Benefits, Brewing Instructions, and Side Effects of Nettle Tea
While you may avoid nettle plants when out enjoying the great outdoors, it's a great addition to your tea repertoire. Most people are familiar with nettle plants because of the painful sting they inflict when you get too close to the leaves or stems. What many don't know is that this plant makes an excellent medicinal tea.
Nettle tea has been used in alternative medicine to treat gout, urinary tract infections, and a host of other health problems. Read on to find out more about the science-backed health benefits of nettle tea. We'll also show you how to brew it and what side effects to watch out for.
What Is Nettle Tea?
Nettle tea is an herbal tea made from the leaves of the nettle plant known by the Latin name Urtica dioica. The plant is commonly known as stinging nettle or nettle leaf. The nettle plant is native to Europe, but can be found today across the Asia and American continents. The nettle leaf features bold serrated edges and long leaf tips. The leaves of the plant also feature hairs that can be stinging or non-stinging depending on the species.
Nettle tea or stinging nettle tea is made by infusing the leaves of the plant in hot water. This tea is packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. The tea is also a good source of potassium, iron, and magnesium.
Nettle leaf tea tastes quite similar to green tea. It features a mellow body with rich grassy and earthy flavors. The tea boasts a hay-like flavor that can be evened out with the addition of a dash of honey or agave.
Health Benefits of Nettle Tea
1. Supports Eye Health
Nettle tea contains high concentrations of beta-carotene as well as vitamin A, which have been shown to protect eye health. Beta-carotene is found in red and orange plants and foods and is a known vision protector.
A study published in Food Science & Nutrition found that nettle leaves have ten times the amount of beta-carotene as wheat and barley flour. This compound serves an important role in promoting a healthy retina and ensuring proper vision response to light.
2. May Alleviate Pain
Nettle tea may help reduce symptoms of pain thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Drinking nettle tea can help alleviate the pain of headaches as well as chronic joint pain such as arthritis.
A study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine examined the effects of nettle on 27 patients with osteoarthritis pain (1). The randomized, controlled, double-blind study showed that patients who applied nettle directly to achy joints every day for one week had significantly less pain that those who used a placebo.
3. Inhibits Oxidative Stress
like other herbal teas, nettle tea contains antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is essentially the body's form of rust where cells break down and cannot function properly. Oxidative stress is commonly accelerated by free radicals—uncharged cells that easily attach to human cells and wreak havoc. Free radicals and oxidative stress have been linked to premature aging and debilitating neurological diseases.
4. Reduces Risk of Infection
A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that nettle tea has antimicrobial, antiulcer, and antibacterial properties that may prevent infection (2). Researchers found that nettle tea was effective in preventing ulcers caused by alcohol consumption. It was also effective in inhibiting nine microorganisms known to cause health problems in humans.
5. Protects Heart Health
Researchers believe that nettle tea may help protect the heart from cardiovascular disease including blood clots and high blood pressure. A study published in The Scientific World Journal found that nettle tea contains phenolic compounds that help prevent coronary disease (3). People who drink nettle tea may experience lower blood pressure, which reduces strain on the heart. Anti-inflammatory properties of nettle tea help to reduce inflammation in the arteries and blood vessels to decrease blood pressure levels and prevent heart disease.
6. May Treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
BHP is commonly known as an enlarged prostate. This condition is common in older men and can cause symptoms that include difficulty urinating, urinary tract infections, and kidney stones. While medications can help clear up the problem, drinking nettle tea may be an all-natural alternative that is just as effective.
A study published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal examined the effects of nettle tea on 100 patients with BHP (4). The patients who took nettle had significant decreases in the size of the prostate and a lessening of disease symptoms. This was the third such study demonstrating nettles effectiveness in treating BHP.
7. Works As An Antihistamine
Drinking nettle tea or taking a nettle extract may help treat symptoms of allergic reaction and hay fever. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that nettle extract inhibits prostaglandin and other enzymes that react and trigger allergic rhinitis (5). This natural remedy also inhibits the activity of histamine, preventing the sniffles and sneezes that come along with allergy season.
Side Effects of Nettle Tea
Since nettle tea has high concentrations of vitamins A and K, it may interfere with blood thinners. People who have blood sugar problems should avoid nettle tea as it may lower blood sugar levels. Drinking this tea and taking blood sugar medication may cause levels to drop too low and result in dizziness or fainting.
If you have problems with water retention due to a condition such as edema, you should avoid drinking nettle tea. Nettle tea is a natural diuretic that increases urination and may cause interactions with water pills.
If you take NSAIDS for a medical condition talk to your doctor before drinking nettle tea. The natural compounds in the tea may interact with medications and cause serious side effects.
Pregnant women should not drink nettle tea as it may cause uterine contractions that can lead to miscarriage or premature childbirth. Always consult a healthcare professional before using herbal teas when pregnant or nursing.
How To Brew Nettle Tea
Nettle tea can be made using tea bags or fresh and dried leaves. If you choose to harvest nettle leaves to make the tea at home, make sure to wear gloves to avoid the painful sting of the hair growth on the leaves. It's also best to wear a long sleeved shirt and long pants to avoid brushing the plants and getting accidental stings.
Harvest only the top two layers, or bracts, of leaves. This allows the plant to continue growing without damaging other leaves. Avoid handling the leaves excessively. If possible, cut the leaves directly into a bag or pot for easy storage and transport.
You can brew the fresh nettle leaves or leave them out in direct sunlight to dry. Store dried nettle leaves in an airtight container and keep in a cool, dark place.
1. Bring water to a rapid boil on the stove.
2. Add the nettle leaves to the boiling water and turn the heat down to medium. Aim for one cup of nettle leaves for every two cups of water when using fresh leaves. For dried leaves, use one teaspoon for every eight ounces of water.
3. Steep the leaves for five to seven minutes. The longer the leaves steep, the stronger the flavor will be.
4. If the flavor of nettle tea is too earthy or potent for your liking, add in a dash of honey or a spoonful of sugar.
While stinging nettle leaves may be a nuisance out in nature, they can work wonders when it comes to overall health. Nettle is a medicinal herb that can be brewed into a deliciously earthy tea. This tea can help protect heart health and boost the immune system. Each cup is chock full of vitamins and minerals that will keep you feeling your best. Brew a quick cup using tea bags or opt for maximum health benefits and brew using fresh nettle root or dried nettle leaves.