Superfood is a buzzword that we often hear in the media referring to nutrient dense foods that are beneficial for one’s health. One food that isn’t on this list but easily could be is nettle. Some of you may be familiar with this plant as something to avoid on hiking trails due its ability to sting you, but did you know that this Pacific Northwest grown herb could boost your health?
Nettles are the equivalent of nature’s multivitamin. Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, iron, B vitamins and magnesium. There is also a high concentration of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Trace minerals, which can be difficult to get from food are also present, including selenium, sulfur, and zinc. In addition to these nutrients, nettles are filled with phytochemicals such as quercetin and chlorophyll. The quercetin acts as an anti-histamine, which can be helpful for those experiencing seasonal allergies. While chlorophyll, the compound responsible for giving nettles their green color, boasts anti-oxidant properties. Furthermore, nettles are a great anti-inflammatory food due to the ability to directly block pro-inflammatory signaling molecules in the body.
In addition to these body wide benefits of nettles, this herb also works on specific systems. For instance, nettles are considered a kidney-cleansing herb, helping to remove waste and toxins from the body. There is also evidence to suggest that nettles may improve digestion due to their ability to be soothe the villi that line the small intestine. The calming nature of the herb once again circles back its ability to decrease inflammation. Decreasing inflammations specifically within the small intestine may help to promote better absorption of nutrients. Nettles are also considered beneficial for our adrenal glands. These are small glands located on top of each kidney that produce hormones. These glands are impacted by stress levels and can get overworked when stimulated too much. Incorporating nettles can be nourishing to these critical glands.
The easiest way to consume nettles in a tea form. It can be purchased as a bulk dried herb from a herb stores or already in tea bags at many local grocery stores. To get the most out of your nettles you can prepare a cold infusion. For this the nettles are placed in a container with water overnight. This allowed for more the vitamins and minerals to be extracted from the herb. Fresh nettles can be purchased during the spring at local farmer’s markets. These can be lightly steamed, which removes the stinging property, and made into pesto. But please be careful if you choose this route so you don’t get stung while handling the fresh herb!
By Rebecca Levens, Bastyr University Dietetic Intern, for Wendy Caamano, 2015.
Balch PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 5th ed. New York, NY: Penguin Group; 2010.
Pitchford P. Healing with Whole Foods. 3rd ed. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books;2002.