Stinging Nettle Seeds

by Suzan Ferreira
Stinging Nettle Seeds featured image showing both a stalk of stinging nettles with both the nettle seeds and the stinging nettle leaves attached along with a bunch of foraged stinging nettle seeds resting in a wooden bowl

Stinging nettle seeds, a powerful superfood!  Nettle seeds are full of herbal health and nutrition, are easy to identify and forage, with multiple ways to utilize them to their fullest potential.

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What?  You’ve never heard of stinging nettle seeds?  

Well you are in for a treat, my friend.  These tiny wonders are packed with so many benefits you will be wondering why you haven’t searched and gathered your own before now.

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Read on to discover how to identify, forage, and harvest stinging nettle seeds, their benefits, & their uses along with several simple recipes you can give a try!

STINGING NETTLE SEEDS DEFINED

Here on the hill we love our nettle.  An amazingly beneficial plant which grows abundantly here in the NE.  Hopefully where you reside as well!

You will find stinging nettle readily growing in moist, nutrient rich soil.  Like my compost pile.  Literally.

SHARING IS CARING ❤️

Stinging Nettle Seeds pin created for Pinterest showing stinging nettle seed plant in background with white lettering overlaying the image stating All About Stinging Nettle Seeds!

When foraging, look to riverbanks & water edges for stands of nettle.  It will likely be growing in shade to full sun in gardening zones 4 to 8 here in the U.S. 

Considered a powerhouse superfood, all parts of the nettle plant offer something beneficial.

The leaves are high in proteins, minerals, vitamins, and offer the spring forager a tasty & healthy food.  And all for FREE!

The 4 ribbed stems are wondrously fibrous and have been woven into baskets and clothing throughout time.

The flowers, although edible, don’t offer the complete nutritional & beneficial offerings as the seeds do.  However, they are beautiful and generally result in the ultimate development of the seed.

The roots are both edible & medicinal and are unique in their beneficial properties.  Be sure to visit the complete guide to making tincture from the roots of the nettle plant!

It’s the stinging nettle seeds which are the star of the plant’s offerings in our humble opinion.  So many beneficial properties, and all in a seed no bigger than a flea!

Stinging Nettle Seeds image showing stinging nettle flowers growing along a stalk of stinging nettle with leaves still attached

As the stinging nettle plant progresses throughout the growing months (here typically late July into early August), the plant begins to put on a full display of delicate tiny flowers which, although edible, do not possess the beneficial properties of the seeds.

As the plant’s name suggests, Urtica dioica translating to “two houses”, means that this plant variety has separate male and female plants.  

Although, just to add confusion, there is a subspecies of nettle which possess both the male and the female flowers on the same plant, a monoecious plant, Urtica dioica subsp. gracilis.  

It is this subspecies which I believe I have growing in my compost as seen in the video below. 

This particular species has both male and female flowers all on one stem.  The female being at the tip or top of the stem, the male flowers growing toward the bottom of the stem, and the seed clusters along mid-stem.  This particular species is native to Eastern North America.

DIFFERENTIATING THE MALE AND FEMALE STINGING NETTLE PLANTS

The male flowers produce the pollen used to fertilize the female plant, resulting in the creation of the seeds.  When looking to harvest and gather the seeds, it’s the female plant or the compact seed clusters (depending on which species are available to you), we are looking for.  The issue?  They can be a bit difficult to differentiate.

The ball shaped flowers found on the male plant resemble small pumpkins.  When closely inspected, the clusters will contain some flowers which have opened (releasing its pollen within) and some which are closed.  These flower clusters grow in a string-like fashion (similar to the female plant), which grow in a horizontal fashion and tend to point upward at the ends.

The female flowers differ from the male flowers in that they tend to hang in a downward fashion.  

Quickly, these flowers begin to transform into clusters of geometric shaped green seed pods which grow in a string-like fashion from the main stem.  

Stinging Nettle Seeds image showing top of stinging nettle stalk with both stinging nettle seeds in varied shades of green and stinging nettle leaves attached

Once the seeds begin to develop and fatten, they are easily identified as they become heavy and chunky, pointing in a downward fashion.

