One of my favorite herbal teas is tea made from the top leaves of stinging nettles. Stinging nettles are considered nuisance plants because of the painful sting. But these often hated plants are one of the most delicious and nutritious of wild herbs. When I was homeless in England, one of the mainstays of my diet was nettles which I harvested from the wild. Fortunately, I picked a very healthy herb to rely on.
What's It Taste Like?
Nettle tea is very grassy in taste, much like the cooking water after spinach or cabbage is cooked, but smoother and more interesting. Nettle tea was my favorite tea to have with lunch or dinner. It compliments savory dishes and even cheese sandwiches or a bag of chips (crisps in England) very well.
My first cup of nettle tea tasted really freaky. I'd never tasted a tea like it. I think I used to add sugar to it, but eventually didn't add anything to it and really enjoyed the taste.
If you are not used to nettle tea, then only have one cup per day for a week and then you can increase to two or three cups a day. If you don't, you might get sudden diarrhea or painful gas, just because your body isn't used to it. If you drink a cup of nettle tea for the first time and get rashes, sudden itchiness, nausea or trouble breathing, stop drinking the tea and call the doctor. You're having an allergic reaction.
Making Nettle Tea
If you are having nettle tea from teabags, you don't have to worry at all about the sting. The sting (from histamine and formic acids) has been dried out.
If you are harvesting fresh leaves, then you have to be a little more careful. Don't harvest from areas where pesticides or car diesel fumes might coat the plants. Use gloves. Snip the brighter green tops and place in your collecting bowl or basket. Give them some rough chopping with a pair of clean scissors. Place them in your pot or teapot. Pour boiling water over them. Let it brew for AT LEAST ten minutes. This was the sting is removed. Then, you can strain the herbs and drink the tea. And the cooked nettles are edible and good for you.
What's In Nettles?
There's a lot of good stuff in nettles, including:
- Flavanoids (These are antioxidants that are also found in rooibos (redbush), black and green teas)
- Vitamin C
- Malic Acid (helps the cells to work)
- Polysaccarides (a complex carbohydrate)
What's Nettle Tea Good For?
Nettle tea is a great overall healthy tonic, helping your blood cells build, function and circulates properly. Because of its iron content, it helps with anemia. Nettle tea is an old folk remedy for hayfever. It does seem to help clear up chest congestion. The herb nettle (usually in capsule form) is often prescribed for women with a yeast infection (candida) but I am not sure how to administer nettle tea to that situation.
Although nettles and nettle tea are reputed to increase a mother's milk flow, it is not recommended for pregnant or nursing human mothers. Nettles and nettle tea can often regulate or even stimulate menstruation in many women, so if you want a baby, steer clear or talk to your doctor.
Another reported healing benefit of nettle tea is helping the body heal itself of hemorrhoids (called "piles" in England). One cup of tea - as well as taking over the counter painkillers - is said to help heal them faster. However, I've never put it to the test myself.
And, most important, nettle tea provides a wonderful and interesting alternative to your usual cuppa.