Steeping dried leaves and drinking tea 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, stimulating or calming properties, and health benefits. One popular herbal tea is nettle tea.
Nettle, or stinging nettle, is a shrub that comes from northern Europe and Asia. Its scientific name is Urtica dioica. The plant boasts 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. While people have used it for centuries as an herbal medicine, modern research also supports many of the potential health benefits of nettle and nettle tea.
Nettle may help flush harmful bacteria 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 pain or other problems urinating.
According to one 2013 study, men with BPH who took nettle extract had fewer clinical symptoms than those who didn’t.
Nettle may also help support any medications you’re taking for infections or conditions related to the urinary tract. Talk to your doctor first about any possible interactions between herbal remedies and medications you take.
Nettle has historically been used to treat pain and sore muscles, especially related to arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation suggests that nettle tea may also reduce the inflammation and pain association with osteoarthritis.
Nettle has shown some promising effects on blood glucose levels. It may help the pancreas make or release more insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar.
Nettle is high in plant chemicals called polyphenols. A review of the research on polyphenols suggests that these powerful compounds may play a role in the prevention and management of chronic diseases related to inflammation, such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.
In particular, polyphenols from nettle extract have shown some exciting potential for treating breast cancer and prostate cancer. Plants like nettle also contain potent antioxidants, which are substances that protect the body from aging and cell damage.
You can buy nettle tea loose or in teabags, but you can also grow or harvest the leaves yourself. With fresh leaves, experiment with the ratio of nettle to water you prefer, but a general reference is two cups of water for every cup of leaves. Here’s how:
- Add water to the leaves.
- Bring the water just to a boil.
- Turn off the stove and let sit for five minutes.
- Pour the mixture through a small strainer.
- Add a bit of honey, cinnamon, or stevia, if you like.
Start out by only having one cup of nettle tea to make sure you don’t have any reactions to it.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before you try any new herb or supplement. Even all-natural foods and drinks like tea can cause allergic reactions or interact with certain medications. Some herbs and supplements can be harmful to people with certain health conditions.
Many people feel that some of tea’s magic comes solely from the ritual of brewing it. Enjoying a hot, steaming mug may allow you a moment of reflection or peace. With its nutritional and health benefits as well, drinking a cup of nettle tea now and then may be a smart addition to your routine.