Medicinal plants

Nettle - origin, ingredients and effects

Nettle - origin, ingredients and effects

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Unfortunately, the nettle (Urtica) is mainly known for its negative properties. According to its name, it burns terribly when it comes into contact with skin and is also considered an annoying weed in the garden. Many therefore think that it is good to avoid nettles altogether. An extremely wrong fallacy, because herbalists know that the nettle is actually an important and ancient medicinal plant. Especially when it comes to treating urinary tract infections, the diuretic herb is incredibly good for the body and is therefore an integral part of many bladder and kidney teas. The nettle is also highly recommended for numerous other health complaints.

Profile on nettle

Scientific name: Urtica
Plant family: Nettle family (Urticaceae)
Popular names: Thunder nettle, hemp nettle, nettle, nettle
origin: Africa, America, Asia, Europe
Parts of plants used: Leaves
application areas:

  • Joint problems,
  • Hair problems,
  • Urinary tract diseases,
  • Menstrual cramps,
  • Metabolic disorders
  • and indigestion.

misunderstood herb, I have to praise you
wonderful green in the best shape builds iron,
Lime, potash, phosphorus, all high values,
sprang from the womb of good mother earth.
You only need to bend down for them,
to pick the sprouts for the good of the body,
to enjoy them as juice, vegetables or tea,
what thrives in vain in the forest, on the path and meadows,
even in a still big city near you
accept what is pure and genuine the kind
gives you healing healing blessings! "
- Heinrich Hoffmann, German psychiatrist and poet

Plant portrait: The misunderstood medicinal herb

The famous author of the Struwwelpeters, Dr. recognized that the nettle is valued more than without reason. Heinrich Hoffmann. It is no coincidence that the above poem was written by a psychiatrist. Hoffmann recognized early on that our relationship with some plants is often wrongly shaped by literal fear of contact. Because it causes what it is named after, namely that it burns terribly on the skin, many do not believe that it does what a good medicinal herb should do. In addition, it does not grow where it is supposed to grow, because with its high reproduction rate, the nettle - without suitable cultivation measures - quickly displaces other plants from their location. For this reason, it happens too often that the nettle is wrongly referred to as weed. It would be so easy not only to circumvent the negative properties, but also to use them again as our ancestors did well into the 20th century: as medicinal and culinary herbs.

Both the doctors and herbalists of antiquity, such as the Greek doctor Dioskurides, as well as poets such as Hoffmann or the Roman poet Catull, devoted several written works to the mythological and therapeutic practical importance of the nettle. In Norse mythology, the Urtica was even assigned to the god of thunder Thor. Their burning effect on the skin was equated with divine defenses, which is why the nettle was often used as a protective herb against lightning strikes. The nickname "thunder nettle", which is popularly used, can also be traced back to this spiritual definition of the urtica.

With a view of the folk kitchen, our grandparents and great-grandparents still knew how to make a nettle soup that was not only tasty but also healthy. Because the burning leaf is full of vitamins and minerals, which means that it supplies the body with important nutrients. Nettle soup is also highly recommended when it comes to medicinal effects, especially if you want to lose weight or detoxify your body. Because the plant drains and cleanses the metabolism, which supports weight loss. Furthermore, the improved removal of body slag also strengthens the joints, heart and vessels. Nettle tea is one of the medicinal herbs par excellence for urinary tract infections and inflammation of the urinary tract. Again, the diuretic effect of the nettle plays a role here, which flushes the kidneys and bladder as a tea infusion and reliably flushes inflammation and infection germs from the urinary tract. There are three main types of nettle used for culinary and medical purposes:

  • Great nettle (Urtica dioica),
  • Small nettle (Urtica urens)
  • and reed nettle (Urtica kioviensis).

In order to take advantage of the healing properties of the herb, you should always wear gloves when harvesting nettle and either briefly soak the leaves in water or dry them before further processing. In this way, the burning juice of the plant, which is responsible for skin irritation, can be rendered harmless and the nettle becomes an ordinary medicinal herb that is easy to use. The plant is indispensable for gynecology, as it helps with classic women's problems such as menstrual or menopausal complaints and bladder infections, which particularly afflict women due to their shortened and therefore infection-prone ureters. Overall, the plant can help with the following complaints:

  • Women suffering (e.g. PMS, menstrual pain and menopausal symptoms),
  • Hair problems (e.g. thin hair, hair loss or dandruff),
  • Urinary tract disorders (e.g. cystitis, inflammation of the kidneys or weak kidneys),
  • Heart, vascular, metabolic and joint problems (e.g. arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, gout, rheumatism)
  • and indigestion (e.g. loss of appetite, diarrhea, heartburn or constipation).

