Nettle leaf, also called Urtica dioica, is a leaf from an herb that's known for the stinging hairs on its leaves or stems.
The leaf has been used in traditional medicine for many centuries. It's native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia and was widely used throughout the Mediterranean region in Greek and Roman times.
Today, you can buy it 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.
Nettle Health Benefits
Nettle leaf is a rich source of antioxidants like vitamin C, which reduce the number of harmful molecules called free radicals in your system.
Nettle is thought to provide a range of other health benefits, including:
Nettle leaf has been found to help ease joint pain and inflammation. A few studies have shown that people had less joint pain when nettle leaves were applied to the affected area, or when they took an extract of the leaves together with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin. We need more studies to confirm these effects. Talk to your doctor before using nettle leaf for arthritis.
Blood sugar management
Nettle leaf contains a compound called UD-1 that seems to act like insulin in the body. But there are conflicting research findings about whether nettle lowers blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Nettle has long been used in folk medicine to help with seasonal allergies and other mild respiratory conditions. Scientists believe this may be due to nettle's ability to reduce the histamines our bodies create when responding to an allergen. We need more research on this, though.
Nettle leaf may help treat symptoms of certain conditions of the prostate, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a swelling of the prostate gland. Nettle leaf may help to lessen the effect of testosterone on the prostate by slowing the growth of prostate cells. It can't replace medical treatment for BPH, though.
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. It's also rich in many vitamins, like vitamin C, which is a powerful aid to the immune system and may even protect against various types of cancer. Nettle leaf also contains vitamin A, which is necessary for eye health.
It's also a good source of:
Nutrients per serving
1 cup of blanched whole nettles contains:
- Calories: 37
- Protein: 2.4 grams
- Fat: 0.1 grams
- Carbohydrates: 6.7 grams
- Fiber: 6.1 grams
- Sugar: 0.2 grams
There's no one recommended portion size for nettle leaf or nettle leaf products, though the Arthritis Foundation suggests these amounts for arthritis benefits:
- 1 cup of tea three times a day
- Up to 1,300 milligrams a day in capsule form
- As a tincture (a solution in alcohol), 1-4 milliliters, three times a day
How To Prepare Nettle Leaf
You can find nettle leaf at many grocery stores and herbal stores nationwide. If you buy fresh nettle leaf, be careful with the small stinging hairs on the leaves, as they can prick you and could even cause an allergic reaction. Use gloves while handling nettle.
There are several ways to prepare the leaves once you’ve taken them home. You can wash and dry them by leaving them in the open air, or you can freeze-dry them for long-term storage.
If you freeze the leaves, blanch them first. Boil them in water for 2 minutes, then soak them in ice water for 2 more minutes. Place the blanched leaves into a roomy freezer bag when you’re done.
Nettle leaf tea has been an important part of traditional medicine in several cultures around the world. It's been used to help with joint pain, anemia, and eczema. In Europe, it was used to treat people with joint pain and to clear extra fluid in the body. In North America, some Native American communities used it to help with pregnancy and childbirth.
Today, many people buy nettle leaf tea in tea bags, though some enthusiasts make their own. It has a grassy, earthy flavor.
Nettle tea benefits
Nettle leaf tea has some of the same benefits as other forms of nettle leaf, including lowering blood pressure. These benefits are tied to the biologically active compounds in the nettle plant.
Nettle tea nutrition
Any tea is mostly water, so the nutrients found in tea are generally weakened. The same is true for nettle leaf tea.
A single tea bag of nettle leaf tea, when brewed, delivers:
- Calories: 1
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
While nettle leaves contain a range of vitamins and minerals, the concentration in tea is much lower. Two common vitamins in nettle leaf tea are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
How to make nettle tea
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 5-10 minutes, strain, and serve.