Stinging nettles, much like its equally misunderstood friend the dandelion, is a wonder herb hiding behind a prickly reputation. Found throughout the country, mostly in shady or wet spots, nettles are often only remembered for the irritation of their thousands of tiny hairs. These spring plants have a reputation, going back hundreds of years, as a potent tonic and nutritious addition to soups. Traditionally used topically to treat arthritis and dried to combat hay fever, nettles have also had a well-deserved reputation as a natural weight loss aid, making them a welcome addition to a healthy diet.
High in potassium, iron, sulphur, vitamin C, vitamin A, and B complex vitamins, nettles provide a high amount of dense nutrition with very little calories. The sulphur makes them great for the hair, skin, and nails. In addition, the tiny hairs, besides emitting histimine, also release serotonin and acetylcholine, two neurotransmitters that help to suppress appetite and also settle mood. Finally, nettles have gentle diuretic properties, which help relieve water weight gain, flush the body of toxins, and purify the blood.
Try nettles as a tea or if you have access to the plant itself, as a steamed or sautéed green (fix it how you would spinach). Add it to soups or sprinkle the dried plant on food. If gathering nettles wear gloves to protect against the sting and don’t gather it while it is flowering. Dunking the plants in water can help incapacitate the tiny hairs and steaming the greens take away the sting.