What plant has the highest amount of protein, by weight, of any plant? Hint: it’s not a bean, lentil, or pea, and you can gather it yourself in wild and not-so-wild places. The answer is stinging nettle.
Stinging nettle is an amazing superfood vegetable that is not only high in protein but also in calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc, potassium, boron, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, bioflavonoids, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and chlorophyll.
During most of the year, I prepare dried stinging nettle into an infusion, which is a little like a tea but much, much stronger. Nettle infusions contain many times the number of nettles than an herbal tea and steeps for hours as opposed to minutes. In the spring, I like to harvest my own nettles and prepare them into soups and vinegars. I harvest it in parts during early and late summer when the leaves are young.
What Is Stinging Nettle?
Stinging nettle plant, scientifically known as Urtica dioica, is one of the six subspecies within the Urtica genus. The native range of stinging nettle, also known as common nettle in some places, is extensive and, includes Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. Stinging nettle root and leaves have different medicinal properties. Stinging roots can be taken as a tablet, tea, tincture, extract, capsule or pill.
Some cultures even make nettle soup or include it in cheese-making to add some healthy boost to their meals. The leaves are most commonly brewed as tea, which captures many of the essential health benefits, but the plant can also be applied topically in the form of an oil extract. However, be sure to combine this natural oil with carrier oils, as it can be extremely potent.
The plant itself is relatively small, rarely growing past five feet in height. The leaves and stems in some of the subspecies have long stinging hairs that inject an array of chemicals when touched, including histamine, formic acid, serotonin, and acetylcholine. This produces an irritating, uncomfortable sensation in the skin, which is why other common names for stinging nettle are burn weed and burn nettle. However, once you boil these stems and leaves or extract the powerful oils, the stinging substances are neutralized and so that the real benefits of the plant can be enjoyed.
This herbaceous flowering plant may be considered an annoyance to many when they brush against its sharp, stinging leaves, but for thousands of years, people around the world have used stinging nettle to treat a variety of health conditions.
Stinging nettle is a perennial flowering plant that has been used medicinally for ages, dating back as far as Ancient Greece. Today, it can be found all over the world, but its origins are in the colder regions of Europe and Asia.
The first historically documented use of this beneficial herb was when Roman soldiers battled the cold by rubbing the leaves on their arms to induce inflammation and irritation, according to Mercola. The plant’s popularity has now spread across the world and has been used by medical practitioners since the 19th century because of its abundance of chemicals and compounds that can help the body function optimally.
Benefits of Stinging Nettle
Rich In Minerals
Salts and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium form the foundations of good health. You can think of them like the oils that help to keep the gears changing smoothly. One of the most important benefits of nettle tea is that it is jam-packed with minerals.
Nettle contains hefty doses of iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper and boron.
Detoxifies the Body
The wide range of beneficial nutrients found in stinging nettle makes it an ideal detoxifier for the body and it has been known to gently cleanse the body of toxins. As a diuretic, it can also ensure that the toxins being neutralized in the body are eliminated quickly, says the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. It helps improve the nutrient uptake efficiency of the gut and ensures that the digestive processes run smoothly, thereby preventing the accumulation of dangerous toxins. It also stimulates the lymphatic system, helping rid the body of excess toxins in the kidneys as well.
Did I mention that nettle is also full of vitamins? Rich in vitamins A, B, and C, a warm tea of nettle is perfect for warding off chronic diseases and even just the common cold. The abundance of vitamin C makes it a strong contender for free radicals and other cellular deterioration.
Keeps A Healthy Heart
Earlier, we talked about the abundance of minerals inside the nettle leaf. Potassium, in particular, is responsible for the dilation of arteries and blood vessels. The nettle leaf reduces any stress or tension in the arteries, promoting the overall health of the heart. This also means that drinking nettle tea can improve circulation.
Although we don’t hear much about boron, it is still an important mineral found in stinging nettle. Boron has been linked to maintaining calcium content in our bones, which means that stinging nettle can help to slow the onset of osteoporosis. When you combine that effect with the hormone-regulating impact that stinging nettle has, which helps to regulate and monitor bone health as well, it seems like this herb truly can do it all.
In the nettle leaf, there is very high vitamin K content. This vitamin is something called a styptic, which is a compound that reduces bleeding. However, there is much more vitamin K present in the fresh leaf than there is in the dried leaf of nettle.
This quality of nettle makes it an excellent remedy for women who experience heavy bleeding during menstruation or even postpartum bleeding. The analgesic effect can also ease any cramping that happens during menstruation!
When the extracts are applied to the skin, stinging nettle has been proven to reduce the severity of acne and can even prevent bacterial infections. Due to its antioxidant properties, it can also speed healing, reduce the appearance of scars and blemishes, and promote anti-aging effects to reduce wrinkles and age spots.
Improves Prostate Health
Prostate enlargement and other prostate problems are a serious issue to all men as they age and stinging nettle has proven to be an effective means of preventing prostate growth. However, due to the chemical pathways that this treatment takes, stinging nettle root can only prevent the prostate enlargement, not reverse or reduce it. Palmetto along with nettle root can also reduce the urge of frequent urination.
Antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory properties make nettle the perfect warrior against any digestive complaints. For those who experience Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, acid reflux or even parasites can use nettle to re-balance gastrointestinal flora.
Both internal and topical use of nettle can induce anti-inflammatory effects. This is what makes it an interesting, yet controversial herb to use for those who experience allergies. Due to the carotenoids, flavonoids, minerals, and proteins in nettle, the anti-inflammatory effect can be felt before even finishing the cup!