Stinging nettle, scientific name Urtica dioica, is a perennial plant that has always been known throughout the world for its medicinal properties. In fact, nettle leaves, even if known for their stinging power, are amply forgiven as they are a concentrate of beneficial substances that can be exploited by adding the plant to culinary preparations or to make healthy herbal teas. Today we are talking about the properties of nettle leaves, based on the most recent scientific studies.
Stinging nettle, nutrients
Nettle leaves are a precious source of substances with an antioxidant action, such as flavonoids, including catechins, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin and luteolin, phenolic acids, such as gallic, vanillic, chlorogenic and caffeic acids, and carotenoids, among which beta carotene stands out. Not only that, nettle leaves provide fiber, vitamins, including vitamins C, A and K, and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and iron (Devkota et al, Molecules, 2022).
Detox nettle and for kidney health
Nettle is diuretic and therefore stimulates the elimination of toxins. Not only that, thanks to its ability to promote diuresis and sodium excretion, stinging nettle is considered useful for regulating the functionality of the kidneys, which are key organs in detoxification processes. Finally, nettle stimulates the lymphatic system which supports the kidneys in the processes of eliminating toxins from the body (Devkota et al, Molecules, 2022 - Bhusal et al, Heliyon, 2022).
Stinging nettle against inflammation and free radicals
Thanks to the antioxidant substances it contains, nettle has an important anti-free radical action, which is carried out in various organs such as lungs, brain, liver, blood, kidneys, uterus and ovaries ( Jaiswal et al, Antioxidants, 2022). In addition, nettle also helps reduce levels of chronic inflammation. In particular, nettle leaves have proven to be particularly beneficial in protecting the brain from neuroinflammation, which is the antechamber of depression and, in the long run, can also increase the risk of neurodegeneration. But benefits have also been observed in cases of arthritis and chronic pain, gout and muscle pain (Bhusal et al, Heliyon, 2022). Finally, nettle has been shown to inhibit all those inflammatory processes underlying allergic rhinitis (Bakhshaee et al, Iran J Pharm Res, 2017).
Stinging nettle and liver
Nettle is also hepatoprotective and helps counteract liver damage. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action of nettle helps prevent liver fibrosis and cirrhosis (Kanter et al, World J Gastroenterol, 2005). Nettle has also been shown to protect the liver and to increase its natural antioxidant defenses in the presence of heavy metal accumulation (Siouda et al, Vet World, 2015).
Stinging nettle against diabetes and hypertension
Nettle reduces insulin resistance and stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreatic beta cells. In this way the effect is a reduction in blood sugar (Devkota et al, Molecules, 2022). In addition to the well-documented anti-diabetic action, nettle also proves to be an ally against hypertension, thanks to its vasorelaxant, diuretic and stimulating action on the excretion of sodium through the urine (Devkota et al, Molecules, 2022 - Samakar et al, Iran J Basic Med Sci, 2022).
Stinging nettle against gastric ulcer
Studies have shown that taking aqueous extracts of nettle help reduce gastric ulcer and stimulate the repair processes of the mucous membranes. Not only that, nettle also counteracts the hypersecretion of gastric juices and helps keep the acidity level of the stomach under control (Devkota et al, Molecules, 2022).
Stinging nettle for female and male health
For women, nettle is useful both before and after menopause. In fact, thanks to its astringent action, it can help relieve the symptoms of PMS, including cramps and bloating, and reduces excessive bleeding in case of too abundant menstruation. For women who are entering menopause, nettle helps the transition by reducing the intensity of hormonal changes (Bhusal et al, Heliyon, 2022). As far as male health is concerned, nettle has been shown to slow down the growth of the prostate, thus becoming an ally in the case of benign prostatic hypertrophy (Bhusal et al, Heliyon, 2022).
Stinging nettle, uses in the kitchen
Nettles can easily be found in the mountains or in the countryside, but in these cases look for nettles away from busy roads and always wear gloves! Alternatively, you can find fresh nettles in markets or supermarkets in the form of a frozen product. And here are some tasty ideas to enrich our culinary preparations with the beneficial nettle. For example, why not enrich homemade bread with chopped nettle leaves? Bread enriched with nettle contains more fiber and nutrients, such as calcium, and is antioxidant. This result was obtained by adding 100 grams of nettle leaves per 1.5 kg of bread (Maietti et al, Foods, 2021). But there is not only bread, you can also opt for pasta, for example made from durum wheat, to which nettles have been added during preparation. In this case the final result is, compared to pasta prepared with only durum wheat, richer in minerals, especially calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron, but also in antioxidants and has a lower glycemic index (Krawecka et al, Molecules, 2021). Nettles can be used to make pesto. In this case the clean nettles should be cooked in boiling water for ten minutes, drain the nettles and pass them under cold water, squeeze them. Blend the nettles with a clove of garlic, parmesan and pine nuts.
Alternatively, you can also prepare an infusion of nettle leaves. In this case you can use the dried leaves that you find in chemist's and herbalist's shops. Bring a cup of water to a boil, remove from the heat, wait a minute and add a teaspoon of dried nettle. Leave to infuse for ten minutes, then filter.
Stinging nettle, warnings
Nettle is generally safe. However, be careful and ask your doctor for advice if you are taking any medications. In fact, nettle can interact with anticoagulants and medicines for diabetes and hypertension, increasing their effects. Do not use nettle during pregnancy.