Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) grows wild in temperate regions around the world. A staple among herbalists, stinging nettle is considered a classic “nutritive” herb, meaning it is very nutrient dense and nourishing. Nettle has been used as food, medicine, and a nourishing tonic since ancient times. Urtica comes from the Latin urere, meaning "to burn," because of its erect, bristly hairs covering the leaves and stem which sting when touched. These stinging hairs, along with the leaves’ sharply serrated edges, are distinguishing features of stinging nettle.
Infusing a large amount of dried stinging nettle leaves in water for a long period of time is one of the easiest and most traditional ways to obtain nettle tea benefits.
Stinging nettle is packed with vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals along with hefty dose of potent phytonutrients including deep-green chlorophyll and carotenoids.[2,3] In fact, more than 100 chemical components have been identified in nettle, including:
• Minerals – iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, boron, strontium
• Vitamins - A, C, K, and B vitamins
• Phytonutrients - chlorophyll, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, quercetin, rutin
Nettle tea, made from dried nettle leaves, is perhaps best known for its high mineral content. The leaves are packed with more minerals, especially magnesium and calcium, than a number of other medicinal herbs. One recent study found that dried nettle leaf has more magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, boron, and strontium than dried chamomile, peppermint, sage, St. John’s wort, linden, and lemon balm.[7,8]
The exact amounts of various minerals extracted from the leaves into the tea depends on many factors, including the plant’s growing conditions, the type of mineral, the amount of dried nettle leaves and water used when preparing the tea, and the steeping time. One recent study found that 500 mL (about one quart) of tea made with 20 grams (about 0.7 ounces) of dried nettle leaves, steeped for 30 minutes, contains 76 mg of magnesium, which represents about 20-25% of men’s and women’s daily requirement, respectively. This may not sound like much, but it’s quite remarkable for a beverage. Furthermore, most Western herbalists recommend a slightly higher tea to water ratio and longer steeping times than those used in this study in order to potentially increase the mineral content even more. This is discussed more below; first, let’s take a look at some of nettle tea’s other numerous health benefits.
In addition to its high nutrient content, results from preliminary studies show that stinging nettle has many other health-promoting properties.[2,3,5] For example, nettle has been shown to:
• Decrease oxidative stress. The natural polyphenols in nettle leaves are thought to be responsible the powerful antioxidant abilities of nettle tea. Oxidative stress is implicated in accelerated aging as well as many chronic diseases.
• Relieve pain. Nettle tea has analgesic effects.
• Fight infections. Nettles have antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. Nettle tea has notable antimicrobial activity against gram-positive and -negative bacteria when compared with standard and strong antimicrobial compounds.
• Decrease inflammation. Nettles work as a natural anti-inflammatory through a number of different mechanisms, such as decreasing nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) binding activity to DNA. Nettle extract, used to treat arthritis, has been shown to decrease levels of pro-inflammatory compounds such as interleukin-6 and • C-reactive protein.
• Lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Nettles are used in diabetics to combat high blood sugar and cardiovascular risk factors.
• Fight cancer. Nettles have a beneficial effect in prostate cancer.
• Heal stomach lining. Nettle tea helps heal the mucosal lining of the stomach in the case of ulcers or stomach irritation.
• Treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Nettle roots instead of the leaves are used to decrease symptoms of enlarged prostate.
• One of the best ways to obtain nettle tea benefits is by steeping a hefty amount of the dried, cut leaves in boiling water inside a large, covered container for a long period of time.
A general guideline for making mineral-rich infusions with nutritive herbs like nettle is to use one ounce of dried herb per quart of filtered or distilled water (or about a heaping tablespoon per eight ounces water). One ounce of plant material per quart of water is generally thought necessary to provide a sufficient quantity of minerals if you drink one quart of tea daily. Consider this: an ounce of dried herb is roughly equivalent to four ounces of fresh plant and although not all the minerals are 100% extracted into the tea, this this mineral beverage is like a liquid salad.
The infusion should be covered and steeped for a minimum of a few hours or up to ten, allowing it to come to room temperature before straining and refrigerating. The long steeping time allows for a more nutrient-dense tea, while the hot water and the cool water pull out different constituents from the herbs.
You can also use a French press or quart size canning jars to make a quart of tea. To making a an even larger batch, simply boil the water, take the pot off the stove and mix in the herbs, cover it and let it sit on the counter for a few hours or overnight. Then strain it and put it in the refrigerator.
Suggestion: Try this mineral-rich iced tea
Try nettles on their own or combined with other nutritive herbs. If you haven’t collected and dried your own herbs, you can buy them in bulk. To help keep you well-hydrated this summer and to obtain a host of nettle tea benefits, make up a large batch of mineral-rich tea to keep in the refrigerator and drink it iced. Here’s a wonderful combination of nutritive herbs for drinking cold: nettle leaf, alfalfa, oat straw or horsetail, and rose hips.
Another popular combination is nettle, oat straw, horsetail, comfrey, red clover, and lemon grass. These are the mineral-rich herbs that make up the Mineral Tea used at the Bastyr Natural Health Center, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University’s Naturopathic Medicine Department. Combining nettles with any of these other high-mineral herbs is safe for long-term use as a tea. If you’re like many, you will start to crave mineral-rich nettle tea after drinking it regularly for a few weeks. You can’t go wrong making nettle tea an everyday beverage!
 Natural Medicines Database. Stinging Nettle Professional Monograph. Accessed June 5, 2015.
Kathleen Jade, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Physician in the Seattle area where she conducts natural health research and writes for Natural Health Advisory Institute. Contact Dr. Kathleen by commenting on one of her blogs. She has written a recently released e-Book Fatigue Causes and Relief: Natural Remedies for Excessive Tiredness and Chronic Fatigue.
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