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Grasping the nettle

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 426022.
Website: www.nimh.org.uk


(6024) Barbara Rowlands. Daily Telegraph