Nettle | Urtica dioica

Family: Urticaceae

Parts used: Root and Leaves

Appearance: Nettle is a brilliantly dark green plant with a square stem and round opposite leaves with jagged edges and a sharp tip. Nettle is a tall plant ranging from 2 or 3 ft to 10 ft in height. This plant blooms in the spring, producing flowers that grow small stems which sprout from the main stem at the leaf axils. The clusters of green seeds are matured by mid- to late summer. Nettle loves moist environments and you can find it in any meadow, waterway or creek of the Pacific West. You know you’ve found it when you get a stinging kiss from the tiny hairs on the long green underside of the leaves and all along the stem.

Harvesting Methods: Fresh nettles to be juiced or steamed should be collected in the spring and early summer before it begins to flower. Nettles to be dried for tea or tincture can be harvested from mid-spring to full seed (late summer). Make sure you’re wearing your gloves before you gather nettles as it is sure to give you a good sting.

Medicinal uses: Nettle leaves are packed full of vital nutrients, such as high levels of chlorophyl, Vitamin A C & D, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, silica, choline, acetylcholine and amino acids. These nutrients act as food and building blocks to our muscles, nerves, bones, ligaments and organs, which makes nettle leaf teas an ideal remedy for any soft tissue injury, nervous irritability, premenstrual cramping, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, menses, pre-pregnancy and exercise recovery. The root has also been used as a tincture or capsule for urinary issues such as benign prostatic hypertrophy, oedema and cystitis.

Nettle can also be used for osteoarthritis without even needing to harvest it. If you have painful osteoarthritis of the extremities, try brushing it through a patch of nettle. You will feel a sting, but afterwards the sting and the pain and inflammation from the osteoarthritis will be reduced. This is because the little stinging hairs on the plant contain histamine. When the hairs contact your skin, the histamine will be absorbed through the skin and have a local vasodilation effect, helping to promote circulation in the extremity and easing pain and inflammation.

Preparation: Please note – drying, steaming and juicing nettles gets rid of the stinging hairs. Visit my ‘Medicine Making’ page for more details.

  • Fresh juice from the leaves can be preserved for a month with an addition of 25% alcohol, and can last up to 6 months if refrigerated.

  • Lightly steaming the fresh leaves gets rid of the stinging hairs and serves as a nutritious and delicious side dish.

  • 1 tbsp of dried nettle per cup of hot water makes a calming, mineral-infused nutritive tea

Cautions: Do not consume fresh raw leaves, you must either dry them, juice them or steam them before ingestion to get rid of the stinging hairs. If there is a known allergy to nettle or if you are hypersensitive, do not consume or touch nettles. Speak with your health care provider to make sure Nettle is safe for you.

Make Your Own Natural Medicine

Making your own medicine is a very empowering experience. Learn how to make your own medicinal teas, tinctures, salves, oils, poultices and compresses so you can heal yourself.