Foraging 4 – Nettles

When we arrived at our new home there was an area in the garden that was very overgrown with brambles and nettles.  It’s an area that we intend to clear and use as a part of the garden, so Dennis went in with his strimmer a few weeks ago and cleared most of the bramble growth back to the ground.  Over the following weeks new growth of nettles has been see especially as the warmer weather is arriving.  A perfect opportunity to gather some nettles and at the same time continuing to work on clearing this area for it’s intended uses.

Armed with a good basket, two pairs of gloves and a small digging tool I went in and managed to collect a massive amount of nettle roots and some leaves from a very small area.  This was enough for a first effort.  (I did manage to get a small sting on my hand even through 2 pairs of gloves.


All parts of the stinging nettle are beneficial, and edible, in their own ways. From roots, to leaves and stems, all the way up to their flowers and seeds.

Nettles contain high amounts of silica and sulfur, and are rich in vitamins A, B2, C, D and K. They also contain generous amounts of iron and chlorophyll. All of these elements are essential for a robust immune system.

Medical and physiological uses


Nettle is often used to help with hay fever and other mild allergies. Researchers found that nettle worked better than a placebo for people suffering from allergic rhinitis (hay fever).

A more recent study published in 2009 found that this is likely due to nettle affecting key receptors and enzymes associated with allergies. In other words, it may act as an antihistamine.

Stinging nettle has both antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities. As such, it makes a wonderful treatment for eczema and rashes.  Anti-inflammatory properties can help alleviate pain.

A 2013 study demonstrates that nettle has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties due to its wide range of phytochemicals.

Metabolic Support

Metabolic issues (heart, blood sugar, thyroid, etc.) are increasingly common today. According to research, nettle may be helpful in supporting metabolic health. A 2013 study published in Clinical Laboratory found that patients with Type 2 diabetes saw improvement in their blood sugar after using stinging nettle extract for three months.

The above study didn’t note why nettle could have this effect on the body, but another 2013 study does. According to this study published in Phytotherapy Research, nettle may mimic insulin.

The heart is another important part of metabolic processes in the body. Research shows that nettle can have a vasorelaxant effect. That means nettle can help reduce tension in the heart muscle and reduce high blood pressure.

Additionally, nettle is helpful in supporting the pancreas, according to a 2014 study in rats. Researchers found a “statistically significant” difference between the rats in the control group and the ones who were given nettle.

Nettles are a gentle diuretic, that help the body to naturally flush toxins away. Nettle is beneficial for digestion, it may lower blood cholesterol levels, it is wonderful as a mouthwash (preventing gingivitis) and it is used in treatments of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Nettle extract may help to manage ulcers and other bleeding conditions in the digestive tract.

Prostate Health

Nettle is widely used in Europe for enlarged prostate — benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It helps with the symptoms such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of the bladder, and post urination dripping. It doesn’t affect the size of the prostate though. Because of this finding, researchers are unsure how nettle helps, according to Penn State Hershey.

Additionally, nettle may be a promising help for prostate cancer. A 2000 study found stinging nettle root extract can help keep prostate cancer from spreading. More research is needed to study this effect, but the results are promising.

Hair and Scalp Health

One of nettle’s most famous uses is in supporting hair and scalp health. One study published in 2011 found that hair loss and thinning hair are often caused by the damage of inflammation on the hair follicle. Since nettle has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help reduce the inflammation that is causing hair loss and hair follicle damage.

Additionally, a study published in 2017 found that nettle can improve scalp circulation and hair growth. It also concludes that nettle can “help prevent hair from falling out.” Compounds in nettle help block the overproduction of testosterone which can cause hair loss problems. These same compounds can help boost production of a protein that stimulates hair growth.

Cautions and side-effects

Stinging nettle is generally considered safe for use. But as mentioned earlier, a few herbalists disagree with nettle use during pregnancy.  There may be some interactions for those on medications for heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, or if you’re taking blood thinners.

Culinary Uses

Excellent as a spinnach substitute, pesto and in soup.  In tea, or stronger as an infusion.  As a rennet for cheese-making.  As a powder sprinked over food.

Reference   Reference  Reference

What am I going to use the nettle for?

I’m planning to make a nettle root extract tincture (which is very good for men’s health in particular the prostate) for Dennis (he doesn’t know this yet).

Also I shall be grinding the leaves into a powder after drying for adding to our greyhound Treacle’s food to aid her digestive system – particularly as she is taking daily Metcam for her arthritis and this has been known to cause ulcers.  The nettle itself may also help directly with her arthritis with it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Is nettle safe for pets?

I may also make an antihistimine salve to keep in the cupboard for insect bites and stings.

Look out for later posts showing how I do this.


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