Brewing the Health Benefits From Nettle Tea

Is This Herbal Tea Right for You?

Nettle tea
Getty Images/Ottmar Diez

Nettle tea is reported to be a super-healthy drink that can aid treatment for a variety of health conditions. It is relied on in natural healing and alternative medicine, but what is it and is it as great as people claim?

Before you brew a cup of stinging nettles, it's important to know what it can treat and whether it's a good herbal tea for you.

What is Nettle Tea?

Nettle tea is an herbal 'tea' made from the leaves and/or roots of the stinging nettle plant.

Nettle ‘tea’ is actually an infusion or decoction, depending on how you prepare it. It is often considered to be one of the best herbal infusions for overall health and wellness. 

Nettles can be boiled or steeped on their own or added to herbal blends with herbs like raspberry leaves, lemon balm, peppermint, lemon peel, vervain, and alfalfa. On its own, nettle tea has a herbaceous, rich taste that some compare to an earthy, sweet version of seaweed. 

You might also hear nettle tea referred to as one of the following:

  • Stinging nettle tea
  • Nettles tea
  • Nettle herbal infusions
  • Nettles decoction

What are Stinging Nettles?

The stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica) is the best known of the family of nettle plants, also known as the genus Urtica in the family Urticaceae.

At first glance, they may not seem like an ideal herbal infusion. In addition to being a popular food amongst caterpillars and butterflies, they bear needle-like points which are extremely irritating to the skin.

However, stinging nettles make a fantastic tonic herb and culinary herb and can be used as an ingredient in everything from pasta dishes to soups and stews to herbal ‘teas’ and tonics. Nettle leaves and roots may be used topically as a powder or juice, or be consumed in food, beverage, or supplement form.

How to Make Nettle Tea

Generally, one teaspoon of fresh or dried nettle per cup of ‘tea’ is a good ratio, though some people use up to four teaspoons of dry leaf per 2/3 cup water. For a stronger infusion, you can crush the leaves with a mortar and pestle just before adding the water.

  • For a regular infusion, nettle tea can be steeped 5-20 minutes with water that has reached a rolling boil.
  • It can also be boiled for a few minutes and then strained for a decoction.
  • You can also steep it at room temperature overnight for a strong tonic. 

A maximum dosage of four cups a day is recommended.

Health Benefits of Nettle Tea

Nettle was used in ancient Greece and Rome. In Mediaeval Europe, nettle was considered a panacea of sorts and used for all manner of ailments. Today, it is often thought of as a superfood/super herb.

Despite this, scientific research on nettle’s health benefits is limited. However, a number of studies demonstrate that nettle is effective at managing and easing allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, congestion, itching, and inflammation. Additionally, nettles are used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia/enlarged prostates.

In traditional use and alternative medicine, nettle tea is used as a:

  • Blood purifier and way to increase circulation
  • Fertility aid for men and women alike
  • Wound healing aid

It is also a treatment for anemia, arthritis, congestive heart failure, eczema, endocrine disorders, excessive menstruation, hay fever and mucous in the lungs, high blood pressure, kidney and liver problems, fibromyalgia, gout, hemorrhoids, malabsorption syndrome, muscle and other pain, nosebleeds, urinary tract infections and urinary retention, and varicose veins.

Nettle tea is considered to be slightly laxative and warming. Some people also use it long-term for:

  • Spleen conditions (which can be treated over a period of several weeks)
  • Diabetes (for which nettle tea is said to decrease blood sugar and glycemic levels)
  • Fighting bacterial infections and viruses
  • Reducing inflammation and treating inflammation-associated illnesses

    Nettle tea is also high in many nutrients, particularly Vitamin A, various B Vitamins (including B-1, B-2, B-3, and B-5), Vitamin C, amino acids, calcium, fatty acids, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium. It also contains numerous phytonutrients and antioxidants, including acetic acid, beta-carotene, betaine, caffeic acid, and lycopene. For this reason, it is widely appreciated as a healthful drink.

    Beyond this, it is regarded as a general tonic and a detoxifying ‘tea’, particularly for those suffering from hangovers and those who are quitting smoking.

    Nettle Tea Safety & Side Effects

    Although nettle is generally considered to be safe and nontoxic, there are some side effects associated with its improper use.

    • Side effects can include an upset stomach, skin irritation, skin rash, and sweating.
    • It may also cause interactions with certain drugs. This list includes antiplatelet, anticoagulant, antihypertensive, blood pressure, a blood thinner, diuretic, diabetes, insomnia, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and lithium.
    • Side effects tend to be more common when the root is made into tea than when the tea is made from nettle leaves.
    • The maximum recommended use of nettle tea is four cups per day.

    Also, some women find nettle tea to be beneficial during pregnancy as it supports the kidneys, which are often depleted during pregnancy. However, excess consumption of nettle tea may interfere with the lining of the uterus.

    As with all herbal remedies, it is highly recommended that you consult with a doctor or herbalist before beginning treatment with nettle tea.