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Nettle Tea – How to Make a Natural Spring Tonic

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Nettles are the first gift of spring, offering a natural tonic to restore and revitalize our bodies as we emerge from winter…

By Greg Seaman Posted Mar 8, 2010

tea-1Nettle tea is springtime’s natural elixir. One of the earliest green plants to emerge each spring, nettles can be easily brewed into a tea which has healthful, restorative benefits which boost the immune system and awaken the body to spring.

The benefits of nettles have been documented for centuries, with claims both anecdotal and scientific, that nettles treat a wide range of maladies. Nettle tea is used to improve heart action, for headaches and for any internal bleeding. Nettle is said to be extremely beneficial for the kidneys, being useful in expelling gravel from the bladder and dissolving kidney stones. It is a powerful blood purifier that drives out toxins and metabolic wastes by stimulating the kidneys to excrete more water. Nettle tea is said to clean out the entire intestinal tract while activating the body’s natural defense mechanisms. It is used as an overall health tonic and to treat high blood pressure, anemia, skin inflammations and more.

Nettle tea is relatively safe for children and adults, although it is always recommended that you consult a medical doctor before taking any new herb. Never take nettle tea when on prescription drugs without first consulting a doctor, as serious reactions could occur.

How to find and identify nettles

I first learned about nettles the hard way. While clearing a fence line. I smelled mint among the nearby plants. Looking to harvest the mint for tea, I plucked a handful of leaves from the closest plant and put it to my nose to get a deep whiff of the lovely mint smell. But instead I got what felt like a dose of pepper spray in my face. I had to run off and stick my face in a bucket of water for relief.

nettle-plant

Stinging nettle or common nettle, Urtica dioica, is a perennial flowering plant, native to most of the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. Nettles usually appear in bunches or groves in the same places year after year. Look for them in rich soil, disturbed habitats, moist woodlands, thickets, along rivers, fence lines, and along partially shaded trails. Considered a weed by many farmers and gardeners, no one will complain if you harvest a few nettles.

Nettles are easy to identify. The dark green, opposite leaves are a few inches long, with a rough, papery texture, and very coarse teeth. The leaf tip is pointed, and its base is heart-shaped. In springtime, the nettle shoots will be close to the ground with only a few rows of leaves. The plant grows rapidly to a mature height of about 2 meters (6.5 feet) in summer. In fall the plant dies back, but re-emerges in the same location the following spring. Once you find a patch of nettles, you can harvest year after year in the same spot.

How to harvest nettles

‘Stinging’ nettles are given this name for good reason. If you touch any part of the plant, you will be stung. The sting is mildly painful and can last for hours. Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirt and long pants when hunting for nettles. Use a scissors or garden clippers to cut the top two bracts of leaves, leaving the rest of the plant to regenerate. Set a pot or bag alongside the plant and clip directly into the container. About a cup of fresh leaves is sufficient to brew a cup or two of tea.

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How to brew nettle tea

Simply add water to your collected nettle leaves and heat to a near boil. Use about two cups of water for a cup of leaves; there’s no need to measure. You can make the tea stronger by steeping longer, or weaker by adding more water. Once the water is near boiling, reduce heat and simmer for a couple minutes. Pour through a small strainer and the tea is ready to drink. Some people prefer a small bit of sugar added to the tea, but I find the taste is just fine without any additives.

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The cooked leaves can also be eaten with a bit of butter melted over top, or they can be added to soups and stews. If you are going to eat the leaves, taste a small bit first to be sure the sting has left.

A word of caution

Any new substance should be introduced gradually to your body. A cup or two of nettle tea per day is sufficient to enjoy the benefits which nettles offer. Those new to nettles should start out with small amounts.

If you will be bringing children along while harvesting nettles, which is a good learning experience for them, be sure to take adequate precautions to keep them from being stung by the leaves. Long clothing and gloves should be worn at all times when handling nettles. Once they are cooked or brewed into tea, they lose their sting.

So if you’re looking to shake the winter blahs and reinvigorate yourself for spring, a simple restorative elixir may be as close as a nearby weed patch. And since nettles grow in the same area year after year, it only takes one discovery to bring you a ready supply of nature’s miracle tonic for spring.

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  • Michelle B

    For stinging nettle burns/stings, place sticky tape on afflicted areas and pull off (the tiny spines will be mostly removed), follow with a dabbing (not rubbing) of hydrogen peroxide (it bubbles the remaining spines up and away), rinse and pat dry. This works very well for me though I am extremely sensitive to nettles. I got significant relief in minutes instead of the days I had to wait until the stinging stopped.

    Of course, if care is taken as in wearing thick, leather gloves when handling nettles, the treatment above is not required. However, it helps me psychologically knowing how to handle nettle stings when harvesting them. They are also used as infusions to strengthen garden plants and are cooked as greens, tasting a bit like spinach.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/greg_eartheasy Greg Seaman

      Thanks Michelle. I'll have to try the sticky tape solution next time I get stung by nettles (a fairly common occurrence in the untamed areas of my garden).

  • Don

    Thanks for the post, a reminder of something I used to enjoy in years past. Nettle tea is good for a host of ailments, especially for joint pains. Since the tea acts as a diuretic, it is recommended to follow up with a glass of water.

