Stinging nettle, the primary ingredient in nettle tea, has a long history of medicinal use in Europe. The leaves and stem of the plant have fine hairs all along the outside, which creates a “stinging” feeling when it comes into contact with your skin, thus giving the plant its name. Nettle tea is rich in antioxidants and can be used to treat a range of conditions with varying degrees of effectiveness.
About Nettle Tea
Nettle tea is most commonly made from the dried leaves and stems of the nettle plant. However, in some cases, nettle root may also be included. Making your own nettle tea, from dried or fresh nettle, can help you tailor it to your needs. You can purchase dried nettle in some health food stores and through Chinese medicine centers.
Nettle tea is widely used in Europe to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as BPH, a condition where the prostate gland becomes enlarged. This enlargement can cause reduced urinary flow, dripping after urination, a constant need to urinate and difficulty fully emptying the bladder. A study published in a 2005 issue of the “Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy” found that stinging nettle given as a supplement helped relieve symptoms of BPH. Scientists concluded that nettle showed great potential in helping treat the symptoms associated with BPH and that there were no documented side effects from taking the supplement.
Stinging nettle contains natural antioxidants that protect your body from damage from toxins and free radicals, which can cause cell death. Scientists who published the study in a 2012 issue of “Scientific World Journal” found that nettle leaves, stem and root contained high levels of phenolic compounds. Cultivated nettle contained more phenolic compounds than wild nettle, and nettle tea, made from a mix of the root, stalk and leaves of the plant, also contained a high concentration of phenols.
Rich in Iron
Stinging nettle is naturally high in iron, with 1.46 milligrams per 1-cup serving of cooked leaves -- the equivalent of 2 cups of fresh leaves or 2 tablespoons of crushed, dried leaves -- which makes 1 cup of nettle tea. This means a single cup of tea provides 8 percent to 18 percent of the recommended intake of iron per day for an adult. You can also eat the soaked leaves from nettle tea to get the full benefit of the iron content. Iron is an essential mineral that helps produce hemoglobin and myoglobin, two proteins that carry oxygen in your body. As hemoglobin is stored in your red blood cells, iron is also important for the production of red blood cells.
What to Watch Out For
While stinging nettle is generally considered safe to consume, it may cause some side effects, including an upset stomach, sweating, diarrhea, fluid retention and a rash if you use nettle directly on your skin. The tea is not recommended for pregnant women. Never self-diagnose or self-treat conditions, including BPH. Consult a medical professional before taking nettle medicinally. Stinging nettle may also react with blood-thinning medication and medication for treating high blood pressure. Complications may also arise if you are taking diuretics, diabetes medication, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories or lithium, as the diuretic effect of nettle may mean your body excretes the drug less efficiently. If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor before you start taking stinging nettle in any form, including as a tea.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Stinging Nettle
- The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices; Sarah Garland
- MedlinePlus: Iron in Diet
- Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy: Urtica Dioica for Treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia - A Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study
- Scientific World Journal: Phenolic Compounds Analysis of Root, Stalk, and Leaves of Nettle
- MedlinePlus: Antioxidants
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Stinging Nettle, Cooked