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Scientifically termed as Urtica dioica, nettle leaf is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant in the family Urticaceae. Nettle leaf is also known by the names common nettle and stinging nettle. Spread all over the world, the plant may seem like a desultory shrub - futile for anything from the looks of it. However, nettle leaf has been a staple in herbal medicine since the very early times. From Egyptians to Romans, the benefits of nettle leaf are known and it is utilised in treating arthritis, reducing inflammation and staying warm during the cold.
And that's not all. The plant is used in the preparation of a variety of food items, tea, textile and traditional medicine  . A plant that stings upon being touched to be used as a food? It may sound bizarre but is true. Nettle leaf loses its stinging property once it is boiled, as it becomes neutralised due to the heat. Nettle tea is highly praised for its ability to improve one's overall health.
Out of the six subspecies of the plant, five of them has several hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles. These stinging hairs infuse a cluster of chemicals such as histamine, formic acid, serotonin, and acetylcholine upon being touched, resulting in the plant earning its name  . Because, the chemicals in the long stinging hairs cause an irritating, uncomfortable sensation in the skin.
From detoxifying your body to improving metabolic efficiency and energy levels, the plant is packed with various benefits that are advantageous to your body. It is available in dried or freeze-dried leaf form, extract, capsules, tablets, root tincture, juice or tea   . Continue reading to know more about plant and view it not as an annoyance but as a tightly packed solution for various health ailments.
Nutritional Value Of Nettle Leaf
100 grams of the shrub has 42 calories of energy, 0.11 g fat and 0.25 sugar.
The remaining nutrients present in nettle leaf are as follows  :
- 7 g total carbohydrate
- 6.9 g dietary fibre
- 2.71 g protein
- 87.67 g water
- 481 mg calcium
- 1.64 mg iron
- 57 mg magnesium
- 71 mg phosphorus
- 334 mg potassium
- 4 mg sodium
Health Benefits Of Nettle Leaf
1. Improves blood circulation
Rich in vitamin C and iron, leaves of nettle are optimum for stimulating the production of red blood cells. The iron content in the plant is a crucial factor responsible for the production of haemoglobin, which in turn is important for blood circulation. Consuming nettle leaves help increase the RBC count as well as the blood circulation, and promote speedy wound recovery  . The plant helps improve the oxygenation process, thereby improving the ease of blood flow throughout your body  .
2. Boosts bone health
Nettle leaves contain a mineral called boron, which is beneficial in increasing the strength of your bones. Boron helps maintain the calcium content in your bones, thereby limiting the onset of osteoporosis . This property of the plant when combined with another property (hormone-regulation), it aids in monitoring your bone health as well.
3. Detoxifies the body
Being a diuretic, the plant ensures the neutralisation of toxins present in your body. It also pushes out the chemicals and harmful elements from your body and helps improve the nutrient uptake efficiency of the gut . Along with that, common nettle prevents the accumulation and build-up of toxins and stimulates the functioning of the lymphatic system, so as to remove the toxins from the kidney as well.
4. Treats arthritic pain
The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of the plant makes it beneficial in managing the arthritic pain. Rubbing nettle juice or oil can help cure other joint-related diseases like rheumatism, gout, bursitis, and tendinitis as well  .
5. Cures urinary tract infection (UTI)
The diuretic property of stinging nettle makes it beneficial in the effective treatment against UTIs. It can help in curing bladder infection and other urinary problems caused by kidney and bladder stones  . The shrub help breaks down the stones into smaller particles and removes them from your body through urine. In the same manner, nettle leaves help flush out the infection-causing bacteria from the urinary tract.
6. Stimulates libido
Stinging nettle or nettle leaves have the ability to increase the testosterone level, as well as maintain it for a longer period of time. Consuming nettle leaves can effectively improve one's sex drive  .
7. Prevents anaemia
The rich content of iron in nettle leaves helps improve the blood levels in your body. The plant can be used as an effective solution for treating anaemia. Along with that, it is also beneficial in blood building and blood purification  .
