There are so many foods that boost nutrient intake and improve bone health, but one food that’s captured my interest lately is actually an herb — stinging nettle. Though many of us in North America tend to regard stinging nettle as an irksome lawn weed, the plant has a long history of use as a multi-purpose medicinal herb. Dried or wilted, and prepared in a simple infusion, stinging nettle is a fascinating option for women with osteoporosis.
Stinging nettle is a nutritional powerhouse for bones
One of the important facets of this plant is its amazing nutrient content — including many key nutrients for bone health. Herbalist Susan Weed says that “[there] is no denser nutrition found in any plant, not even bluegreen algae” and after looking at the nutritional studies of this herb, I believe it!
Stinging nettle is rich in a multitude of amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins, flavonoids, and is a terrific source of many bone-building minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, silicon, potassium, manganese zinc, copper, and chromium) and vitamins, including vitamin K (an important bone builder), vitamin C (a key antioxidant shown to reduce fracture risk) and most of the B vitamins (Ait Haj Said et al., 2015; Segneanu et al., 2017).
Scientists have started to take a closer look at this nutritional powerhouse, and the number of potential medicinal benefits range from anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory action to immune boosting, blood pressure reduction, relief of rhinitis, arthritis and rheumatism, and diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention (Di Virgilio et al., 2015; Ait Haj Said et al., 2015; Segneanu et al., 2017). And, of course, its many nutrients have value for osteoporosis and bone health — but unfortunately, there’s very limited research in this area. What little there is does suggest that nettles might help maintain bone density during menopause (Gupta et al., 2014), so hopefully more studies will be undertaken.
Easy ways to give nettles a try
So how do we unlock the benefits of this multi-faceted herb? Susun Weed recommends making an herbal infusion using about 1 ounce of dried nettles (about 1 cup of dried nettles) added to 1 quart of boiling water and allowed to brew for at least four hours (or overnight) to extract the bone-supporting nutrients from the herb. Once it’s done steeping, you’d strain it, making sure to squeeze the soaked herbs to get every bit of goodness out of them, and then refrigerate it to use over the next few days.
Simply drink the nettle infusion cold or warm (reheat infusion to temperature of your liking) all on its own, or, as Susun Weed suggests, mix the infusion with a little fruit juice for sweetness.
There are abundant recipes online for using nettle or nettle infusion in soups, stir fry, or pasta dishes — cooked, the nettle compares in flavor to spinach. Here are some nettle-infused dishes one of our clients shared to give us all some inspiration:
Arugula salad with 1 cup kidney beans, avocado, hemp seeds, olive oil, lemon juice and ground red pepper; nettle infusion; watermelon.
Kale salad with apples, almonds, olive oil and apple cider vinegar; watermelon; nettle infusion
Tossed salad with blackened catfish, hard boiled egg and balsamic vinaigrette; nettle infusion.