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Nettle leaf comes from the Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), a perennial flowering plant native to much of the world.
Similar in flavor to spinach, nettle leaf is eaten as a food in many parts of the world. It is popular in the cuisine of Nepal and nettle soup is enjoyed in Northern and Eastern Europe. Native Americans also included nettle leaf in their diet. Nettle leaf is even used as an ingredient in some cheeses.
However, nettle leaf’s main use is medicinal, having a long tradition in folk medicine. In Germany, nettle leaf is used to treat arthritis. It is known to promote lactation. Nettle leaf has been used to treat hypertension, hay fever, anemia, kidney problems, some skin conditions, and pain. Nettle leaf has been shown to boost immune function. Nettle leaf is a diuretic, has shown a sedative effect, and has even been employed to regrow and thicken hair and to control dandruff.
Where To Buy Nettle Leaf
We save money by buying nettle leaf in bulk. We know a great vendor that sells certified organic nettle leaf in bulk at very low prices (Click here). You can buy it in 4 oz., 8 oz., and 1 lb. sizes. If you purchase more than five pounds among their extensive inventory or herbs and spices, you will get even higher discounts.
Read our analysis of where to buy nettle leaf.
If you are shopping for nettle leaf tea, check out our recommendations on where to buy nettle tea.
Nettle Leaf Vitamins
Nettle leaf is a vitamin K powerhouse. Though our graph at right only goes to 100% of the daily value for vitamin K and other nutrients, 100 grams of nettle leaf (just over one cup of fresh nettle leaf) provides a whopping 600% of your daily value of vitamin K, based on data collected by the USDA. Vitamin K helps your blood clot so that if you end up in an accident or surgery, you do not suffer too much blood loss. Some pregnant women will consumer high vitamin K foods such as nettle leaf in advance of delivery to reduce the risks associated with blood loss in delivery.
Nettle leaf is also a good source of vitamin A and a minor source of B vitamins.
Nettle Leaf Minerals
Nettle Leaf: Harvesting and Drying Nettle Leaf
Harvesting and drying nettle leaf is a great project. Nettle leaf grows prolifically in the wild and can be foraged and dried. If you have a friend with private property in areas where nettle is native or naturalized, ask if you can harvest it. Given its propensity to “sting,” your friend probably would welcome the idea. Nettle grows in many national forest areas as well and it may not be legal to harvest there.
To harvest, wear a long sleeve shirt and leather gloves. Use garden clippers to cut the nettle stalks. Cut the entire stalk of nettle and place it in a box or bag. Collect several boxes or bag fulls to dry at home. Be careful not to touch the nettle leaf or stems with your bare hands or skin before it is completely dry. The fine hair-like fuzz on the leaves gives “stinging nettle” its name. It will burn your skin and you will continue to feel the sting for several days.
At home, arrange a warm, dry, dark place to dry your nettle leaf. An attic space works well as it is often dark and dry. Place some nails in the rafters from which to hang the nettle. An outdoor shed will work if it has a permanent floor (not dirt) or if it does not receive a lot of foot traffic. You do not want dust kicked up on your drying nettle leaf. In any case, find a dark, warm, dry spot and affix nails or hooks in the area to hang the nettle leaf.
If the nettle leaf is mature and in large stalks, hang one from each nail, upside down. If the stalks are younger, group them in clusters of three or four stalks and tie them together with string or twine. Hang the clusters upside down from the nails or hooks by the string. Your nettle leaf will dry in this drying area.
Your nettle will take a week or two to dry depending on your climate. When the leaf is easily removed from the stem and becomes “crispy,” it is dry. If you can feel moisture in the nettle leaf, it is not ready. Remove the whole nettle leaf from the stems and place the leaves on a tray. Dry the nettle leaf an additional day or two to make sure they are absolutely dry before you store them.
Keep the leaves whole if possible (whole nettle leaf will stay fresher longer) and store them in a glass jar with a lid that fits securely. Place the jar in a cool, dark area, like a pantry, for storage. Your nettle leaf will stay fresh for months.
Because of the iron content of nettle leaf and its use in alternative therapies, nettle tea is a popular remedy as well. Tea can be made with fresh or dried nettle leaf. To use fresh nettle leaf, simply place the entire nettle stem into a pot of water. Bring the water to boil, turn off the heat, and cover the pot. Let the nettle leaf sit in the hot water for an hour or more. Strain the nettle leaves out and use the rest for tea. You can make a large batch of tea if you have a fresh harvest of nettle or simply use several nettle leaves at a time and make a small cup of tea. More commonly, people will buy nettle leaf dried and use it to make tea, as you would make tea with any other tea or herb. You can certainly also buy nettle tea — we recommend some very nice blends on our nettle tea page.
Fermented Nettle Leaf Tea
Nettle tea is a popular remedy for iron deficiency. Nettle leaf does have iron but it also has tannins and other potent iron inhibitors which means that you will not be able to benefit from all of the iron in the nettle. A great technique that reduces the tannins and other iron inhibitors is fermentation. After making a nettle leaf tea as described above, ferment the tea before consuming it. The best method for fermenting nettle leaf tea is this process outlined using a water kefir fermentation method. The iron in the nettle leaf tea will be more bioavailable (easily absorbed by your body) and you will also benefit from the beneficial bacteria in the fermented drink.
Nettle Leaf Disclaimer
The information on this website is 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.