5 Stinging Nettle Recipes + Why This Plant Is So Good For You


Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a versatile herb that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and culinary potential. In this blog, we provide five easy stinging nettle recipes you can make at home, discuss its health benefits, and provide tips on how you can identify and harvest this incredible plant.

Nettle is one of the organic herbs we use here at Wild Dispensary. We use nettle in our Daily Boost.


How to identify nettle

You can use nettle like any green leafy vegetable (think spinach). You can add it to soups, broths, stir fries, salads, pestos, juices or smoothies (keep reading for stinging nettle recipes). You can absolutely eat nettle, but you need to know how to safely identify and harvest it first!

Firstly, make sure you have identified it appropriately! We have a New Zealand native nettle (ongaonga) that you absolutely do not want to mess with - so always make sure you are picking and using Urtica dioica. As you can see below, the leaves look quite different, ongaonga leaves are narrower and more aggressively spikey.

Left: Ongaonga (Utrica ferox) - NOT edible | © Rachel Murray iNaturalist. Right: Stinging nettle ( Urtica dioica) - edible |  © Canva.
Stinging nettle ( Urtica dioica) can grow between 2-6 feet tall. It has a square, fibrous stem with deep grooves running along its length. Nettle’s leaves are oval, dark green with a sharp-toothed tip and a heart-shaped base. The leaves are in opposite pairs and become smaller toward the top of the stem.

Nettle leaves and stems are covered with tiny, hollow hairs that are tipped with silica. Nettle can spread prolifically through its root system, so you will often find them in big clumps. 

How to harvest stinging nettle

Nettle has stinging hairs everywhere that can be very painful when you touch them. So gloves and protective clothing are definitely advised when harvesting. If you don’t have either, but you do have scissors, you can cut the stem of the nettle and try and move it into a basket or container with the scissors. 
Nettle starts to re-emerge in force in spring and early summer. You can harvest the top parts of the plant then. If you want the roots, you can dig them up in spring when the ground is not so cold and hard or after autumn’s first frost. 

Nettle’s sting does decrease after picking as the fresh plant wilts, and with heat or processing, the sting disappears. So fry it like spinach or add it to hot water and then use how you need. It is never recommended you eat it fresh after picking for obvious reasons!


5 health benefits of stinging nettle

1. Nettle can help with allergies

Nettle has many active constituents that can help with inflammation and allergies. It is known as a natural 'antihistamine', which means it can help reduce the effects of spring allergies by modulating or reducing the histamine (allergic response) that you can have from pollen.

You have histamine receptors throughout your body, but particularly in your respiratory system. When pollen enters your respiratory system, your body mistakes it for invading germs. This triggers the release of histamines which tells your brain you need to force the pollen out (i.e. by sneezing).

Nettle can help by blocking that histamine receptor so the pollen can't attach there. It also helps by stopping an enzyme that promotes histamine - thereby reducing your allergic response!

2. Nettle is a tonic herb

Nettle can help support your energy levels as well as support you post-sickness, which is why it is called a tonic plant. Tonic plants are often recommended post-illness, post-injury, after (or during) times of high stress, and to also support your diet. 

Nettle is a rich mineral-dense plant containing many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, as well as a high chlorophyll content. It also contains calcium, magnesium, silica, and iron, as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K that, in addition to a good diet, can be helpful for your well-being. 

Nettle is able to support and energise the whole body, as it is richly nourishing to the blood. Interestingly, as well as helping to nourish the body, nettle also works as an alterative (supports detoxification) and is why it is often recommended in spring when the new nettle plants are growing. After months of heavier winter food, nettle can be included in smoothies, juices, or lightly cooked (stinging nettle recipes coming soon - we promise).

These are just some of the reasons we use nettle it in our Daily Boost with rosehips and kawakawa. This is a nutritive tonic that can be used as a rich plant-based vitamin and mineral supplement to support your energy.


3. Nettle can support blood sugar

Nettle has been shown to support blood sugar levels which in turn can support energy levels. Nettle leaf has active constituents that were found to improve glycemic control in people who suffer from type 2 diabetes.  A study using nettle leaf extract was found to improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes who required insulin therapy (Kianbakht et al., 2013).

4.  Nettle supports the kidney and the genitourinary system

Nettle is a diuretic, which means it increases urinary output. It can help to flush the urinary system, and ease discomfort, so can be helpful for urinary tract infections (obviously, you need to keep an eye on UTIs as you may need antibiotics). Nettle can help to soften and remove kidney stones and gravel from the urinary tract and can reduce fluid retention and urinary concerns.

