Childhood days are always the best years of our lives. Before the golden age of Playstation and Xbox, all the boys and girls would be roughing it out and tumbling outdoors. You can identify the more curious and adventurous ones from the pack — these future alpha males and wonder women are normally the ones running around bushes or trees, inspecting plants for insects or any creepy-crawlies that might tickle their fancy. As you reminisce, you might recall that bold childhood friend of yours, who at some point in time, must have grabbed a seemingly harmless plant, only to end up with stings and rashes that were a nightmare?
Well, chances are they met their match and were beaten by the stinging nettle plant. The stinging nettle does not have wicked-looking thorns that are visible to the eye, but they are equipped with innocent fine hairs that deceive even the best of us. Nonetheless, once you manage to look past its almost invisible hair-like pricks, you will discover the natural healing powers this plant possesses.
What is Stinging Nettle?
The stinging nettle, or scientifically known as Urtica dioica, is a plant that has been traditionally used as a main staple in herbal medicine by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians to treat lower back pain and arthritis, while the Roman troops rubbed this unique plant on themselves to stay warm.
The leaves of the stinging nettle plant are armed with hair-like structures that sting and cause itching, redness and swelling. While some of you may curse and swear for the momentary discomfort, this plant is truly a treasured perennial that treats several conditions. Perhaps one of its most popular uses involves processing the leaves into stinging nettle tea, which serves as a natural allergy relief remedy. Stinging nettle tea is also proven to benefit the bones, skin and urinary health, as well.
Why Does it Sting?
The stinging nettle plant contains a number of chemicals, such as acetylcholine, histamine and serotonin, some of which can be aggravating. These chemicals are the ones responsible for the prickly irritation on the skin and are usually located at the base of the fine hairs on the nettle.
Therefore, when brushed up against, the delicate tips of the stinging hairs come off and the remaining bit inevitably converts into a small needle, releasing the chemicals into your skin. The reaction causes pain, itching, swelling and sometimes, numbness.
So how exactly does this plant rise from zero to hero?
Stinging nettle has been shown to prevent bacterial infections and minimise the severity of acne. On top of that, the plant contains antioxidant properties that help reduce the appearance of acne scars and blemishes, accelerate healing and promote anti-ageing effects, to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and age spots.
Aids in Pregnancy
Stinging nettle tea is often recommended for women who are undergoing extremely painful labour, and for good reason. The tea protects mothers from bleeding excessively, as it contains properties that act as a coagulant. It also helps the body to stimulate the production of milk and make lactation easier. The benefits it has in store for pregnant women are so good that a study by a certain Dr. Rachel Emma Westfall from the Centre for Environmental Health Department of Biology in Canada, has listed stinging nettle as one of the best natural herbal medicines for pregnancy and childbirth.
Detoxifies the Body
The stinging nettle is chock-full of beneficial nutrients that make it a perfect detoxifier for your body and it has been proven to gently cleanse the body of toxins. According to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, stinging nettle is also an effective form of diuretic, ensuring the toxins that have been neutralised in the body are swiftly eliminated. Additionally, it helps increase the nutrient uptake proficiency of your gut and ensures that the digestive processes run efficiently, thereby keeping the rate of toxin accumulation to a minimum. Stinging nettle also stimulates the lymphatic system and aids the body in eliminating excess toxins from the kidney, as well.
The splendid combination of vitamins and minerals, including iron and vitamin C, in stinging nettle, makes it one of the best ingredients for stimulating red blood cell production. Iron is a vital component of haemoglobin, while vitamin C improves iron uptake in the gut.
These vitamins and minerals enhance blood circulation and accelerated wound recovery, thus ensuring the body’s extremities receive sufficient oxygenation to enhance energy levels. Experts recommend the stinging nettle to relieve anaemia or fatigue, which is often characterised by general exhaustion, muscle weakness, headaches and cognitive difficulties.
The Bottom Line
For centuries, our forefathers have used herbs and other natural plant remedies for medicinal care, and stinging nettle is one of them. Stinging nettle is easy to add to your daily diet. It is widely available in numerous health stores, or the gardener in you can choose to grow it yourself. However, should you choose to purchase a stinging nettle supplement off the shelf, we recommend that you speak to your doctor first before trying it, and thereafter, follow the instructions that come with it.