When I first started my journey as an herbalist, I had the pleasure of working with an amazing mentor, Lata Kennedy, who could occasionally be heard telling interns, "If you're ever not sure what to give someone, give them nettles."
Although many people associate the flowering plant Urtica dioica, commonly known as nettle, with the painful sting that results after brushing up against leaves of the plant, it is actually one of the most extraordinary herbs I've come to know.
The nutrient content of nettles
Packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and even healthy carbs, protein, and fats—nettle tea delivers nourishing, restorative, and hydrating herbal nutrition, without the crash other morning beverages (e.g., coffee) are known for.
Breaking nettle’s nutrient content1 down further, this low-calorie leafy herb contains carbs (mostly fiber and little to no sugar), protein (including several essential amino acids), and fat. When I say fat, I’m talking about healthy fats, namely omega-9 oleic acid, omega-6 linoleic acid, and omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.
When we look at nettle’s micronutrient profile3, we find nettle is chock full of vitamin A (beta-carotene) and also delivers calcium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, sodium, and magnesium amongst others.
Additionally, this mighty green herb boasts an array of other bioactives2, including terpenoids, carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin, in addition to beta-carotene), tannins, chlorophyll, sterols, betaine, and choline.
The health benefits of nettles
Used for a variety of ailments in ayurvedic medicine, nettle is known through scientific research to have antioxidant4 and anti-inflammatory5 properties. No wonder with all of those nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals!
For my family and me personally, nettle is a go-to herb. Dating back to ancient times, nettle has traditionally been used as a diuretic (e.g., ease swelling by helping remove excess fluid) and laxative. Although studies are lacking to support these benefits in humans, I can personally attest to nettle's anecdotal ability to help me with swelling.
My husband and daughter, both of whom suffer from seasonal allergies, lean on nettles for their antihistamine properties. Indeed, nettles are the single best-seller at my Brooklyn herb shop, Remedies, in April and May, and again in September and October, when allergies are at their worst for many people.
And last but not least, the strongest evidence from clinical (human) studies demonstrates nettle's ability to significantly lower blood glucose levels, particularly in individuals with metabolic health issues like type 2 diabetes. This effect of nettle was clearly shown in a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis7 in the journal Phytotherapy Research.
How to drink nettles in the morning
I recommend clients infuse this wonderful plant overnight for the best results. Place up to 1 ounce of the dried herb into a Mason jar or French press, add a quart of water, and let the mixture sit overnight. Drink it as an iced tea with some honey or unprocessed stevia powder, or just enjoy it straight.
You'll find the flavor to be very green and full of minerals. Once you try it, you'll know what I mean. You will be amazed at the difference nettles will make to your morning (or anytime of the day) and well-being. Enjoy!
Cheryl Boiko is a community herbalist based in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and owner of Remedies Herb Shop. She completed the advanced immersion program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a certified holistic health practitioner. Cheryl studied the Wise Woman Tradition of Herbal Medicine and her training included field work, plant identification, herbal medicine making and health and wellness consulting. Her shop offers hundreds of organic herbs and herbal products, as well as a wide variety of classes and workshops.