Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • April 2018
Written by 

Nettle — Urtica dioica

Spring has sprung and with such, comes the nettle! Some of us may be very familiar with this seemingly pesky weed from the garden, while others may have grown up running through the stinging nettle patches. Whether familiar or not, this early spring superfood is a valued source of nourishment.

Nettle, or urtica dioica, is commonly known as big sting nettle, devil’s leaf, hoky poky, Indian spinach and more. The nettle plant has common names in over 18 different languages, emphasizing its cultural prominence for food and textile use. Nettle is categorized as an extremely nutritive herb, being very mild with a high profile of nutrition. The leaves can be used for tea, infusion, tincture, cooked greens, (steamed) pesto, or added to soup. The leaves contain formic acid, which is responsible for the sting. This acid is neutralized by heating, drying or mashing.

Many herbalists include nettle in a wide array of uses, as it boasts an exceptionally lengthy list of vitamins and minerals. Most notably, calcium, chromium, magnesium and zinc, while also high in manganese, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, silicone, thiamine and vitamins A and C. It is also one of the highest plant sources of protein available and is believed to build the blood and strengthen the body. It’s no wonder that David Hoffman is quoted as saying, “When in doubt, use nettles.”

Nettle infusion is a popular way to draw out more of the vitamins and minerals than a tea or shorter steeping period. Drinking your vitamins and minerals in a water base makes them more bio-available and easier assimilated by the body since digestion is bypassed. It is an easy and economical way to strengthen the body.

Nettle Leaf Infusion

1 ounce of dried nettle leaves

1 quart of boiling, filtered water

To make an infusion, simply add one ounce of herb material to a quart size glass and slowly pour one quart of boiling water over the herb. Stand a butter knife in the glass to absorb excess heat and prevent breakage. Let steep for eight hours or overnight. Strain out the herb material and add to the compost. Add frozen berries for ice cubes to impart a lovely flavor and beauty to your glass.

Nettle makes a wonderful addition to the garden and provides several harvests over the growing season. It also contributes nutrition and support to the plants growing around it, as well as speeding up the breakdown of organic materials in the compost pile. When used to water plants, compost tea made with nettles stimulates growth and provides resistance to bugs.

Be sure to harvest the herb with gloves, as the young plants pack a sting. Grab the top of the plant and cut off the top two or three sets of leaves. Cut the leaves off and discard the stem. The leaves do not need to be washed, simply shake off any debris and store in an airtight bag in the refrigerator for up to a week or hang to dry immediately. They may be used as an incredibly delicious alternative to kale or spinach in any cooked recipe or steamed for pesto.

Do not eat the leaves raw. Be sure to steam or cook the leaves for a minimum of five minutes to be certain the acid is fully neutralized. Only harvest the leaves from young plants, before the plant blossoms.

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.

References: “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Basic Health Publications. B Mars. 2007,

“Nutritional Herbology.” Whitman Publications. M Pedersen. 2010.

“The Earthwise Herbal. A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.” North Atlantic Books. M Wood. 2008.

“Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.” Storey Publishing. R Gladstar. 2012.


Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

Subscribe Today
Community Partners Directory
Find a Complimentary Copy
Community Calendar