Don’t be put off by its painful-sounding name; nettle, or stinging nettle as it is often called, has a long history as a super healing herb. We’re talking goes-all-the-way-back-to-medieval-Europe long, when it was widely used as a diuretic and to fight joint pain.
Nettle definitely can sting if you brush up against it, because it’s covered in fine hairs that pierce the skin and release irritating chemicals. If, however, you’re careful with how you handle it (more on that below), nettle has lots of modern-day applications, says Tipper Lewis, lead herbalist at the famed British natural health emporium, Neal’s Yards Remedies.
First off, it’s a natural upper. “Nettle is mineral and nutrient rich; it acts as a tonic for the body helping general vitality if you’re feeling run down,” Lewis says.
Plus, nettle has antihistamine properties, which means it can really help cut down on the sniffling and sneezing that accompany allergies and hay fever. (Important note: Lewis says you have to start sipping nettle tea before the start of allergy season to help prevent symptoms before they start.)
And nettle is often used in cleanses (score one for the medieval Europeans!) because it’s a diuretic, which Lewis says can help clear up skin and detox the body. That explains why the UK has embraced it as a super hot ingredient in many of its juice bars, Lewis says.
To work nettle into your home wellness routine, try sipping it as a tea. It can have kind of a grassy taste, Lewis warns, so if that’s not your thing, look for blends with peppermint.
“You can also blanch the young, fresh leaves in boiling water to remove the stingers and eat nettle as greens,” Lewis says. “It makes a delicious ingredient in soups, too!”