1881 Apothecary Featured Herb: Nettles

nature plant leaf green

Here at 1881, we are so lucky to have an herbalist as our co-owner and apothecary lead. Nikki does an amazing job at sourcing the best herbal products from local and national vendors to meet your wellness needs and goals, and she’s always happy to share her expertise with clients and friends. This week, we’re happy to begin sharing some of that expertise with you by introducing our featured herb: Urtica dioica, or stinging nettles.

If you’ve ever run into stinging nettles, you may have a bit of an aversion to them. One of our guests recounted a story in which her father unwittingly guided her through a patch of them when exiting a creek on a tubing excursion. The incident was so painful that she couldn’t imagine anyone ever ingesting these self-protecting plants!

patch of featured herb: stinging nettles

The truth is, if you get past the sting, nettles are actually an incredibly nutrient-dense plant, which makes them a great addition to any herb cupboard. If you live here in Central PA, you’re probably no stranger to seasonal allergies. One of our favorite uses for nettles—and the reason we decided to make stinging nettles our featured herb for June— is to help reduce our histamine responses.

You can drink nettle infusions—made by soaking the leaves in just boiled water overnight—or take capsules of freeze-dried nettles daily leading up to allergy season. You can also take them in higher doses as needed to reduce allergies on the spot. They are astringent, or drying, which means they can help reduce mucus.

Another amazing benefit of stinging nettles is their ability to aid with the kidneys and urinary system. They are a powerful tool for the restoration of renal health and are commonly used to support those with kidney disease. As a diuretic, they help to detoxify the entire body.

The seeds of the plant are adaptogens, meaning they support the body’s adrenal and endocrine systems. In other words, adaptogens help with our stress response. Herbalists frequently recommend them to people who are suffering from a lack of energy or persistent burn-out. 

Because of their high mineral content, nettles are a great supplement for anyone suffering from deficiencies or looking to boost the strength of their bones, teeth, hair, skin, and nails. Nettles’ magnesium content can assist with cramps, while high concentrations of iron can support those struggling with anemia or in the early stages of pregnancy.

How to Approach Nettles

person putting on gardening gloves to collect the featured herb, stinging nettles

Because nettles are astringent and diuretic, it’s important to pay attention to how they affect your unique body. Start with smaller doses and work your way up with this featured herb. While they are a very safe herb without known adverse effects, making sure you stay hydrated and balanced can help prevent any potential discomfort while you’re using them.

Even the least pleasant part of a nettle is known to have some benefits! Throughout history, people have applied fresh leaves directly to the skin. The practice is said to help relieve pain from ailments like arthritis.

If you don’t want to feel the burn, use gloves when harvesting nettles. Be sure to collect your leaves before the plant has begun flowering, and—unless you’re also planning to use the roots—only take from the top so they can continue to grow. They can be dried in the sun or freeze dried for later use.

If you want to try them out immediately, they make a great addition to your summer meals! Prepare nettles by blanching them in hot water and eat them like you would any other green.

For more info about nettles or to buy any of our products featuring this super herb, like this Kick-Ass Allergy supplement from WishGarden, come on down to the Sanctuary. Nikki loves to help people better understand our wide variety of apothecary items!

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