8. Absorbs dietary fat
The presence of compounds such as beta-sitosterol in nettle leaves has an amazing property; it absorbs the dietary fats present in the blood. This property helps to maintain the cholesterol levels on a healthy balance and protect your body against any type of heart diseases  .
9. Prevents DNA damage
Eating different types of food is good for your body. However, constantly shifting your food habits can have an adverse effect on your body as it can introduce toxins into your body. These toxins, in turn, can damage the DNA and cellular membranes. The antioxidant property of the plant help remove the free radicals and toxins from your body and protect your DNA  .
10. Treats respiratory issues
A study conducted by Dr Randall Alberte, et al., Chief Scientific Officer of Herbal Science Group LLC, US pointed out that stinging nettle can significantly reduce allergic reactions. It is highly effective in treating respiratory conditions, including hay fever, asthma, and other seasonal allergies  .
11. Protects cardiovascular system
Effective in removing toxins, improving blood flow and detoxifying your body, the shrub can positively impact your heart health  . It is asserted that regular consumption of stinging nettle tea can help lower systolic blood pressure and relieve tension and stress on one's cardiovascular system.
12. Improves prostate health
Nettle leaves are proven to be effective in preventing prostate growth. With age, men are increasingly prone to prostate enlargement and other issues relating to it - which can be managed with the application of the shrub  . However, it has to be taken into consideration that nettle leaves can only prevent the prostate enlargement, not reverse or reduce it.
How To Use Nettle Leaf
Nettle tea: The leaves of the shrub can be dried and used to make tea.
Cooked nettle: The leaves from the plant can be steamed and cooked. It is best to choose young leaves, as it will be easier to cook. Nettle can be used in making soups, polenta, green smoothies, salads, stews and pesto. Cooked nettle has a taste similar to that of spinach mixed with cucumber.
Topical nettle: Root tinctures and nettle extract can be applied to areas on your body to get relief from pain. It is available in cream form.
Nettle capsules: Tablets and capsules can be consumed orally.
Healthy Nettle Leaf Recipes
1. Nettle tea
- 1 tablespoon dried nettle leaves
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Steep the dried nettles directly in the water for 3-4 minutes.
- Strain the leaves.
- Add honey and mix.
2. Roasted asparagus and garlic stinging nettle soup
- 1 spoon butter
- 1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends discarded
- 9-10 cloves of garlic
- ½ large onion sliced
- 2 cups fresh stinging nettles or 1 cup of dried nettles.
- 1 ½ cup bone broth
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup of coconut milk
- Freshly chopped chives, to garnish
- Pre-heat the oven to 425°C.
- Toss the asparagus and garlic cloves with ½ spoon butter and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
- Roast in at 425°C oven for 25 minutes.
- While the veggies are roasting, melt ½ spoon of butter in a soup pot and add the onions with a big pinch of sea salt.
- Cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes to soften and sweeten the onion.
- Add the fresh stinging nettles to the pot, stir and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the bone broth and roasted asparagus and garlic, and bring to a simmer for a few minutes.
- Remove from heat and purée the soup.
- Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in some fresh raw cream or coconut milk and add the chives.
3. Nettle pesto
- 3 cups of fresh nettle leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- ¾ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Boil a pot of water and once it starts to bubble, add the fresh nettle leaves for one minute.
- Strain well and get as much water out as possible.
- Add nettles to a blender and blend well.
- Add garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, sea salt, and lemon juice.
- Blend it until the paste becomes smooth and creamy.
- Add salt to taste.
- The chemicals from the leaves can cause rashes, bumps, hives and itchiness.
- Pregnant women should avoid consuming nettle leaves as it can trigger uterine contractions and raise the risk of a miscarriage.
- Individuals taking blood thinners, blood pressure medication, diuretics (water pills), diabetes medication and lithium should consult a doctor before incorporating nettles leaves into their lifestyle.
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*Note: Individuals undergoing any sort of medical treatment must consult with a doctor before adding such a potent and comprehensive herbal remedy to their diet; so as to avoid any complications.