Ingredients of nettle and their effects

Regarding the unpleasant side effect of the nettle, contrary to popular opinion, it also has its meaning and benefit. The skin-irritating nettle juice is typical of all genera within the nettle family (Urticaceae), which the nettle unmistakably gave its name. It is also known as nettle poison and is particularly exposed

  • Acetylocholine,
  • Histamine,
  • Sodium formate,
  • Silica
  • and serotonin

together. The actual task of the burning juice is to keep pests away from the plants and thus to ensure their survival in the wild. For this purpose, it contains certain natural substances, of which histamine is one of the most important. As soon as the glassy stinging hair on the leaves of the plant breaks through touch, the stinging juice escapes from the hairs and thus penetrates directly into the skin. This leads to itching and inflammatory reactions, which can be accompanied by enormous reddening of the skin and swelling of the skin tissue.

Now histamine actually occurs naturally in the human body. Here it acts as a hormone and neurotransmitter, which is responsible for inflammatory reactions in the immune system. This also explains why our skin is so incredibly sensitive to large amounts of histamine.

The nettle juice has a similar irritant effect on nettle predators, which is why they are successfully kept at a distance. The effect is so efficient that a histamine cocktail made from nettle water is often used by gardeners as a natural crop protection.

Apart from the stimulating histamine content in the stinging hair, the nettle is full of healthy ingredients. They are composed partly of medicinal substances, partly of important nutrients, which has an interesting overall effect. The most important ingredients are:

  • Coumarin,
  • Flavonoids,
  • Tannins,
  • Lectins,
  • Lignans,
  • Minerals,
  • Phytosterols,
  • Secretary
  • and vitamins.


Coumarin is mainly known as a flavoring in cinnamon. As everyone knows, thanks to coumarin, the spice has an extremely pleasant and pleasant taste. In addition, the aromatic plant substance can also be found in other aromatic herbs, such as woodruff, dates, tonka beans or nettle. In the latter, coumarin occurs in the form of scopoletin. A very little researched coumarin, which is said to stimulate the metabolism and anticoagulant. Furthermore, it has a uric acid regulating effect, which means that the plant substance is particularly relevant for the treatment of gout. A study also found that coumarin stimulates melanin production, which could help with a number of melanin-based skin disorders, for example.


Flavonoids are secondary plant substances that occur in many medicinal herbs and give them their special coloring as plant and flower dyes. In relation to the nettle, quercetin and kaempferol should be mentioned in particular. Quercetin is known for its exceptional antioxidant effects. This protects against free radicals and thus strengthens the health of the blood vessels and the cardiovascular system. The antioxidant protection of quercetin is even so outstanding that it has also shown anti-cancer effects in studies.

The nettle kaempferol is not only a flavonoid, but also a so-called phytoestrogen. This means that it has an estrogen-like effect as a plant hormone, which is consequently particularly relevant for gynecology - for example, for hormone-related menstrual disorders such as PMS or menstrual pain. Kaempferol can also be of particular help during menopause, as it has been shown to offer protection against postmenopausal osteoporosis, which is based on a menopausal decline in the estrogen value in the female body. Kaempferol also works

  • antimicrobial,
  • soothing,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • heart strengthening,
  • nerve-protecting
  • and pain reliever,

which is helpful for treating a variety of ailments. These include, for example, urinary tract infections, rheumatism and gout.


Especially when it comes to the anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties of nettles, the tannins they contain also play an important role. It is no secret that these substances owe their name to the fact that they are used in leather processing to disinfect animal hides, known as tanning. In addition to salt, vegetable tannins, the so-called tannins, are of particular importance for this process. In the nettle, these plant tannins help to shape the medicinal herb's beneficial effects on urinary tract infections. If you believe a hymn of praise by the poet Catull, the nettle once even helped the Roman to defeat a persistent cold, which also speaks for the nettle's anti-infectious properties.