  • best fake tan

    I tried some nettle tea when I was in china once, it had a suprisingly nice taste considering (although the person I was with added sugar to it) but like you say, if your going to do this for yourself you need to make sure your wearing thick gloves, nettle stings are extremely irritating as we all know!

  • Napa

    interesting article but how does it taste – sweet or bitter or like the ordinary tea?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/greg_eartheasy Greg Seaman

      Nettle tea tastes pretty much like ordinary tea, with a slight earthy taste. You can drink it straight, but I add a half teaspoon of sugar. It is not bitter at all.
      We're brewing some nettle tea right now….

    • egal11

      I think it smells and tastes similar to parsley. I add a teaspoon of coconut oil and a splash of half-n-half and find it delicious to drink.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/greg_eartheasy Greg Seaman

    Good comment billybud. Dock is a remedy for nettle stings and we use it for wasp stings as well. Dock also grows close to nettles, which makes it easy to find. I roll a couple leaves and chew them lightly before applying directly to the sting.
    I still advise wearing gloves and long sleeves. A good nettle sting can last for hours, and dock will bring relief but not immediately, and not necessarily completely.

  • Caroline Webster

    Will this affect our kidneys or such? i love iced tea and is this a good substitute for it? Thanks!

    • Greg Seaman

      Nettle tea is a diuretic and should be taken in moderation. I suggest having a glass of water as a follow up.

  • Nora

    It makes sense to me that seasonal plants are nature's remedy for seasonal afflictions. One of the first plants of spring, nettles, offer us replenishment to help lift us from winter mode and revitalize us for summer mode.
    Nature's gifts are there for us to discover and use, free of cost and available to all. Thank you for this valued article.

  • http://saturdaymorningcartoons.org Andrea

    Thanks for the information on this tea. I've recently been drinking red tea, but I've never tried nettle tea, so I'm going to try it next.

    • Greg Seaman

      Enjoy your tea Andrea. I'm just going out to pick nettles myself! This is prime nettle season.

  • Andrew Cutler

    Pointlesss asking a Doctor about taking herbal teas or indeed any form of herbal medicine as they simply are not trained (or interested) in natural medicines!
    Instead find a trained and fully qualified Medical herbalist locally for the right advice.
    members of the IRCH (International Register of Consultant Herbalists) are fully trained in traditional uses of herbs, and their possible though rare interactions with drug treatments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1052115932 Melody Rae

    Hi:
    Making my first ever pot of Nettle Tea. I have been drinking dandelion tea for the past 2 weeks and the nettles have been winking at me. Thanks for the info.

    Is there a way to subscribe to your blog?

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      You can sign up for our email newsletter which carries many of our blog posts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.abbott.5055 Jeff Abbott

    my nettles don’t seem to sting.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      hmmmm, sure they’re nettles?

  • huwwuh

    Sleeping on a bed of nettles helps you forget all your problems.

  • Meggan Fahey Tavel

    It’s mid-June now and my nettles are getting pretty big. Can they be harvested for tea at any time or are they best when they are young?

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Nettles are besrt when young but you can still harvest them in June. Just snip the top two or three bracts only.

  • Doris Bussey

    If you live in a city and don’t have nettles is there a place that you can buy yje dried nettles to brew tea!?

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      I am not aware of dried nettles for sale but you might give your local whole foods a call, they may carry this.
      Nettles grow in most regions of the US and may be found in urban locations, so keep your eyes open – there may be some growing nearby.

    • Katrina Bogler

      I just purchased organic dried stinging nettle leaves today at my local health food store, so they are definitely out there! They were in the bulk herbs and spices area and very economical. Filled up a half a baggie for $0.60!

    • egal11

      I just purchased some from a nearby Amish bulk store for 56 cents. I can probably get 25 cups or more from this batch. What a bargain!

  • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

    Nettles grow wild in much of North America. They are best in spring when the new shoots are tender.
    Once you locate a patch you’ll have a continuing source since they wil seed and reappear every spring and summer.
    Many health food stores also sell dried nettles.

  • Joe Faraone

    does Natalie have to be made only by the cup, or can you make it by the quarts or the gallons and does it lose its strength if stored in the refrigerator ?

  • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

    You can make a large batch of nettle tea and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It is fine to drink the tea hot or cold.

  • Kathy Welter

    i have a hand covered with baking soda as i type didnt read this until after i grabbed the bunch ugh

    what is the nettle good for in the body i remember the cows eating these and thinking how can their soft mouths do this

  • Luciana Candler

    Actually, it’s not the leaves which sting you. I have many a time touched nettle leaves with my bare hands and often pick nettles in shorts and a t-shirt. My brother likes to eat nettle leaves strait off the plant (full of protein). What you must be wary of is, well… the stingers. Hanging off the plant there are pale green/yellow, long thin… uh… stingers. I don’t know another way to put it. Maybe it’s different for you over there in the US, but here in the UK, nettle leaves are perfectly safe to touch.
    A simple cure for a nettle sting is dock leaves. They grow nearby nettles and if you find a few, rip them up and roll them in your hands until the juice is released, when placed on the stung area it provides almost instant relief.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Here the leaves will sting. And yes, dock is a great remedy. Thanks for your comment.

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