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Nature Basics | 22.03.2022

Stinging nettle: everything you need to know about this versatile medicinal plant

THE EFFECTS OF THE STINGING NETTLE

The stinging nettle often has a negative connotation. It is considered a pest plant, which spreads uncontrollably and causes itchy pustules on the skin. Thereby, the effects of stinging nettle fade away over time. However, there are several reasons why the relationship with this versatile herb should be reconsidered. Nettle is considered a nutrient bomb with numerous effects, bacteria inhibitor and also makes great in smoothies, salads, and soups. How convenient that the medicinal plant always grows near us humans.

 

Origin and occurrence of the healing plant

The stinging nettle with its effects is one of the most important native wild herbs. This plant has many healing nutrients that have proven especially useful in urinary, kidney and joint disorders. The herb is very versatile: you can use the leaves in soups, smoothies, teas, and spinach. Urtica dioica – as the stinging nettle is known in technical terminology – originated in Central Europe. However, the medicinal herb tolerates a wide variety of conditions. For this reason, it has now spread across half the planet – as far as northern Europe, Asia, and North America. Even in warm southern Europe, the medicinal plant can be occasionally found.

The prickly stinging nettles love nutrient- or nitrogen-rich soil with sufficient moisture, which is why they are so widespread in our regions. The next time you pass a site with lots of stinging nettles, you know: the soil here is particularly rich in nitrogen. You will often find the medicinal plant at the edges of forests, wasteland or near ponds, swamps, and riverbanks. You may also notice that you will hardly ever find a stinging nettle alone: the plant reproduces very quickly and forms veritable nettle patches – often together with goutweed.

 

Healing nutrients in the stinging nettle

The stinging nettle is often seen as an annoying pest plant that leaves itchy pustules on the skin when it comes into contact with it. But it is so much more than that: nettle is a real nutrient bomb and a bacterial inhibitor. Did you know that farmers used to add a handful of nettle leaves to their milk to make it keep longer?

The superfood from the native regions contains six times more vitamin C than spinach and even more vitamin C than citrus fruits – insane, isn’t it? Furthermore, the stinging nettle leaves are rich in minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium, and silicic acid. Secondary plant compounds such as flavonoids are also found in the medicinal herb. Together with potassium, flavonoids provide a diuretic effect, which is beneficial for numerous ailments such as urinary tract and prostate disease.

If you think now that the green leaves can never fill you up, you are wrong: surprisingly, nettles also contain a lot of protein, which makes it worthwhile to use them in the kitchen as well. 100 g of fresh nettle leaves have a protein content of 8 g – similar to the same amount contained in fresh legumes. Other ingredients found in the medicinal plant are caffeoyl Malic acid, essential oils, and steroids. In the stinging hairs are also histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and scopoletin.

 

How do the effects of the stinging nettle help?

The stinging nettle has been used in traditional naturopathy for centuries for various ailments. The healing plant is traditionally used for chronic inflammatory intestinal disease, urinary tract disease, prostate disease, arthritis, increased susceptibility to infections and high blood pressure. In recent years, science has also intensively studied the medicinal plant and has concluded: the intake of stinging nettle can alleviate prostate problems and bladder problems. In addition, the healing plant is believed to be able to positively influence inflammatory bowel diseases.

 

Effects of the stinging nettle on urinary tract problems

What stinging nettle is actually effective against depends on which parts of the plant you use. If you want to use the healing plant to alleviate bladder problems, then you have to resort to nettle leaves. The green leaves contain a lot of secondary plant compounds such as flavonoids, which have a mild diuretic effect. In addition, the high potassium content of the healing plant ensures an alkaline, diluted urine. Especially in the case of a urinary tract disease, it is important that bacteria and germs are flushed out. By taking nettle leaves you feel a stronger urge to urinate and thus flush the draining urinary tract (ureter, bladder, and urethra). This causes the bacteria to stay in the body for less time.

For prostate problems, on the other hand, the root of the stinging nettle has proven to be extremely effective. Men who are struggling with the onset of benign prostate enlargement often report problems with urination. Extracts from nettle roots can facilitate urination, which is thought to be due to the phytohormones contained in the root.

 

Use in osteoarthritis and arthritis

Additional evidence suggests that the stinging nettle may help in the treatment of osteoarthritis and arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. A study conducted by the Universities of Munich and Frankfurt concluded that a daily consumption of 50 g of steamed nettles reduced the daily drug dose in rheumatism patients from 200 mg to 50 mg. Although the patients took only a small dose of diclofenac (relieves pain, inflammation, fever), rheumatism-specific values improved noticeably with consumption of nettle mush. However, whether the herb could replace pharmaceuticals in the future and can be used for inflammatory rheumatism or arthrosis has not yet been conclusively clarified.

The versatile herb is also used in the holistic treatment of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

In the holistic therapy concept, the protection of the intestinal mucosa and the stool regulation by means of psyllium are initially in the foreground. Herbs rich in tannins, such as witch hazel or bloodroot, are also used to solidify the stool and reduce its frequency. Another important pillar in the treatment is the anti-inflammation with the help of anti-inflammatory herbal preparations – this is exactly where the stinging nettle comes into play.

Note: Although stinging nettle has amazing properties, herbal remedies always have a limited effect. There are complaints that cannot be sufficiently alleviated with herbal remedies alone. In these cases, the attending physician will prescribe preparations with chemical agents to relieve you of your pain.

 

Possible side effects and interactions

Although the stinging nettle is generally very low in side effects, there is still a counter-indication. If you have water retention in your body due to impaired heart or kidney function, nettle should not be used. If you want to take the herb, it is always advisable to consult your doctor beforehand.

 

3 reasons why we (should) love the nettle plant

As children, we ran across meadows and fields and had to make unpleasant acquaintance with stinging nettle. After our skin came into contact with the plant’s thorns, it itched terribly and looked unsightly.

We’ll finish by showing you why this nutrient bomb doesn’t deserve the name “pest plant”:

 

1) Nettle liquid manure

Organic gardening with the stinging nettle is very easy. A nettle liquid manure can be prepared in your own garden. You can then use it to fertilize cucumbers, tomatoes and other high-growth crops. The liquid manure provides the vegetable plants with plenty of nitrogen, potassium and minerals and is completely natural. The only downside is that the nettle liquid manure smells a bit strange. Nevertheless, the aphids keep their distance from your vegetables.

 

2) Splendid hair

Hair tinctures can be made from the nettle root. The root promotes hair growth and stimulates blood circulation in the scalp. In addition, nettle has a detoxifying effect and soothes itchy scalp. In the cosmetics industry, nettle extract is popularly used in anti-dandruff or anti-greasy shampoos.

 

3) Nettle seeds – The superfood par excellence

Maybe you’ve seen it in late summer or fall: countless small, round nutlets suddenly grow on stinging nettle plants. These seed stalks are wonderful to harvest and roast. You can also add them to your smoothie or use them as a salad topping. The small seeds are considered the domestic superfood par excellence. Indeed, they have a high content of carotenoids and essential fatty acids.

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