There are unique benefits and side effects to drinking nettle tea. Yet nothing will erase the memory of being constantly bitten by them as a child, and mooring sheets DO NOT WORK.
As a child growing up in rural Ireland, my three significant enemies, in order of threat level, were; 1) my older sisters were relentless in their quest to capture me and dress me as a human doll; 2) ringworm and 3) nettles.
I was that kid who always got bitten. Once I fell into a bush full of them. My whole face swelled up like an overzealous botox practitioner had attacked me. I was pricked inside my eyelid and I still remember the pain. When you’re screaming in pain (I’ve been told I was a wee bit dramatic as a kid), the last thing you want to hear is “Rubbing dock sheets on it”.
Before the Internet and WebMD, Ireland had two answers to every problem: flat 7-Up and dock leaves. Dock sheets never worked. I’ve always thought nature was cruel enough to put a so-called sting remedy next to nettles. Even as a kid, I remember saying to one of my friends, “Why would they do that? That’s STUPID.”
Ireland has a few of these medical anomalies side by side. For example, pubs are usually next to chippers. The best cure for a hangover is a bag of salty crisps and a can of Coke. Yet they don’t open or deliver at 9:30 a.m. when your youngest yells at you, “I WANT HOT MILK AND WEETABIX AND PJ MASKS. NOW!”
There is no scientific evidence to claim that dock leaves have the power to heal bites. A recent article by Phil Gates biologists Dr Christian Dunn for BBC Wildlife magazine stated that: “One possibility is that dock leaf juice evaporating from the skin may have a surface cooling effect on sensation. Another is that dock leaves may contain natural antihistamines, which reduce irritation, although none have been identified.”
Most online sources point out the placebo effect and that the actual rubbing makes you forget about the bites.
However, people have been known to force themselves to get bitten, let alone seek a cure afterwards. A friend of mine told a story where their eldest child had a terrible hay fever. They tried everything to soothe his symptoms with local honey, salt lamps and all natural elixirs from health stores. Expensive goo for his nostrils, not drying his clothes outside, everything. She told me that she then read an article stating that nettles increase the body’s natural antihistamine.
Stinging nettle leaf may help reduce hay fever symptoms by acting as an anti-inflammatory. There is some truth to this, as research has linked the treatment with stinging nettle leaf to relieve symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes.
But as always, further studies with evolving monitored results are needed to confirm the benefits. However, undeterred and at her wits end, she tried to walk him through a big pile of nettles every day for a week. She said to me, “It didn’t do anything, but now it shakes when you’re near a field.”
The benefits are more likely to be found in eating the nettle instead of getting stung by it. Nettle tea is the most common form of introduction of this weed into the esophagus. However, I would not be a decent son of nature and would not pick them myself, even though I know they can be picked without harm.
It was a well-worn outdoor party trick so the kids would catch them and not get stung. It was up there with peeing on an electric fence. I was going to buy them all beautifully packaged and presented.
What surprised me in my local supermarket was a wide selection of herbal teas and nettle teas. So I bought a few brands and started downing two cups a day for six weeks – one cup in the morning and one at lunch.
Usually I Google the benefits and then compare my results to anything similar I’ve found. But I didn’t this time. I didn’t want to be pre-programmed with ideas that would make me think I was getting health benefits from it.
The only drink that I have found beneficial to go for the effort to do in the last year is turmeric tea. It definitely made me eat less at night. Note that this may not be the case for everyone, bellies differ. But it’s painful to do. You have to stir it constantly, otherwise it will get grainy and if you spill it, your whole house will turn yellow.
Nettles contain vitamins C, D and K and minerals such as iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Even though it includes all these lovely ingredients, it unfortunately doesn’t help its taste. The flavor of nettle tea is more or less what you imagine. But I trained myself to like it.
Every time I sipped it, I pretended to be a survival expert sitting cross-legged by a campfire. The irony is that I can barely get out of bed in the morning; I’m so stiff.
Two weeks into my indoor campfire ritual, I noticed I was going to the bathroom a lot. I was not taking extra fluids as I had replaced the nettle tea with regular tea. It was a side effect that made it almost impossible to drink it. I couldn’t have it as a drink if I was on a Zoom call because I would have to get up and spend a dime. But I noticed a huge benefit.
When I have tea or coffee, I always have a biscuit. It’s almost impossible for me to have a cup without it. The best thing about nettle tea was that sweet treats (especially my Tunnocks tea cakes) didn’t go well with it.
The cookies taste disgusting alongside my hot new brew. I only go through one pack of Tunnocks a week now, and I’ve seen my waistband loosen…just a little bit. Who knew those boring green leaves could do that!
But wait, there’s more… wait until I tell you what its close cousin, the thistle, can do for you.