An Essential Guide to Nettle: History, Benefits & Uses

Published on July 30, 2020

Do you feel seasonal challenges all year long? While some of the most common seasonal complaints (runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, headaches, and low energy) are often associated with Spring, when you are sensitive to the environment, every season brings challenges. If you find that these issues have been keeping you indoors and reaching for tissues, rather than exploring the great outdoors, Nettle could be the perfect herbal ally for you.* Discover more about Nettle and why it should be considered an herbal essential all year round.*

What is Nettle

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a perennial herb, which means that it can grow for at least two years, and is native to Europe, Asia, Northern Africa, and North America. While you can cultivate this herb in a garden or field, as we do on our 350-acre Certified Organic farm in Brevard, North Carolina, this herb is also commonly found growing in forests and alongside roads and meadows. It is known for its ability to grow quickly and to spread swiftly to other areas.

If you start Nettle on your own, you can begin the seeding process indoors and transplant the seedlings outdoors during the Spring. The harvesting period typically begins in the early Summer, but you can continue to harvest Nettle throughout the season.1 The aerial parts (the leaves and seeds) and the roots are the parts of the plant used in herbal remedies. An interesting fact about Nettle is that it is often referred to as “Stinging Nettle.” This is because the Nettle plant has “trichomes,” or hollow hairs, on its leaves and stem, which act like needles that inject histamine, formic acid, and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation. If you’ve had the experience of walking through a meadow or trail in the woods and found yourself with a bristly rash on exposed parts of your limbs, you may have brushed up against Nettle.

History of Nettle

Nettle use has been recorded as far back as the Bronze Age (3000 BCE – 1200 BCE), and it is still used in herbalism today. Between 58 and 45 BCE, there are records of Nettle’s stinging properties assisting Julius Caesar’s troops in helping them stay awake and alert during the night.2 Aside from its use in herbal supplements, Nettle has also been popularly used as a textile. Similar to textiles made from Flax, Nettle can be made into different textures, from silky to coarse. Nettle fabric also has the ability to be dyed or bleached like cotton. It was a common household textile in Scottish households during the 16th and 17th centuries.2 And during the First and Second World Wars, Nettle fiber was used as a substitute for cotton yarns, when this material was unavailable. Because of its strong and sturdy fibers, Nettle would be a great ally if you were ever stranded in a forest, as it can be used to make natural cordage. This natural cordage could then be used to help build a shelter, start a fire, fashion clothing, make tools, and more, making it the ideal plant to have around in a survival situation.

Consuming Nettle

Nettle is an incredibly versatile herb. In addition to its uses in botanical formulas, cordage, and textiles, it can also be consumed. Nettle's high nutritional content and low calories have made it popular in the kitchen. Per cup, these dark, leafy greens contain 37 calories, two grams of protein, and six grams of dietary fiber. In addition, they contain more than one-third of your daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin A, eight percent of the RDA of iron, and 42 percent of the RDA of calcium. Nettle leaves can be easily steamed and have a taste similar to spinach. When cooked, the leaves do lose their “sting” and turn a vibrant shade of green. You can use cooked Nettle leaves as you would any other cooked green. Discover some of our favorite Nettle recipes to try out in your kitchen. If one of your favorite beverages is tea, you may also be excited to learn that Nettle leaves can be steeped to make an herbal tea. Nettle tea is believed to be one of the best herbal infusions for overall health and wellness.*

Benefits of Nettle & Traditional Uses

Nettle is used frequently as a nutritive and gentle detoxing herb. Nettle has a long history of use for modulating the body's inflammatory pathways and supporting upper respiratory health.* In the first and second centuries, Greek physicians Dioscorides and Galen reported the use of Nettle leaf for its diuretic and laxative properties and for the treatment of respiratory issues.3 Nicholas Culpeper, a renowned 17th-century herbalist, recommended a Nettle-honey preparation for wounds and skin infections, and as a gargle for throat and mouth infections.4 The root of the Nettle plant has also been used for male hormone support and to help maintain healthy prostate function, and there are human clinical studies supporting its use for this purpose.*

Our Favorite Products Containing Nettle

Nettle Leaf

During seasonal transitions, you may find that your sinuses need extra support to help you stay breathing with ease. Our Gaia-grown® Nettle products can help to support sinus health and maintain upper respiratory health.* This single herb extract is available in both a Nettle Leaf, Certified Organic liquid extract as well as Nettle Leaf Liquid Phyto-Caps®, so you can choose the support that works best for your lifestyle.

Turmeric Supreme® Sinus Support

If you find that you need a little extra support during times when there is additional pollen in the air, you aren’t alone. Our Turmeric Supreme® Sinus Support formula combines Turmeric with Black Pepper, Feverfew, and Gaia-grown® Nettle to help maintain a healthy inflammatory response in healthy individuals.* This formula provides sinus support so you can keep breathing easy and welcome the change in seasons with open arms.*

Plant Force Liquid Iron®

Maintaining healthy iron levels is essential to stay feeling energetic, vibrant, and healthy. However, depending on your diet or lifestyle, it may be hard to receive the right amount of iron that your body needs from food alone. Our Plant Force Liquid Iron® is a liquid vegetarian iron supplement can help to maintain healthy iron and energy levels.*  Made with Sea Buckthorn, Beet root, Dandelion, and Gaia-grown® Nettle, this great-tasting liquid is gentle on the stomach, easy-to-digest, and non-constipating.*

Hair, Skin & Nail Support

Vibrant skin, shiny hair, and strong nails are all outward reflections of overall health. With the extra stress that people are experiencing today, you may have noticed a change in your hair, skin, and nail health, as this is one of the ways that stress manifests and takes a toll on our bodies.* Hair, Skin & Nail Support contains a harmonious blend of herbs including Horsetail, Alfalfa, Burdock root, Gotu Kola, and Gaia-grown® Nettle leaf to promote the healthy growth of hair, skin and nail tissue.* These herbs also provide a rich source of antioxidants and minerals.*

Prostate Health

The prostate grows naturally with age, usually without problems. In some men, the enlarged prostate compresses the urethra, making urination difficult and causing frequent urination. Prostate Health can help you continue to go with ease.* This formula is made with Saw Palmetto, Green Tea, Nettle root, Pomegranate, and White Sage – all herbs traditionally used for maintaining healthy prostate function.*

Energy Vitality

Between the stressful climate today and balancing your obligations at work and at home, it's easy to feel rundown. Energy Vitality is made with an invigorating blend of herbs including Ginkgo, Asian Ginseng, Green Tea, and Gaia-grown® Nettle to help your body adapt to stress and support healthy energy levels.* This blend is great for those who experience an afternoon crash during the workday to stay feeling energized.*

Embrace the Change in Seasons

Seasonal changes offer a time of reflection. With each season that passes, you gain more knowledge of the world around you. Instead of letting these times pass you by, turn to Nettle to help you embrace each season with open arms.*

1 Stinging Nettle Greens: Tips For Growing Nettle Greens In The Garden. Gardening Know How.
2 Two Burning Houses: A Natural History of Stinging Nettle. Northern Cascades Institute.
3 Ahmed M, Parsuraman. Urtica dioica, (Urticaceae): A stinging nettle. Sys Rev Pharm.2014;5(1):6-8.
4 Joshi N, Pandey ST. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) – history and its medicinal uses. Asian Agri-History. 2007; 21(2):133-138.