Herb of the Month: Nettle

Herb of the Month: Nettle
March 24, 2015 Colleen Emery

Nettle leaf has a very special place in my heart. A dear friend introduced me to this herb during an epic journey to Vancouver Island during a wet, early spring that would become the start of my journey down the herb learning lifeway. Earlier that day I boarded the plane in Alberta is -30 degree weather to touch down in Victoria to a temperate 10 degrees and unrelenting rain. Meeting my friend, we jumped on a bus, boarded a ferry and soon we were docked on Saltspring Island. A quick ride and a short hike we arrived at what she called the best nettle patch on the island. She only could show me the patch, she said, because I wasn’t local and therefore wouldn’t be coming back to harvest again. Curious about all the secrecy I wondered what the big deal was about Nettles.


As the rain let up for a few minutes, the clouds allowed a crack of sun to escape, mist and fog rolled up and down the small mountain side and it took my breath away. Check this out, said my friend, as she pointed to a grassy, cleared spot that seem fairly barren. Looking closer, I saw the small, green and rusty colored heads of several dozen jaggedly edged plants. Putting a bag over her hand my friend began to pick just the tops and plunk them into her basket.


“Why the bag? I asked”.


“Touch them and see,” she said.


So I did and discovered the stinging of the stinging Nettle. Intrigued, I touched them again, and then again. The tingling, then the numbness had me so curious. I felt as though each time the nettle stung me it had another message for me, more wisdom, and more insight. I truly felt that I had made a friend that day, an ally, and the first of many herbal allies.


We would go on that day, my friend and I, to create the most delicious spanakopita with the fresh baby nettle leaves. I was hooked. Nettle season always has me visiting this memory with such fondness.


OVERVIEW (excerpt from Mountain Rose Herbs)


Urtica dioica, Stinging Nettle, Common Nettle, Gerrais, Isirgan, Kazink, Ortiga, Grande Ortie, Ortie, Urtiga, Chichicaste, and Brennessel
Plant Family: Urticaceae


Nettle is a common botanical, native to Africa and western Asia. It has since become naturalized across the globe and can be found wild in many parts of the world. It grows in temperate climates, preferring shady regions with moist soil. Stinging hairs cover the live plant, helping to protect it from predation. When touched, the hairs cause stinging welts due to the content of formic acid. While the stings can be painful, they don’t last long and rarely cause serious harm.

After being picked, the acid deteriorates quickly and the stinging hairs begin losing potency within minutes. The harvested leaves are a favourite source of medicine and have also been used for centuries for food and fabric. The healing powers of nettle are well steeped in the folklore and traditions of various cultures. In one fairy-tale, The Wild Swans, the heroine is tasked with weaving shirts of nettle leaf in order to cure her eleven brothers who have been turned into swans by their evil stepmother.


formic acid, histamine, serotonin, choline, minerals, chlorophyll, amino acids, lecithin, carotenoids, flavonoids, sterols, tannins and vitamins. Nettle’s main plant chemicals include: acetophenone, acetylcholine, agglutinins, alkaloids, astragalin, butyric acid, caffeic acids, carbonic acid, chlorogenic acid, chlorophyll, choline, coumaric acid, folacin, formic acid, friedelins, histamine, kaempherols, koproporphyrin, lectins, lecithin, lignans, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, neoolivil, palmitic acid, pantothenic acid, quercetin, quinic acid, scopoletin, secoisolariciresinol, serotonin, sitosterols, stigmasterol, succinic acid, terpenes, violaxanthin, and xanthophylls


Leaves (edited to add, also the root and the seeds)


Steamed and eaten in salads, pastas, etc. As a tea, extract and capsule.


People have used nettle in the production of clothing for thousands of years. According to The Book of Herbal Wisdom by Matthew Wood, archaeologists in China discovered perfectly preserved nettle clothing aging over 2000 years. Since then, nettle fibre has been used to make rope, and was notably used by the Germans in World War 2 for the manufacture of their uniforms.

Nettle greens can be steamed for a delicious leafy vegetable with a flavour that is often compared to spinach. The leaves are a wonderful source of nutrients, containing a number of essential minerals including iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Nettle is approved by the German Commission E for internal and external use in the support of inflammation. For its diuretic properties, it is approved for support of the lower urinary tract.





Because of its diuretic and hypotensive actions, nettle leaf may lower blood pressure. If you are taking diuretics or other drugs meant to lower blood pressure, consult your doctor before using nettle leaf. Its long term, extended use is not recommended.




What is an acetum? An acetum is a liquid preparation made by extracting various herbs with various vinegars. This simple to prepare medicine is valuable to our health for many reasons. The vinegar, which acts as the menstruum, is capable of extracting many minerals and vitamins that an alcohol extraction is incapable of. In this case, we prepare a nettle acetum using apple cider vinegar.



Mason jar of your size

Nettle leaves

Apple Cider Vinegar


Amber Bottle



Loosely fill your mason jar with the nettle leaves and then pour your ACV over the nettles to fill. Cap, label with the date and contents. Allow to macerate, capped for at least 2 weeks, optimally 6 weeks.

When ready strain through layers of cheesecloth and bottle into the amber bottle. Average adult dosage of this vinegar is 1- 3 teaspoons in a small glass of water. Excellent ingredient in salad dressing recipes or in rice mixed with tamari.


You many also wish to go on to make an oxymel out of your acetum. To do so mix one part of the finished vinegar with 1 part honey, slightly heat to combine, bottle and label. Super delicious multi-mineral and vitamin addition to your daily routine!