Nettle, also called Stinging Nettle, is one of those plants that elicits a strong reaction in people. For many gardeners, hikers and campers, the plant evokes apprehension and dismay. While for traditional herbalists the world over, nettle is loved and deeply revered. To understand these polar opposite reactions, let’s look past the understated appearance of this ubiquitous plant to understand its long history and all that it has to offer.
Nettle is a perennial flowering plant originally native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, but is currently distributed widely across the globe. You can find nettle throughout the United States, in every state except Hawaii, along rivers, in forests, fields, and pretty much anywhere there is moist, shady, nitrogen-rich soil. It grows anywhere from two to seven feet tall, with serrated, hairy leaves and stems.
Anyone who has come in contact with nettle can describe the painful, prickly pins-and-needles sensation that it causes to the skin. Its stinging mechanism comes from hollow spiky hairs, called trichomes, which cover the stem and undersides of the leaves. The spikes inject a chemical cocktail into the skin, including histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and formic acid, that cause the painful reaction. Cooking, soaking, or drying nettles removes the chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without injury.
Nettle has been used for thousands of years worldwide as a nutritious food, traditional medicine, textile, and animal feed. A Danish archeological site from 2,800 years ago revealed cloth made from nettle was used to wrap human remains. Plus, there’s ample recorded use of nettle throughout European and Asian history dating as far back as the ancient Romans. Nettle can be used to create fabric that’s similar to flax or hemp, and was used for thousands of years to make clothing — German Army uniforms were even made of nettle during WWI. It was also used to make fishing nets, paper, twine, among many other things.
Nettle has been used extensively as a traditional medicine all over the world. The list of ailments it was used for could fill volumes. Suffice it to say, it was — and still is — used by European, Asian, Native American, and African traditional healers as a nutritive tonic, for hay fever, anemia, lethargy, arthritis, menstrual cramps, congestion, as a liver and kidney tonic, among many other things.
With one of the highest chlorophyll contents of any plant and bursting with vitamins, minerals, protein, and carotenoids, nettle is a green superfood. It’s commonly used to make herbal tea or cooked in similar ways that you would prepare spinach or kale. Nettle soup is popular in Northern and Eastern Europe, while nettle leaves are sautéed with spices and put into phyllo dough pastries in Albania and Greece. In Africa, it’s mixed with porridge, or used to prepare mukimo, a popular meal in central Kenya made from mashed potatoes, corn, and beans. It’s used to make pesto, chips, dips, salad dressings, beer, cheese; the list goes on and on. Our Organic Freeze-Dried Nettle Powder is a versatile and convenient way to incorporate this superherb into your favorite recipes.
Another important use for nettle is to support healthy histamine levels during allergy season. It’s commonly recommended to take freeze-dried nettle daily a month before, and while the pollen is flying. Our Organic Freeze-Dried Nettle Capsules are an easy and effective way to support your body during allergy season.So next time you accidentally rub against this attention-getting plant, think twice before you curse it, and remember its ancient roots span the globe and go far into our human past and beyond.