In my humble (and perhaps a bit plant-biased) opinion, Stinging Nettle is one of the most amazing plants in the Pacific Northwest. Here at Wolf Camp & the Wolf College, we consider Nettle to be one of the top 10 most important survival plants, with a variety of uses such as food, technology (rope, craft, dye), and medicine.
With its sharp, stinging hairs, Nettle may seem like a plant to keep at a distance. However, this is a plant we should always have around! I like the Traditional Medicinals saying, that ‘once you have a friend in Nettle, you have a friend for life.’ Understanding how to respectfully harvest Nettle will save you from many stings and welts, and it will also guarantee a lifelong friendship with a plant that has many gifts to give.
Nettles as Medicine
Medicinally, Nettle is a powerful plant to have on hand — it is rich in vitamins, minerals, easy-to-absorb amino acids, and much more. Nettle is also rich in iron, which makes it especially valuable for women, anemic people, and those who are suffering from chronic fatigue.
It is also an amazing natural remedy for seasonal allergies like hay fever. It has been documented that those who consume nettle on a regular basis (daily), found that the symptoms associated with their seasonal allergies were greatly reduced. In fact, many Wolf Camp Instructors (and even Lily, our Camp Dog) take Nettle for seasonal allergy relief.
To me, Nettle is like a mother plant: it is deeply supportive and nurturing, taking care of our whole body, both physically and emotionally. We can easily make a tea from dried Nettle leaves, full of essential minerals and vitamins; It is one of the most nourishing drinks we can make. I really like the taste of its tea — it has a mellow, rich, and gentle ‘green’ flavor. Drinking some Nettle tea every day supports our hair, nails, organs, and other bodily systems.
What is Tea? Medicinal vs Beverage
In our society, we can walk into any given grocery store and find a whole section stocked with different types of tea. But what is ‘tea’ ? Tea, or Camellia sinensis, is actually the name of a plant that is grown specifically for making tea, most of which we classify as ‘green tea,’ ‘black tea,’ and ‘white tea.’ Somewhere along the way, the name ‘tea’ became our common word for a hot herbal beverage. Tea is made by making a herbal (hot) infusion, though we can also make tea using cold infusions (ice tea), solar infusions (sun tea), and even lunar infusions (moon tea).
Tea, or an infusion, is the second most-consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. Tea can be made for medicinal purposes or simply for pleasure; luckily for us, many tea preparations have health benefits that we can passively enjoy just by drinking a cup or two every day.
An infusion is the ideal method of preparation for Nettle, since an infusion extracts beneficial herbal medicine (in this case, the vitamins and minerals) from the more delicate aerial parts of a plant (in this case, the leaves). To make an infusion, we can use either dried or fresh Nettle leaves.
Ingredients For Nettle Tea:
- 1-2 tablespoons dried, cut & sifted leaves OR ~ 1 cup fresh, clean leaves ** you can buy dried Nettle leaf (I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs), or you can responsibly wildcraft your own
- Boiling water
Please remember that any new ‘material’ should be gradually introduced to the body. For those new to Nettle, a small amount (~1-2 cups of tea) is a good way to start.
* Precaution * : because Stinging Nettle has diuretic properties, those with low blood pressure, kidney failure or disease, or pregnancy should avoid Nettle or consult with their doctor before consuming.
Tea made with Dried Nettle:
In a pot, boil some water. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add in your Nettle leaf, taking care to stir it in. Cover with a lid and let steep for a few minutes. I like to let mine steep for ~5 minutes, so it will have a stronger flavor. You can make it weaker by adding in more water.
Please note that if you steep without a lid, the evaporating steam will carry out much of the beneficial herbal medicine.
Once the tea has finished steeping, pour through a strainer into your cup or jar. You can compost your leftover nettle!
Tea made with Fresh Nettle:
In a pot, boil some water. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and add in your fresh (already cleaned) Nettle leaf, taking care to protect your hands as the formic acid is still present. Cover with a lid and let simmer for a few minutes. Turn off and let sit for a few minutes with the lid on, to let steep for a stronger flavor, or strain into your jar/cup. You can make it weaker by adding in some water.
The leftover plant material can be eaten — it’s great with some butter and salt, or even on its own!
Enjoy your Nettle tea! For maximum benefit, try to drink 1 cup of Nettle tea every day.
If you find that you dislike the flavor of Nettle tea, or that it leaves something to be desired taste-wise, there is another plant that you can add that greatly improves the flavor and makes it enjoyable to drink. It also provides a very important vitamin and can be found in most people’s backyards — needles/leaves from the pine family. I have an upcoming blog post on Pine Needle Tea, so be sure to watch for it!
For more information on Nettle and other recommended resources, be sure to check out these links:
- How to Make Stinging Nettle Shampoo
- How to Harvest & Process Stinging Nettle + Nettle Recipes
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs
*** For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. We recommend that you consult with a qualified health care practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing or on any medications. ***
*** Please read our Honorable Harvesting Guidelines before harvesting any plant material. The final guideline is of utmost importance: “Never put anything in your mouth unless you are 100% sure it is safe to ingest.” ***
Hannah began her apprenticeship at Wolf Camp in 2013 and graduated as a lead herbal instructor in 2014. Join Hannah and other Wolf College wild chefs during our annual Wild Cooking & Ethnobotany Expedition: The Herbal Foray the second week of July on Lake Sammamish near Seattle.
Hannah graduated from the University of Oregon in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Languages. She has her own blog, where she writes about her love for crafts, animals, plants, cooking, and the outdoors: rainmountaincrafts.com