Healthy and Healing Nettle Herbal Tea
The common nettle, or stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a plant usually regarded as one to be wary of; most of us can remember the searing pain of a nettle sting, either in childhood or more recently, so it's not surprising they are viewed with caution. However, the multitude of health-giving benefits this formidable plant has to offer more than makes up for its outwardly hostile character. Nettles have been used over thousands of years for medicinal purposes, as well as being a food source, an ingredient for beer and wine-making, and nutritious nettle tea infusions. Fortunately, once nettles are soaked in water or cooked they will no longer sting, so can be handled and consumed without fear!
Nettles are herbaceous perennial plants that are often considered weeds and, if left alone, will grow in abundance, sometimes reaching over a metre in height. Originally found growing in Europe, Asia and North America, they now flourish in many countries, being able to withstand extremes of temperature. Their sting comes from contact with tiny hairs, called trichomes, on their leaves and stems, that inject a mix of formic acid, histamine and other chemicals into the hapless victim. Conversely, nettles make the perfect habitat for many species of insects, since they offer protection from grazing animals that will usually avoid them. Insects somehow manage to negotiate the tiny hairs without being stung, and certain butterflies, such as small tortoiseshells, painted ladies, peacocks and commas are attracted to them. Ladybirds can often be seen on nettle leaves, where they will lay their eggs and feed on aphids that may gather there, and birds are also drawn to them as they provide food in the form of insects and seeds.
Being related to flax and hemp, the tough, fibrous stems of nettles have been used in many cultures to make natural fabrics and rope. Nettles have long been an ingredient in traditional Native American herbal medicine, and were also used by the Ancient Egyptians and Romans. Indeed, it is thought the first nettle plants in Britain were introduced by the Romans, who apparently would thrash themselves with them to increase blood circulation and protect against rheumatism and muscle pain! Nettles have been the subject of folklore in many countries; Scandinavian mythology associates them with Thor, the god of thunder, and it's said they were thrown on fires in the belief this would offer protection from being struck by lightning.
Nettle tea is reputed to offer a wide range of health benefits. Nettles are rich in calcium and magnesium and have high concentrations of vitamins A and C, as well as vitamins B, D and K. They contain iron, folic acid, iodine, potassium, manganese, phosphorus and amino acids. There are organic compounds and chemicals in nettles thought to work as natural antihistamines; many people drink nettle tea to help alleviate hay fever symptoms and allergic reactions. Their anti-inflammatory properties are believed to be of benefit to sufferers of rheumatism, osteoarthritis, gout, and other inflammatory conditions. Nettle tea is sometimes used in the treatment of respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and sinusitis, and to help break up congestion from coughs and colds. Being a natural diuretic, it can offer relief from fluid retention and is beneficial to kidney health. It contains antioxidants, antifungal and antibacterial properties, and is thought to generally help boost the immune system.
Nettle tea is a refreshing beverage that can be enjoyed at any time of day. It has a light, grassy taste, and its versatility makes it suitable to blend with other teas, such as rooibos and fruit tisanes. Its flavour can be further enhanced with the addition of fresh orange juice, lemon, ginger, honey or mint. It also works well as an iced tea.
At Tea-Direct.co.uk we range hundreds of wonderful loose leaf teas and sumptuous infusions from around the world, including a delicious range of nettle herbal teas. Through our network of gifted buyers, we carefully select the very finest varieties for your enjoyment, and swiftly deliver them to your home, work, or anywhere else!