The leaves of the garden stinging nettle - taken as a tea, a
soup or in cooked food - are good for chronic skin and joint conditions,
eczema, asthma and hay fever. Rich in vitamins A,C,E and K, trace
elements and minerals (including iron, silica, potassium and tannin),
nettles are also used in the treatment of nose bleeds, heavy periods,
urinary tract infections (e.g. cystitis) and high blood pressure.
Directions for use: Pick the leaves when young (wearing gloves).
These can be chopped to make into a tea, added to a stew, or steamed
or boiled and eaten like a vegetable. The taste is reminiscent
of spinach. Leftover tea can be poured onto the head to strengthen
hair or boost growth. It can also be applied to the skin to relieve
varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Don't overdo it, Houghton advises.
One side effect for some people is gastric irritation.
A 1989 double-blind study by the US National College of Naturopathic
Medicine showed that they performed significantly better than
a placebo (nettles 58%, placebo 37%) in relieving the symptoms
of hay fever
A 1994 Japanese study showed that nettle root extract could
help in some cases of benign prostate disease
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In Germany, where nettles are popular, their use for this disease
is now officially endorsed. Dr. Peter Houghton of King's College,
London, tells us that the roots have a general stimulating effect
on the immune system - rather like echinacea - but can also be
used as a mild sedative.
For more information contact: The National Institute of Medical
Herbalists, 56 Longbrook Street, Exeter, EX4 6AH. Tel.: 01392
Barbara Rowlands. Daily Telegraph