Nettle – When in doubt, use nettle!

One of the most highly nourishing plants, commonly used as both a food and as a medicine, this nutritious plant restores energy levels, detoxifies the body, relieves allergies and strengthens bones, hair, nails and teeth. It might be easier to discuss what nettle doesn’t do! 

FAMILY:  Urticaceae Botanical Name: Urtica dioica L.  Common Name(s): Stinging Nettle

IDENTIFICATION:  Nettle grows from two to six feet tall on a square, fibrous stem with deep grooves running along its length. The dark green leaves are ovate and sharply toothed with a heart-snettlehaped base and a pointy tip. They are located in opposite pairs and become progressively smaller toward the top of the stem. The leaves and stems are covered with tiny, hollow hairs tipped with silica. The tiny, inconspicuous green flowers droop in bunches from the leaf axils.

PARTS USED: Leaves, seeds, rhizome, stems

HARVESTING:  Harvest top six inches of plants in spring and early summer before flowering. Harvest seeds in fall once the bundles of tiny flowers look fluffy and are drooping down toward the stem. Harvest rhizomes as soon as ground can be dug in spring or after first frost in autumn.  Avoid harvesting after flowering.

ENERGETICS: cooling (bitter), drying (astringent), stimulating, building (sweet/salty) conditions


Nutritive, stimulating, cleansing, alterative, anti-inflammatory, blood builder: formic acid, histamine

  • Cold/damp conditions-> excess mucous and sluggish liver, lymphatics and spleen (M. Wood)
  • Blood cleanser/builder -> gout, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, PMS, anemia, lack of energy, vegetarians
  • Bones, skin, teeth, nails -> osteoporosis – strong, flexible bones (esp. with horsetail or oat straw), hair loss
  • Urinary system-> edema, UTI, kidney stones and gravel, incontinence, flush toxins, tonic, prostatitis, trophorestorative (seed)
  • Endocrine system -> regulate metabolism, balancing thyroid, strengthen adrenal function and reproductive organs. Postpartum hemorrhage, excess bleeding, increase (or stop) lactation
  • Respiratory -> strengthen and tone lungs, asthma, eczema, acute and chronic sinus issues, expectorate tough phlegm, expectorant, opening, clearing


Very high in: calcium, magnesium, trace minerals,  chlorophyll. High in chromium, cobalt, silica iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, sulphur, B complex vitamins, amino acids, vitamin A (carotene) and moderate amounts of: niacin, protein, manganese, selenium, silicon, vitamin C complex (ascorbic acid), as well as vitamins D and K, plus flavonoids, including quercetin and rutin.


Leaves: DO NOT EAT RAW – STEAM OR DRY FIRST! Eat as you would any green: salads, steamed greens, pesto (see recipe), extracted in alcohol (medicine) or vinegar (nutrients), drink as a tea or infusion (steep for 4-8 hours) for both medicine and nutrition.

Seeds and Roots are used by herbalists but not as a spring tonic.  Seeds can be dried and used for instant energy! Stalks were once used to make clothing and rope – and have been found intact after 200 years!

Note:  This blog entry is an excerpt from 2017 Wild Plant Walk “SPRING TONICS FROM THE WILDISH SIDE”

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