To many, nettle–also known as “stinging nettle”– might seem like a pesky weed with a needless sting. In reality, this small inconvenience yields big benefits. An herbalist favorite, nettle is used to support the kidneys and joints.*
A feisty herb that’s worth the sting.
What are the Benefits of Nettle?
Underneath this fierce exterior is a nourishing tonic that works best when used consistently over time. In traditional herbal medicine, nettle leaf tea is often consumed during the spring when fresh stalks shoot up from the earth, just in time to support joints and fortify bodies as our limbs awaken from more sedentary winter months.* Herbalists also use the root and leafy top of nettle to help reduce difficulty in urination.*
Containing vitamins and minerals, namely vitamin C, K, the B group, calcium and magnesium, nettle is a robust herb found in many traditional recipes. The dark leafy greens can be used fresh in foods, juices or preserved in vinegar. As a medicinal herbal remedy, it is often prepared as a tea or tincture to support overall health throughout the year.* When touched fresh, its stinging needles may seem feisty, but fortunately the leaves lose their sting when dried, blanched, or cooked into foods and other herbal preparations.
Folklore & Historical Use of Nettle
Nettle has been used for over 2,000 years, with a well-documented history from some of the famous early Greek physicians, like Dioscorides and Galen. In Europe, the Middle East, and amongst some Native American tribes, the leaves are used to create various forms of nettle soup.
Nettle pesto, pasta, soup and bread are just a few of the many herbaceous dishes you can create with this multi-faceted herb. The ritual of bringing seasonal herbs into your kitchen brings an even deeper meaning to Hippocrates’ sage words to “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Beyond its herbal power, this strong plant is relied on across many cultures for its fiber, used in textiles, rope making and in jewelry making to string adornments onto necklaces.
Botanical Description & Habitat
Almost every part of the stinging nettle has tiny tubular hairs (trichomes) that contain biologically active substances that can irritate the skin. If pricked, the hollow hairs on live plants will release their contents into skin producing itching, burning or stinging sensations.
Like many of our well-loved “weeds,” nettle is now found all around the world – often attributed to human intervention and migration. Its native home is in Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. Stinging nettle tends to prefer a rich soil and is seen by some as an indicator of fertile land. You can usually find it in wetter environments growing as a hedge bank, in wastelands, or other disturbed areas. Nettle tends to thrive where more particular plants wouldn’t. The whole plant, including roots, leaves, and seeds, can be used in herbal medicine. We wild collect some of our favorite organic nettle leaves from Eastern Europe, where our partners have stewarded the land for generations.
When To Use Nettle
Midday to support mobility.
Occasionally to encourage urination.
Around menstruation for fortified support.
The Business of Sustainable Plants
Our business is rooted in plants, and for us, it’s a business imperative that we care for the ecosystems where these plants live and thrive. We believe that everything is interconnected, which means supporting ecosystems and the farmers and collectors who harvest and gather our herbs. Finding opportunities to reduce or eliminate emissions at the source, we support organic and regenerative farming practices as well as voluntary certifications like Organic and FairWild. These ensure the absence of pesticides, herbicides, as well as the ongoing sustainability of wild collection, and the health and livelihoods of the collectors who forage. Josef Brinckmann, Traditional Medicinals’ Research Fellow, Medicinal Plants and Botanical Supply, asserts, “Everyone has a role to play in preserving biological diversity. One way of doing that is by equitably supporting the local people to serve as stewards of the land.”
It Starts with Organic
We choose to source organic because we believe in the positive impacts it has on environmental sustainability, biodiversity, and overall ecosystem health. Organic helps us increase transparency while prioritizing consumer well-being and farmer success, which is key to producing the high-quality herbs we source. In 2021, we procured 2.73 million pounds of certified organic herbs, over 99.7% of our total botanical herbs purchased. Volumes were down slightly from FY20 due to timing of inventories received.
The impact from organic farming creates a vital ecosystem through improved soil health, water quality, pollinator habitats, and biodiversity. Organic farms also have increased carbon sequestration potential through long-term carbon storage in the soil, helping to mitigate climate change.
One of the benefits of organic that we most value is farmer health. We care deeply about the people who produce our herbs, ensuring that they are not exposed to synthetic chemicals found in conventional agriculture.
We believe that everyone deserves a fair wage for hard work. That’s one of the reasons why we’re committed to fair trade. Traditional Medicinals® is a registered Fair Trade “brand holder”, “licensee” and “manufacturer,” and our products are certified by Fair Trade USA, an independent third-party certifier. We were an early adopter of Fair Trade, having launched our first fair trade tea product in 1998, just one year after Fairtrade International (FLO) was established. We continue to work closely with our network of producers to help them to implement fair trade standards and get certified.
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Consult your healthcare practitioner prior to use if you are diabetic or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. In sensitive individuals, nettle leaf preparations may occasionally cause mild gastrointestinal upset.
The information and other content in this article are designed to provide a general overview of the botany, cultural history, and traditional uses of this herb. It is not intended and should not be construed as health advice. Every person is unique and you should consult with your health care provider before using any herbal product or supplement.