Why You Should Add Stinging Nettle to Your Diet

Stinging nettle is usually something to avoid. But did you know that this vibrant green herb can improves blood sugar metabolism, prevents weight gain, and reduces pain? Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a springtime, flowering plant that grows abundantly in North America and temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere. The leaves are rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids (the building blocks of protein), and powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols and carotenoids. So how come that this plant has got such a scary name?

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According to Healthline, Urtica dioica comes from the Latin word ‘uro,’ which means “to burn,” because stinging nettle can cause a temporary burning sensation upon contact. The stems and leaves of stinging nettle are covered with needle-like hairs, called trichomes. Each trichome contains a mix of irritating compounds, including histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and formic acid. The little hairs are brittle, and they break off and cling to hair and skin, which can cause irritation, itching. But once it’s been dried, freeze-dried, or cooked, it’s safe to consume. This plant has been used for centuries; Ancient Egyptians used stinging nettle to treat arthritis and lower back pain, and Roman troops rubbed it on themselves to keep warm.

Stinging Nettle Makes a Great Dietary Supplement

Because stinging nettle contains ingredients that regulate blood sugar, decrease inflammation, and increase urination, it’s used to treat diabetes, osteoarthritis, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and muscle pain. When consumed as an extract, stinging nettle has been shown to improve blood sugar metabolism in mice. When consumed as an herb, stinging nettle seems to affect our metabolism and the way we burn fat positively. A recent study by the University of Maryland revealed that feeding mice the leaves from the stinging nettle plant prevented the mice from gaining weight — even while being on a high-fat diet.

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NC State Extension reports that topical creams containing stinging nettle are used for joint pain and various skin ailments, like eczema and dandruff. If you want to give stinging nettle a try, steep the dried leaves and flowers to make tea, or add the leaves, stems, and roots to soups, stews, smoothies, and stir-fries. Whether you try the extract, herb, or cream — remember this: The FDA doesn’t regulate the ingredients, strengths, and claims of herbal remedies or supplements, so always consult with your doctor first.