Tea consumption dates back thousands of years. It’s thought to originate in China, where it was used medicinally. Today, people drink tea for many reasons, including its taste, caffeine, and its supposed health benefits. Herbal teas are gaining popularity for their positive health and wellness effects. One popular option is nettle tea.
What is nettle?
Nettle, or stinging nettle, is a shrub that comes from northern Europe and Asia. It’s an interesting and paradoxical plant. It has pretty, heart-shaped leaves and yellow or pink flowers, but the stem is covered in tiny, stiff hairs that release stinging chemicals when touched.
The leaves, stem, or root from the nettle plant can be crushed and made into powders, tinctures, creams, teas, and more. Studies have been done on these preparations, and research is ongoing. While more study is needed to prove cause and effect, many potential health benefits of nettle are emerging.
Benefits of nettle
Nettle may help flush toxins from the urinary tract. This can benefit people who have urinary conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH causes an enlarged prostate gland in men. This can cause men to have pain or other trouble urinating.
A study published in the Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy suggested that men with BPH who took nettle extract had fewer lower urinary tract symptoms than those who didn’t. Nettle is thought to work similarly in the body to a BPH medication called finasteride, but without the side effects. In a more recent study, the positive effects were even greater when nettle extract was combined with an herb called saw palmetto.
Nettle may also help support any medications you’re taking for infections or conditions related to the urinary tract.
Arthritis and pain
Nettle has historically been used to treat pain and sore muscles, especially related to arthritis. One study showed that people with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip needed less pain medication when they took a combination supplement of nettle extract, fish oil, and vitamin E.
Blood sugar support
Nettle has some promising effects in relation to blood glucose (sugar) levels. A 2013 study in a group of people with type 2 diabetes suggested that nettle tea combined with conventional diabetes medication led to a significant decrease in several blood sugar-related markers, as compared to people only taking regular medication.
The power of phenols
Nettle is high in a substance called phenols. Phenols may play a role in cancer treatment and prevention. In particular, phenols in nettle root extract have shown some exciting potential for treating breast and prostate cancer.
Phenols from plants like nettle also contain antioxidants, which are substances that protect the body from aging and cell damage.
How to make nettle tea
You can make your own nettle tea at home, with a few simple supplies.
The base for your tea will most likely be raw nettle leaves. You can grow nettle leaves yourself or purchase them. If you prefer the crushed form, you can grind the leaves yourself or buy them crushed. Nettle is typically available at herb and health food stores, or online.
You can experiment with the ratio of nettle to water, but a general reference is 2 cups of water for every cup of leaves.
- Add water to the leaves.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Pour the mixture through a small strainer.
- Add a bit of honey, cinnamon, or stevia to taste if you like.
If you prefer to try an individual serving size, put 2 teaspoons of loose-leaf nettle or 1 teaspoon of crushed nettle into a cup. Add boiling water, let it steep for a few minutes, and enjoy.
Start out by only having one cup of nettle tea at a time, to make sure you don’t have any reactions to it.
Nettle may also interact with blood-thinning medications like warfarin (Coumadin), blood pressure drugs, and diuretics (water pills), among others.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before you start any new supplement, medication, alternative treatment, or dietary plan. Even all-natural foods and drinks like tea can interfere with some medications and conditions. Your doctor can help you avoid this and determine the best lifestyle plan for you.
Some of tea’s magic comes solely from the ritual of brewing and preparing it. Enjoying a hot, steaming cup may allow you a moment of reflection or peace, or a way to connect with a friend or loved one. It can warm your body and soul on a cold day, too!
While nettle tea is not a cure-all, it can be a soothing and healthy elixir, so consider trying some today. Happy sipping!