The antimicrobial effect of tannins consists of their ability to cause tissue layers to contract. As a result, the pores on the skin become denser, making the dermal tissue more difficult to access for inflammatory germs. Vessels in turn narrow due to this contracting (astringent) effect, which on the one hand stops bleeding and on the other hand prevents the release of inflammatory substances such as the histamine already mentioned. This not only reduces the inflammation itself, but also the associated symptoms such as reddening or swelling of the skin. It is almost ironic that the ingredients in the nettle leaves eliminate exactly the side effects that their stinging hairs cause.

Lectins and lignans

It is emphasized again and again that the nettle is also a valuable source of protein. This is mainly due to their high lectin content. Lectins are proteins that are necessary in the body above all for cell-internal metabolic processes. For example, they help determine the process of cell division and control essential immune defense processes. In the latter function, lectins even have an indirect antibiotic effect. Another bonus for use in infectious diseases.

The group of lignans, in turn, is notable for the cell-toxic properties of some of its representatives. They are therefore used as anti-cancer drugs. There are also corresponding study results for the nettle, which identify the plant as a cancer-inhibiting medicinal herb. Also interesting is the hormone-like effect of lignans, which, like Kaempferol, relates to the production of estrogen in the hormonal balance. Cardiovascular protective functions were also found in lignans.


With the phytosterols in the nettle, there is a third plant hormone, namely in the form of ß-sitosterol. It is used in medicine to treat hormonal disorders in the prostate area because it can regulate the release of sex hormones such as testosterone and prostaglandin. Also important is the cholesterol-lowering effect of phytosterol, which is achieved by inhibiting cholesterol absorption in the intestine.


Another plant hormone is in the form of secretin in the nettle. It is easy to see that this phytohormone owes its name to its secretion-promoting effect. In this regard, it functions in the human body as a peptide hormone, which regulates the release of stomach acid, for example, which helps with heartburn. It also stimulates the contraction rate of the gallbladder, so that it can also have a digestive effect through increased bile juice secretion. Secretin also stimulates insulin production, which benefits sugar metabolism.

By the way: The secretion-promoting effect of secretin has a very special advantage for breastfeeding mothers, because it stimulates the milk flow during breastfeeding.

Vitamins and minerals

The so often praised diuretic effect of the nettle, which is an important reason for the traditional use of the herb in bladder and urinary tract diseases, is interestingly not significantly affected by a single active ingredient. Rather, it is the interplay of different nutrients that plays a role in this. In particular, minerals such as potassium, which have an osmotic effect and thus withdraw water from the digestive tract during intestinal passage, are to be mentioned in this regard as the most important ingredients of the plant. It also contains nettle

  • Iron,
  • calcium
  • and manganese.

While iron, as a hematopoietic, essential trace element, is particularly important for menopausal women and during menstruation, the body needs calcium for strong teeth, bones, nails and hair. In this context, the silica in the nettle juice should also be mentioned. Although the natural substance is quite irritating to the skin, it also stimulates hair growth and strengthens the scalp. The situation is similar with manganese, the one overall

  • enzyme promoting,
  • hair strengthening,
  • skin protecting,
  • bone strengthening
  • and hormone regulating

Has effect. When it comes to vitamins, the nettle also contains large amounts of vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is essential for skin and bone health as well as for important metabolic, nerve and immune functions. In addition to metabolic and immune functions, vitamin C also regulates digestion and the synthesis of certain hormones.

Nettle is very warm in nature. No use in any way
it is eaten raw because of its roughness. But if you
sprouted fresh from the earth, it is cooked
useful for people's food because they are the
Stomach cleanses and takes the mucus out of it. ”
- Hildegard von Bingen

Side effects

Overdosing can sometimes lead to flatulence, diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, or feeling full after eating nettle. This is due on the one hand to the draining effect of the herb (responsible for the diarrhea), and on the other to the strong stimulation of the digestive activity and the gas formation that arises from the digestion of nettles. In addition, only fresh Urtica plants should be used for the preparation of recipes and medicines, since the nettle produces stomach-irritating and kidney-damaging substances after a certain decomposition process.

