Sometimes healthy eating is just a matter of getting more connected to your food source. Becoming familiar with the seasonality of regional edible plants allows you to access healthy foods at the peak of their ripeness. Nutrition and Wellness Elevated develops a monthly blog post featuring an edible plant that is in harvesting season in Colorado that month. Be sure to compare this to your State’s seasonal crop calendar.
This month that plant is the stinging nettle. This perennial flowering plant is probably best known for its ability to produce an uncomfortable stinging sensation when brushed against the skin. However, stinging nettle has also been used for thousands of years in foods and medicinally. Stinging nettles are low in calories but offer a multitude of vitamins and minerals including iron, potassium, and calcium as well as vitamins A, K, and C. This stinging plant also contains bioactive polyphenol and antioxidant compounds. It is through these properties that stinging nettle offers its health benefits.
Circulation: Iron functions as a structural component on red blood cells which are responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood, while vitamin C assists in iron absorption in the gut. Because the stinging nettle plant is naturally high in vitamin C and iron it can assist in increasing red blood cell production and oxygen circulation. Decreased brain fog, muscle weakness, and improved energy levels can result as iron deficiency improves and circulation increases. Additionally, increased circulation can speed wound healing.
Detoxification: The circulatory effects of stinging nettles may support a detoxification role. Increased circulation encourages toxin removal. Stinging nettles are also a natural diuretic, which result in more water being pulled out of blood vessels and passed in urine. You can read more about toxin removal in my detoxification post but suffice it to say that this urinary elimination of water is important in assisting toxin removal from the blood. Not only do stinging nettles support toxin elimination, antioxidant vitamins contained within the plant will also support the liver in processing toxins efficiently for removal.
Inflammation: Studies have supported the historical use of stinging nettle for its anti-inflammatory properties. Reduction in inflammation may be related to the plant’s role in blood vessel dilation, increased circulation, and toxin removal although mechanisms aren’t proven. Stinging nettle can be used topically to reduce localized joint pain but the plant has also been shown to be effective in decreasing inflammation when consumed orally in teas. Try including nettle in the diet to ease various inflammatory conditions such as muscle aching, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis.
These are just a few of the benefits that have been associated with the stinging nettle plant. Find a new love for this stinging plant by trying my nettle pesto recipe.