Just recently I found out that stinging nettle, aka "nettle" is an edible wild plant with medicinal properties and a common spinach substitute for recipes. How did I find this out? I attended a cooking class with my mom at Ezra's Enlightened Café and chef Audrey Barron explained that nettle is a great herb to cook with and that it helped her husband's joint pain. I thought this was pretty neat, so I did some more research. Take a look at what I found. 

What is Nettle? 

herb, pasture, vegetable, ginseng
Josi Miller

Stinging nettle is a fast-growing wild plant that can be found all over North America. The name comes from the stinging sensation you get when it touches your skin. Their leaves and stems are covered with tiny sharp needles that release a combination of histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin. These chemicals cause the skin to turn red, itch, and swell. 

What are the Health Benefits of Nettle?

According to several studies conducted by Penn State University, there are anti-inflammatory qualities in the nettle's leaves, stems, and roots. Furthermore, some cases have shown nettle to relieve joint pain, allergies, and urinary issues. 

Audrey Barron explained to the class that when she whacked her husband with stinging nettle, his joint pain went away in his knees. Although it wasn't exactly a controlled experiment, his pain did go away and has yet to return.

How to Use Nettle for Health Purposes

There are several different ways to use nettle to aid your health. The first is to use the leaves and make nettle tea. To do this you dry out the leaves and then they can be steeped and made into tea. Stinging nettle extracts are also available to apply directly to the body for joint relief. Finally, there are tablets you can take to help with stomach or urinary disorders. 

How to Cook with Nettle 

Nettle is very similar to spinach, in regards to the way it tastes and combines with other food. In the cooking class, we had nettle in our smoothie and pesto sauce. The leaves can be steamed or cooked and once the leaves are cooked they lose their sting. You also can eat the leaves raw but make sure that you crumble up the leaf before chewing or your mouth will sting. 

There are so many uses for nettle but make sure you know what it looks like and how it needs to be handled. For more information check out this website. My mom and I left the class with four great, healthy recipes and more knowledge on how our back yard plants can be used for everyday purposes. If you'd like to know more about herbal recipes take a look at this article