Applications and dosage of the nettle for medicinal purposes

In fact, eating nettles for medicinal purposes is recommended when heated. Urtica can also be prepared raw, for example in the form of a salad, but the wholesome ingredients often only develop when the heat is applied. It is therefore usually used in the form of nettle soup, nettle tea, nettle porridge or warm envelopes. In the garden, the nettle is also used as a natural insect repellent and as an organic fertilizer. In both cases, the nettle leaves are simply soaked in water, with a shorter soak (about one to three days) for protection purposes, a longer soak time (about one to four weeks) for fertilizing purposes.

Tip: The fertilizer that comes from nettles is very nitrogenous. It should therefore only be used for plants with high nitrogen requirements. Active nettle growth in the garden also shows nitrogenous soils, which can help determine the location of garden plants.

Extracts from the nettle

Nettle tea is certainly one of the best-known nettle recipes. It is used for all kinds of purposes, including in particular applications in the area of ​​gynecology. You can also wash with cold nettle stock, for example for hair or skin problems. Mostly fresh leaves are used for nettle tea. The dosing guidelines for internal use are:

  • one to two teaspoons of nettle leaves
  • 250 milliliters of water (one cup).

Let the tea steep for about three to five minutes before sifting the herbs and drinking the tea. In the event of a urinary tract infection (e.g. with a bladder infection), up to two cans can be drunk from the tea every day. While breastfeeding, nettle is also often used together with fennel and lady's mantle as an ingredient in breastfeeding tea. The flavors in nettle and fennel also give breast milk a pleasant taste for the baby. Take for this

  • some nettle leaves,
  • part of fennel seeds
  • and part of lady's mantle.

Take a teaspoon of this mixture and prepare it as usual. The tea can then be drunk once or twice a day.

There is also an interesting tea recipe for women with menstrual or menopausal symptoms. The so-called women's tea includes:

  • a teaspoon of angelica (root),
  • a teaspoon of nettle (seeds or leaves),
  • a teaspoon of honorary award,
  • a teaspoon of lady's mantle,
  • a teaspoon of lemon balm,
  • a teaspoon of yarrow
  • and a teaspoon of deadnettle (flowers).

As with breastfeeding tea, a teaspoon can be taken from it for a cup. The women's tea can be drunk twice a day.

Nettle in the kitchen

The uses of nettles in the kitchen are much more versatile than it initially appears. Their wonderful, sour but nutty natural taste is suitable for a variety of rustic recipes, ranging from salads to spreads and pesto to soups and smoothies. Only young shoots of nettle that have not grown higher than 20 cm should be used for this. If you would like to experiment a little more with the nettle in the future, we have a few incentives for you.

Nettle soup with wild herbs:
The nettle soup is one of the oldest soup recipes in German folk cuisine. Especially in the Middle Ages, when nutrient-rich food was too expensive for many citizens, it was considered a rich and healthy food for the poor and the rural population. You can find them today mainly in recipe collections of traditional farmer's kitchens. But wild herb lovers have been discovering nettle soup for a while now. Our recipe:

  • a large bunch of nettles,
  • a small bunch of sorrel,
  • an onion,
  • a bay leaf,
  • a clove of garlic,
  • Soup greens (parsley, chives, dill),
  • Herbs (rosemary, lemon balm, marjoram, nutmeg, pepper),
  • a tablespoon of mustard,
  • a liter of vegetable broth,
  • some herb salt,
  • some sour cream
  • and some sunflower oil.

Step 1: First peel the onion and the garlic before chopping the onion into fine cubes and crushing the garlic. Then the onion pieces are lightly steamed in a large saucepan with some oil before the garlic is added.

Step 2: Wash the nettle and sorrel leaves carefully and add them together with the bay leaf to the onions in the soup pot. Wait until the leaves have collapsed before filling up with vegetable stock.

Step 3: Season the nettle soup to taste with chopped parsley, chives, dill, rosemary and other herbs. Mustard or freshly grated horseradish round off the taste of the soup. Finally, the sour cream is added. If you want, you can puree the soup afterwards.

Green smoothie with nettles and dandelions:
As is well known, green smoothies are the trend. However, the vegetable taste doesn't appeal to everyone. Vegetables such as celery or broccoli, which are particularly strong in aroma and taste very different from the usually fruity smoothie aroma, sometimes take some getting used to. Recipes with mild herbs such as nettle or dandelion offer a much better solution. Combined with a few tasty fruits, you get a smoothie that is green, but the taste is much more pleasant to consume. In addition, such a smoothie, thanks to its draining and detoxifying effect, is good for losing weight or for fasting cures. Here is our suggestion for a delicious nettle-dandelion smoothie:

  • two bananas,
  • two apricots,
  • a handful of grapes,
  • a handful of nettles,
  • half a handful of dandelion leaves
  • and 100 milliliters of water.