Nettle root is often used to support the prostate and is recommended alongside saw palmetto for cases of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). One study showed that 81% of participants saw a modest reduction in symptoms after taking nettle root (Safarinejad, 2005).

5. Nettle can be used topically

Nettle has been used traditionally as a topical treatment for sore joints and muscles. The ‘sting’ from the nettle is directly applied to the sore part of the body, which activates an inflammatory response. Ancient Romans and Egyptians used to actively flick nettle on sore parts of their body to help with pain and mobility and to keep warm. Luckily we have other options now! 

The act of using stinging nettle on a sore site provides temporary pain relief as well as stimulating lymphatic flow, circulation and cellular metabolism. Nettle cream has even been used to help with osteoarthritis, a clinical trial where osteoarthritis patients applied a nettle cream to sore and painful joints found that stinging nettle could help reduce the pain they were experiencing (Rayburn et al., 2009).

5 stinging nettle recipes

1. Stinging nettle infusion

Nettle makes an amazing infusion. If you have a teapot or a coffee plunger, you can make this stinging nettle recipe easily. A medium teapot or coffee plunger will hold about 6 cups of liquid. Add a good few handfuls of fresh nettle (or even as much as half the pot with fresh leaves) and add hot water.
Leave overnight to steep. In the morning, you can drink it cold as a drink throughout the day, or you could add it to your smoothies. When making a green smoothie, you could add fresh nettles to a cup and pour a little hot water over the leaves to remove the sting. Strain and then add to your smoothie or juice and blend away.


2. Nettle hair rinse 

Follow the instructions for the stinging nettle recipe above to make an overnight steep. The next day, you can use the cold water infusion as a hair rinse. The naturally high silica content found in nettle helps to give your hair a healthy bounce as well as support hair loss and scalp health.

3. Nettle and herb pesto

This stinging nettle recipe is a simple and affordable way of using nettle in a pesto. 
  • 3 cups herbs (packed firmly) – e.g. parsley, coriander, basil, mint, nettle, cleavers, chickweed
  • 1 cup toasted sunflower seeds (or other nuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, squeezed
  • ½ - ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup parmesan or tasty cheddar cheese

Throw everything except the oil into your food processor, once mixed and ground down, start slowly adding the oil until you get the consistency you like. You can use this pesto in so many ways: on pizzas, in pasta, on crackers and to garnish your soup.


4. Nettle vinegar

Nettle is a mineral-dense plant, which means its amazing constituents are best pulled out through vinegar. You can infuse fresh or dried nettle leaves in apple cider vinegar to add to salads or to have as a functional vinegar to support your health.
With fresh nettle leaves, pick enough to fill a jar. Wash them thoroughly and then add them to your clean jar. Cover with apple cider vinegar and seal tightly. Label and then leave this stinging nettle recipe to infuse for four weeks - shaking every day if possible. Strain after four weeks and use as needed.

5. Stinging nettle tea recipe for your nerves

You can use fresh or dried nettles in this recipe for a herbal tea to help your nervous system.

5 or 6 nettle leaves
5 fresh chamomile flowers
Add to a teapot or coffee plunger with 150ml hot water. Leave to steep for about 10 minutes. Strain into a cup and add 1 dropper of our Rest and Calm.
1 teaspoon of dried nettle
1 teaspoon chamomile 
Add to a teapot or coffee plunger with 150ml water. Leave to steep for about 10 minutes. Pour into a cup and add 1 dropper of Rest and Calm for an extra nervine boost.

If you don’t have chamomile, you can use lemon balm.
Nettle is an amazingly versatile plant that can help support you in such simple and affordable ways (like the stinging nettle recipes we shared above), but keep experimenting.  There are so many ways of using nettle that we haven’t covered in this blog - you can add dried nettle to your cracker recipe. Or you could use a nettle infusion to cook your rice or oats to add an extra boost to your meals. However you use it, enjoy!


Kianbakht S, Khalighi-Sigaroodi F, Dabaghian FH. Improved glycemic control in patients with advanced type 2 diabetes mellitus taking Urtica dioica leaf extract: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Clin Lab. 2013;59(9-10):1071-6. doi: 10.7754/clin.lab.2012.121019. PMID: 24273930.

Rayburn K, Fleischbein E, Song J, Allen B, Kundert M, Leiter C, Bush T. Stinging nettle cream for osteoarthritis. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009 Jul-Aug;15(4):60-1. PMID: 19623834.

Safarinejad MR. Urtica dioica for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. J Herb Pharmacother. 2005;5(4):1-11. PMID: 16635963.

Thayer, S. (2006). The forager’s harvest. Forager’s Harvest Press.

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