Nettle: properties, benefits, uses in the kitchen

We all know it for its stinging effect but we often underestimate its beneficial characteristics and healing properties: we are talking about nettle, a perennial herbaceous plant of ancient origins. Why is it good and how can we use it in the kitchen? Here is a small guide to get to know it better.

Nettle is a perennial plant belonging to the Urticaceae family, native to Africa and western Asia, present today in all temperate areas of the earth. Rich in mineral salts, a friend of the intestine and all of the skin, nettle was already known in ancient times as a medicinal plant despite its pungent action. Used in cosmetics in creams and packs, nettle has diuretic and purifying effects as well as antioxidant and soothing effects: let’s get to know it better.

Properties of the nettle

If we look at the chemical composition of the nettle, we must distinguish the properties of the leaves and those of the roots.

Leaves are rich in mineral salts, in particular magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium, they contain chlorophyll, flavonoids and vitamins, while there is no lack of carotenoids and nitrates. Definitely low-calorie (just 42 kcal per 100 grams), leaves are mainly composed of water (82.6 grams) and are almost totally lacking in fats and sugars.

Roots have several active ingredients and mainly contain phytosterols, lectins, polysaccharides, oxalic acid and linoleic acid.

Benefits of nettle

Always considered a medicinal herb with countless therapeutic virtues, nettle is a real concentrate of benefits. In particular:

✓ It helps digestion: able to help the absorption of food and the natural digestive action because it contains a hormone produced by our stomach, called idiot, able to stimulate the secretion of pancreatic juices;

✓ rich in mineral salts, has a restorative and invigorating effect, useful in periods of particular stress or fatigue;
purifying and diuretic, has a detoxifying action and helps us eliminate toxins and excess fluids;

✓ it has a vasoconstrictor and haemostatic effect: it is useful in case of nasal haemorrhages and is recommended in case of the abundant and painful menstrual cycle;

✓ it has an anti-inflammatory and astringent action, therefore recommended in case of diarrhoea, colitis or dysentery;
chlorophyll gives the nettle strong anti-anaemic properties, useful for fighting forms of anaemia caused by lack of iron or blood loss;

✓ for external use, nettle has an emollient effect, it is therefore used to counteract eczema, skin rashes or forms of acne;

✓ helps us to control the level of cholesterol in the blood and is useful for treating hypertension thanks to its vasodilator effect.

Use in the kitchen

How to use nettle in the kitchen? Once cleaned and lightly blanched, thanks to their slightly bitter taste that is partly reminiscent of the more common rocket, the nettle leaves are perfect for enriching omelettes, quiches, soups or delicious risottos.

Alternatively and in the most common use, nettle is used for decoctions and herbal teas: just leave the leaves to infuse for 10 minutes in boiling water and you can naturally fight coughs, colds and seasonal ailments.

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