Foraging Herbs

Getting Nettled

nettleWhodathunk this humble wasteland weed could be hiding some very potent secrets? 

Most of us think nettle is a nuisance, to be cut down, torn out or shriveled by weedkiller, yet this herb is a startlingly useful plant.  Not only are its leaves edible, it offers a wide range of benefits if drunk as a tea.  Of course, collecting it is a challenge, but with a stout pair of wellies and some gloves, the job is far from impossible.


The stingers in nettles aren’t actually thorns, but tiny brittle hairs possessing a small amount of formic acid (the same acid ants use to protect their nests).  Once the leaves have wilted, the acid quickly loses its potency and the herb can then be handled comfortably without danger of getting nettle rash.

So what do nettles actually do, except sting us?




butterfly1. Butterflies can’t get enough of it. Nettles are butterfly food for at least two common British species – the Red Admiral and Painted Lady. Without these ruthlessly efficient plant pollinators all sorts of crops would suffer and that in turn could affect the human food chain. It’s not just the disappearance of the bees we need to worry about.2. They’re medicinal. Nutritional therapist Jenny Logan claims that nettles can be used to ease the symptoms of gout, among other ailments. “They help to clear excess uric acid out of the joint – and it is the uric acid which causes the pain and inflammation associated with gout.”

3. They are survivors. The sting on the underside of the nettle leaf is designed to protect it. Tiny hairs laced with formic acid sink into the skin leaving raised bumps.

4. They tend to come with their own first aid kit. Dock leaves are commonly believed to soothe the symptoms of a nettle sting, and they often grow close by. But their proximity is pure coincidence says Phil Griffiths, conservatories manager at Kew Gardens. “They’re just both very quick to adapt to neglected areas.”

5. Nettles are chic. The fibre inside the plants can be spun into string and used to make fabric for clothing, cushion covers, and even paper. “A mature nettle is incredibly fibrous, like flaxen,” says Guy Barter from the Royal Horticultural Society.

6. The German army used nettle fabric to make army uniforms during World War I.

7. It’s low-maintenance. Nettles love wasteland. They will flourish wherever the soil is rich in phosphate and are common throughout Northern Europe. They can grow to be 4ft tall.

8. The plants are packed with magnesium, iron and calcium – all essential minerals for healthy humans, says trainee nutritional therapist Lucy Tones.

9. They’re tasty too, although nettle nutrition is a dish best served hot. The sting disappears when the leaves are boiled which is probably why they are most commonly consumed in the form of tea. If that’s not your cuppa, nettle soup is also “earthy, slightly tangy, outrageously healthy,” according to Good Food magazine blogger Toby Travis. The basic ingredients are nettles, onions, potato, stock and seasoning.

10. And finally, they can raise your spirits… literally. Nettle wine is a traditional country wine that’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence. It is a very dry, crisp wine that “retains a bit of a prickle” according to Lyme Bay Winery manager James Lambert. The winery recently made 3,000 litres of its unusual tipple using 40kg of nettles.

So what ailments can this humble and ubiquitous plant help with?

  • Nettle stimulates the lymph system to boost immunity
  • Nettle relieves arthritis symptoms
  • Nettle promotes a release of uric acid from joints
  • Helps to support the adrenals
  • It helps with diabetes mellitus
  • Strengthens the fetus in pregnant women
  • Promotes milk production in lactating women
  • Relieves menopausal symptoms
  • Helps with menstrual cramps and bloating
  • Helps break down kidney stones
  • Reduces hypertension
  • Helps with respiratory tract disease
  • Supports the kidneys
  • Helps asthma sufferers
  • Stops bleeding
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces incident of prostate cancer
  • Minimizes skin problems
  • Eliminates allergic rhinitis
  • Lessens nausea
  • Cures the common cold
  • Helps with osteoarthritis
  • Alleviates diarrhea
  • Helps with gastrointestinal disease, IBS, and constipation
  • Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouth wash.
  • Has been shown to be helpful to in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Relieves neurological disorders like MS, ALS and sciatica
  • Destroys intestinal worms or parasites
  • Supports the endocrine health by helping the thyroid, spleen and pancreas

You can brew stinging nettle leaves in almost boiling water and drink daily as a curative to all these ailments. Just be sure to check with your doctor since nettle can affect certain medicines and medical conditions.

1 pack of 10 Nettle Teabags is £2.00. We offer a promotion on our stall of 2 packs for £3.00. You can also order online at £2.00 per pack. Please contact via email if you want to take advantage of the promotion. Online orders will be charged via paypal and will include £1.00 postage.Buy Now Button

By Martine Lillycrop

Science fiction author. I write about worlds that could be and worlds that never were. My books are full of action, adventure and suspense along with cool heroes and likeable villains. Join me on an adventure to worlds unseen, along paths untrodden.

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