Stinging nettles grow throughout most of the United States. They are common and easy to identify and pick as long as you wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and have a good pair of gloves. Of course, a good quality, authoritative book on foraging like this one goes a long way to ensure you’re picking the right plant.
How to use stinging nettles as an edible
This edible plant has a flavor similar to spinach when cooked, and they are well worth harvesting when you can as they are rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Native Americans harvested stinging nettles and used them as a cooked plant in spring when other food plants were scarce. Depending on where you live, you might also find them as early as January.
The stinging chemicals from the plant can be removed if you soak them in water or cook them. This allows the plant to be handled and eaten without the incidence of stinging. After stinging nettles enter their flowering and seed setting stages, the leaves develop gritty particles, which can irritate the urinary tract.
At its peak season, the stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The young leaves are edible and make a very good potherb. The leaves can also be dried and be used to make an herbal tea or used in stews and soups. Nettle soup is a common use of the plant in parts of Europe.
Using stinging nettle for medicinal purposes
The stinging nettle has many medicinal properties. Rather than collecting the plant, drying it, and then using it for medicinal purposes, I highly recommend buying it in capsule form in order to know exactly how much you are taking.
- Blood purifier and diuretic.
- Primary use has been for allergies (usually taken in capsule form).
- Used for urinary problems and rheumatic problems.
- Used for anemia, arthritis, food or pollen allergies, head and chest colds, relief of asthma and bronchial cough, hay fever, and prostratitis.
- The tea with honey and lemon is used as a stimulant.
- Increases flow of milk in nursing mothers.
- Makes an astringent gargle for sore throats and mouthwash for bleeding gums.
- Tea used as a rinse for dandruff.
- Joint pain — My mother-in-law swears by it.
The following information is from WEB MD it shows the interaction with prescription medicines.
Lithium interacts with STINGING NETTLE
Stinging nettle might have an effect like a water pill or “diuretic.” Taking stinging nettle might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with stinging nettle
Stinging nettle above ground parts might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking stinging nettle along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs) interacts with stinging nettle
Stinging nettle above ground parts seem to decrease blood pressure. Taking stinging nettle along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.
Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.
Sedative medications (CNS depressants) interacts with stinging nettle
Large amounts of stinging nettle above ground parts might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking stinging nettle along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with stinging nettle
Stinging nettle above ground parts contain large amounts of vitamin K. Vitamin K is used by the body to help blood clot. Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. By helping the blood clot, stinging nettle might decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin). Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.
As with any plant be sure of its identity before you use it. Herbal remedies can interact with pharmaceutical medications and you should advise your doctor if you include these remedies in your daily routine. The book Preppers Natural Medicine has other information about medicinal herbs and remedies that just might save your life someday.