Nettle Leaf: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, and How to Prepare It

Nettle leaf, also called Urtica dioica, has been used in traditional medicine for many centuries. It’s known for the stinging hairs that grow on the stems and leaves, and it can be used as a dry leaf, freeze-dried, or extracted into tablets, juices, and teas.

Modern science has found reason to support many of the ancient beliefs about nettle’s medicinal effects. It is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia and was widely used throughout the Mediterranean basin in Greek and Roman times.

Health Benefits

Nettle leaf is a rich source of antioxidants, which are needed for reducing the number of free radicals in your system. Vitamin C, for instance, is a powerful aid to the immune system and may even provide protection against various types of cancer. 

Nettle leaf also contains vitamin A, which many scientists believe is necessary for eye health. In addition, nettle provides a range of other health benefits including: 

Arthritis Relief

Nettle leaf has been found to be beneficial for reducing joint pain and inflammation. In one study, 27 people who had arthritic pain in their fingers found relief by applying nettle leaf to the affected area daily for one week.

Manage Blood Sugar

Nettle leaf contains a compound called UD-1 that seems to act similarly to insulin in the body. Although more research is needed, scientists believe that nettle can help control blood sugar in people with diabetes. 

Improve Respiratory Health

Nettle has long been favored in folk medicine for its role in counteracting seasonal allergies and other mild respiratory conditions. A study of 98 test participants using the freeze-dried leaf for their allergies indeed found significant benefits from using nettle. 

Prostate Health

Nettle leaf may be an effective treatment for certain conditions of the prostate, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, a swelling of the prostate gland. While more research is needed in this area, a clinical trial of 287 people with BPH found significant reductions in the size of their enlarged prostate after they were treated with nettle leaf.

Nutrition

Nettle leaf is a good source of calcium and other minerals, which can help reduce your risk of kidney disease, osteoporosis, and other serious conditions. 

Continued

It is also a good source of: 

Nutrients per Serving

1 cup of nettle leaf contains: 

Portion Sizes

The exact portion size of nettle leaf will depend on the way it’s prepared and what you use it for. A typical serving size for tea will contain about a teaspoon of dried nettle leaf. 

How to Prepare Nettle Leaf

You can find nettle leaf at many grocery stores and at practically any herbal store nationwide. If you buy fresh nettle leaf, be careful with the small stinging barbs on the leaves, as they can be a little painful if they prick you. Use a good pair of gloves while handling nettle.

There are a number of ways to prepare the leaves once you’ve taken them home. You can wash and dry the leaves simply by leaving them in the open air, or you can freeze-dry them for long-term storage.

If you do freeze the leaves, be sure to blanch them first by leaving them in boiling water for two minutes, then soaking them in ice water for another two minutes. Place the blanched leaves into a roomy freezer bag when you’re done.

To prepare nettle leaf tea, bring 10 ounces of water to a boil over a hot stove, then pour a tablespoon of fresh nettle — or a teaspoon of dried nettle — into the water. Allow the nettle to steep for five to 10 minutes, strain it out, and serve. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 24, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Getty Stewart: “How to Harvest, Dry, Freeze, and Use Stinging Nettle.”

Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal: “The Efficacy of Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) in Patients with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: A Randomized Double-Blind Study in 100 Patients.”

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: “Randomized controlled trial of nettle sting for treatment of base-of-thumb pain.”

Molecules: “Urtica spp.: Ordinary Plants with Extraordinary Properties.”

Nutrition Value: “Stinging Nettles, blanched (Northern Plains Indians).”

Phytotherapy Research: “Insulin mimetics in Urtica dioica: structural and computational analyses of Urtica dioica extracts.”

Planta Medica: “Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis.”

Sencha Tea Bar: “How To Make Nettle Tea: Tips For Harvesting & Brewing.”

UnityPoint Health: “High Dose Vitamin C’s role in cancer treatment.”

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