Stinging nettles, in spite of their prickly nature, offer many health benefits when prepared as a tea. Nettle tea benefits have been recognized for thousands of years in folklore, and in recent years scientists have studied nettle tea to find out exactly why it is so good for you.
Nettle tea is made from stinging nettle plants, which grow wild as weeds in Europe and North America. Each nettle leaf is covered with millions of tiny hollow spines filled with a cocktail of formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin.¹
When you touch the nettle, the spines inject this potent combination deep into your skin, warning you to stay away from the plant. However, drinking nettle tea presents no risk of getting stung.
Those stinging chemicals are actually the source of nettle tea’s health benefits. For example, serotonin is a natural mood-enhancer, which could help you if you suffer from depression. Here is a list of all the vitamins and minerals in nettle tea.
A cup a day…
Drinking a cup or two of nettle tea every day is a good way to get your vitamins and minerals without needing to take supplement pills. This means that you avoid the chemical additives in supplement tablets as well as taking advantage of the other nettle tea benefits described below.
Nettle tea flushes your system
Nettle tea is a natural diuretic. This means that it helps your body to pass water more quickly, helping to reduce water retention and that “bloated” feeling. For example, if you eat too much or drink too much and your stomach feels tight, a cup of nettle tea can help this feeling go away more quickly.
Also, if you have a bladder or kidney infection, drinking nettle tea can help because it dilutes your urine which makes it less acidic and easier to pass.
Nettle’s diuretic benefits have been tested in a medical context. In a study carried out in Germany, men with a prostate condition that made it difficult for them to urinate were given either a placebo or nettle for one year. Those taking the nettle showed significant improvements in their condition.²
Nettle tea reduces inflammation
Nettle has long been used as a folk remedy for arthritis. A study on the effects of traditional remedies for arthritis showed that stinging nettle treatment reduced pain and helped arthritis sufferers to move their joints more easily.³ This is probably because nettles are anti-inflammatory, meaning that they reduce swelling.
You can get all the anti-inflammatory benefits of nettles by drinking nettle tea. Not only does this help relieve pain in your joints, it could also bring down swelling in other parts of your body, such as your lungs and airways, providing relief from asthma, hay fever, and allergies.
Nettle tea acts in a similar way to the anti-histamine drugs your doctor might prescribe for allergies, but it is an entirely natural remedy.
Nettle tea benefits for the skin
Your skin can also reap the benefits of nettle tea. Eczema and acne are both skin conditions that can be treated with nettles. Again, it is nettle’s anti-inflammatory properties that allow it to bring you relief from these irritating conditions.4
Nettle tea and women’s health
Finally, nettle tea can also relieve period pain. Like anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, nettle gently soothes your uterus, but doesn’t present the same risks of internal bleeding as those drugs.
The high vitamin K content of nettle tea also helps to control the flow, so that you don’t lose too much blood,5 and the diuretic effect will help to avoid the bloated feeling that often comes with that time of the month.
Drinking nettle tea
In addition to all the above benefits, nettle tea is fat-free, sugar-free and caffeine-free. Preparing nettle tea is simple, but collecting the stinging leaves takes a little care – wearing gloves is strongly recommended.
If you would rather not get up close to a stinging nettle, health food shops usually stock nettle tea in either dried leaf or capsule form.
What to read next
¹ Warren, Piers. 101 Uses for Stinging Nettles. United Kingdom: Wildeye, 2006
² Phaneuf, Holly. Herbs demystified: a scientist explains how the most common herbal remedies really work. Da Capo Press, 2005
³ Evidence for the Efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicines in the Management of Osteoarthritis. Vijitha De Silva; Ashraf El-Metwally; Edzard Ernst; George Lewith; Gary J. Macfarlane; Posted: 05/11/2011; Rheumatology. 2011;50(5):911-920. © 2011 Oxford University Press
4 Church, Bill. West Virginia Medicinal Plants, Trees, & Shrubs, A Field Guide. Lulu.com, 2004
5 Arrowsmith, Nancy. Essential Herbal Wisdom: A Complete Exploration of 50 Remarkable Herbs. Llewellyn Worldwide, 2009