hay fever symptoms (sneezing and itchy eyes)
8. Expectorant properties of the nettle can get rid of phlegm in the lungs
9. Root decoction combined with vinegar and water can be used as conditioner to address thinning hair or dandruff
10. Nettle decoction is also good for stopping a nosebleed
There are still many other benefits of nettle aside from the ones mentioned above. You can consult with an herbalist or someone with great knowledge in herbal preparations to find out how you can make nettle decoctions, infusions, and extracts.
Commercial preparations of nettle are also widely available today. Among the products based on nettle, you can find tea leaves, capsules, ointments, and homeopathic tinctures. However, you need to be extra careful in buying these preparations because the potency can vary depending on how nettles are cultivated, harvested and prepared.
Nettles are also known for their chlorophyll content which can provide the body with beta carotene. The plant contains vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, tannins, iron, phosphates, and minerals like silica. The plant’s active ingredient is the polysaccharides that are beneficial to the immune system. Because of the many nutrients of the nettle, it is widely used for various kinds of medicinal preparations.
As mentioned earlier, the nettle can cause a sharp sting. It would help if you wear gloves when handling the plant. Some people claim that they had mild gastrointestinal pain and allergic reactions. You need to follow the therapeutic doses to avoid potential side effects, and make the most of the health benefits provided by this wondrous plant.