Stinging nettles grow everywhere between April and September. However, this inconspicuous plant is usually avoided since contact with its stings leads to painful weals on the skin – an effective protective mechanism against predators.
And nettles have good reason to protect themselves, because they are much more than just weeds. They have a long tradition as both a food and a medicinal plant and can be used in many ways – from salad and soup to pesto, wild herb spinach, tea and even beer. Young nettles with their light green leaves contain a lot of protein, vitamins (folic acid, vitamins A, B, C, D and E) and minerals, including silicic acid, iron and potassium. You can find numerous nettle recipes online.
The plant is best harvested with garden gloves. If the washed leaves are wrung vigorously (e.g. under a kitchen towel), boiled or coated with oil, the stinging hairs lose their effect. The seeds and roots can also be eaten. Nettles should not be eaten in large quantities every day due to their high nitrate content.
Effect as a medicinal plant
Nettle leaves are rich in flavonoids which have a mild diuretic effect and can therefore be used, for example, as a natural remedy for bladder infections. Other ingredients are also said to have anti-inflammatory and circulation-boosting properties and are therefore good for heavy legs and digestive problems.
Nettle roots are also used as a herbal remedy for men suffering from the onset of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), as the phytohormones they contain can facilitate urination.