Wash the fruit and wild herbs carefully under running water and then peel or core the fruit. After that, nettles and dandelions are placed in the blender before the fruit is then layered over them. Pour water over the whole thing before you put the blender on the highest level and whisk the ingredients into a fine creamy green smoothie. Make sure that all leafy vegetable fibers are chopped up sufficiently before serving the smoothie. If necessary, a too thick consistency can be diluted with additional water.

Nettle as a side dish:
The nettle can also be prepared as a vegetable. The vegetable side dish is very similar to spinach and is basically prepared very similarly. Even the obligatory "blubb" can be made with a little sour cream or sour cream. The vegetables are served with potatoes and fried eggs. But nettle vegetables also taste very good with grilled meat or roasts. The ingredients:

  • 1500 grams of fresh nettle tips,
  • 50 grams of smoked bacon,
  • a medium-sized onion,
  • some flour,
  • some sour cream
  • and some salt and pepper.

1st step: Wash the nettle tips thoroughly and blanch them a little in a large pan. Next, turn the nettle vegetable through the meat grinder, alternatively it can also be cut roughly. In the second round, a little water is put in a saucepan, the nettle vegetables are boiled in them and then seasoned with salt and pepper.

Step 2: Peel the onion and cut it into small cubes, just like the bacon. Onion-bacon melt is now prepared in a small pan with a little flour.

Step 3: Add the melt to the vegetables in the saucepan and let the whole thing boil well. If you want, you can add a little sour cream or sour cream for refinement, just like with ordinary spinach vegetables.

Nettle pesto:
Nettle pesto is a rather modern recipe and is inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. It can be used for the preparation of pasta dishes, but also for salads. An interesting combination results from other Mediterranean ingredients such as feta cheese or olive oil. The latter particularly supports the digestive effect of the nettle. Here is the recipe:

  • 100 grams of nettles,
  • 100 grams of feta cheese,
  • 50 grams of sunflower seeds (roasted),
  • 100 milliliters of olive oil,
  • four cloves of garlic,
  • half a lemon
  • and some salt and pepper.

Peel and chop the garlic and squeeze half a lemon into a cup. Now wash the nettle leaves hot and put them together with the sunflower seeds in a pan with heated olive oil. As soon as the pesto mixture begins to smell aromatic, it is taken off the stove, placed in a blender (optionally use a blender) and roughly mixed together with garlic, feta cheese and lemon juice. Finally, the pesto is seasoned with salt and pepper. (ma)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Dhandayuthapani, Sivanesan et al .: "Urtica dioica Induces Cytotoxicity in Human Prostate Carcinoma LNCaP Cells: Involvement of Oxidative Stress, Mitochondrial Depolarization and Apoptosis", in: Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 13 (5) May 2014,
  • Bodros, Edwin; Baley, Christopher: "Study of the tensile properties of stinging nettle fibers (Urtica dioica)", in: Material Letters, Volume 62, Issue 14, May 2008,
  • Füllbrandt, Roland: Valerian, comfrey, nettle: wild herbs of our home, Volume 2, Books on Demand, 2013
  • Belščak-Cvitanović, Ana: "Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) extracts as functional ingredients for production of chocolates with improved bioactive composition and sensory properties", in: Journal of Food Science and Technology, Volume 52, Issue 12, December 2015, NCBI
  • Cooperation phytopharmaceutical "Arnica plant lexicon: nettle": (accessed: June 27, 2019)
  • Liath, Claudia: The Green Grove, Books on Demand, 2012
  • Schroeder, Wolfgang: Master Herbal Therapy: The 24 Precious Herbs from Europe and Their Benefits in Folk Medicine, Verlag der Heilung, 2012
  • Dreyer, Eva-Maria: Edible wild herbs and their poisonous doppelgangers: Wild herbs collect - but right, Franckh Kosmos Verlag, 2011



  1. Jancsi

    Useful piece

  2. Makkapitew

    I have removed this thought :)

  3. Trentin

    In it something is. Thank you for help in this question, now I will not admit such error.

  4. Vern

    Agree, your idea is brilliant

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