Urtica dioica, often called common nettle, stinging nettle or nettle leaf, is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant in the family Urticaceae. It is native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and western North America, and introduced elsewhere. There are more than 500 types of nettle worldwide. Used since ancient times, stinging nettles are used to thin and purify the blood, to relieve chest congestion, as a diuretic, and to stimulate the digestive system.
It has been used to treat respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and allergies. It is very popular in Europe as an alternative treatment for prostate issues and prostate cancer. Used topically, a poultice or wash with the leaves is thought to help rheumatism, soften hair, clear up acne, and aid in burn and rash relief.
But the more popular method of using stinging nettle leaves, is as a tea, or infusion. Herbal and medicinal teas may provide much more of their active compounds when allowed to steep for several hours or overnight. On her website, www.susunweed.com, Master Herbalist Susun Weed has written extensively about the use of infusions to augment or replace drugs for a variety of complaints. Stinging nettle is among her “go to” favorite herbs. In addition to thinning and purifying the blood, stinging nettle is associated with strengthening the kidneys and adrenals.
Stinging nettle is a natural source of fiber, and the leaves may be added to a soup or stew – anyplace where mustard, collard or other greens are used. They contain calcium, tannic acid, lecithin, chlorophyll, iron, lime, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and vitamins A, B2, C and K. It is an important source of silicic acid which, with calcium, is vital to bone and nail strength and preventing osteoporosis. There is evidence that the herb lowers blood pressure and may interfere with blood thinners such as Warfarin, Clopidogrel, and Aspirin.