DISCLAIMER

Recommendations and or suggestions made by this blog regarding husbandry and or herbal remedies etc. are not meant to replace solid advice from qualified professionals.  None of the information on this blog has been evaluated by the FDA.  Products or remedies mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.  Please do your due diligence.  Research, talk to qualified professionals and proceed at your own risk.

BENEFITS OF STINGING NETTLE SEEDS

The seeds of the nettle plant are the most nutritious portion of the plant.  Filled with beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids & oil-soluble vitamins (not found in the leaf), and a host of other nutrients & vitamins (iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, silicon, beta-carotene, folic acid & Vitamins A, B, C, E, K, phosphorus, potassium), the benefits of stinging nettle seeds are put to good use.

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Long put to varied uses by herbalists and the home apothecary for …

  • STIMULANT – Known for their energy boosting nourishment without the crash of caffeine.  Be aware that ingesting the fresh, green seeds may be a bit over-stimulating.  Be sure to start off with a small amount, no more than 1/4 tsp or less and work up from there
  • ADAPTOGENIC – Adaptogens aid the body with stress response as they strengthen the adrenal glands and the endocrine system.  Nettle seeds keep good company right alongside other adaptogenic herbs such as Schisandra, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, Shatavari, Goji, Tulsi, and Turmeric to name just a few
  • KIDNEY AID – Used as a restorative for the kidneys, the endocrine system, and even the liver
  • SKIN & HAIR – Nettle seeds are so good for both the skin and the hair that even our equine friends were given them prior to being sold to add a bit of shine to their coat and an energetic bounce to their step in past years
  • ANTI-INFLAMMATORY – I’ve heard of the seeds being added to ointments for pain and arthritis relief.  Hmmm, may have to give that a try
  • CHRONIC EXHAUSTION – As someone who deals with EBV on a daily basis, you can bet your bottom dollar these seeds will be on my list of daily supplements to take
  • ANTI-PARASITIC – The seeds offer a unique anti-parasitic action for combating parasites in the intestinal tract

AND it’s amazing how little you actually need to utilize in order to be on the receiving end of the seeds’ beneficial properties!

For an average sized adult, taking just about ¼ tsp of the seeds per day is all that’s really needed!

STINGING NETTLE SEED CAUTIONS

When utilizing stinging nettle seeds internally, keep in mind that you may not want to exceed 1 Tablespoon per day.  It can be very overstimulating when taken in large doses.

I don’t recommend taking any more than 1 tsp up to 1 Tbl  per day.  

That being said, you may want to experiment with lower amounts initially until you can determine your reaction to it. Typically a good amount to start with is 1/4 tsp and work up from there.

I recommend taking the seed earlier instead of later in the day.  Again, the seed can be stimulating and personally, I like my sleep 😊

HOW TO HARVEST AND DRY STINGING NETTLE SEEDS

When it comes to harvesting stinging nettle seeds, foragers differ in their perspective of when it’s best to gather them.  While they remain fresh, green, and vibrant in color or when they turn brown.

For me, common sense tells me that while they are fresh and vibrant on the stem, they are at their peak as far as nutrients and beneficial properties, filled with the highest levels of oils, aromatics, and alkaloids, as the plant’s energy is still being directed toward growing the seed.

Stinging Nettle Seeds image showing closeup view of cluster of green stinging nettle seeds

Once they turn brown, their growth is past and the plant’s energy is now being directed toward strengthening its root system.  Brown seeds are, however, great for gathering should your intent be to plant your own!

So harvesting when they are still green and vibrant and full of medicinal properties at their peak is the choice for me 😊  Here in the NE this typically means mid to late August to early September.

As the nettle plant is a harbinger of all things creepy crawly, I recommend not just snipping off the seed clusters, although you can opt to do this.  Instead, I recommend cutting the entire stem and hanging them to dry to allow these critters time to escape.

HARVESTING NETTLE SEED CLUSTERS ONLY

To harvest the nettle seed clusters only, grab the nettle stalk with a gloved hand, holding it while using the opposite hand to remove the seed clusters individually.  No worry about the sting as the seeds harbor no ill intent. However, that being said, I have been stung a few times during this growth stage albeit mildly.

Using a sharp pair of snips, simply cut from the stem the seed clusters you want allowing them to fall into a large bowl or pail.

Alternatively, you could hold the stem with the gloved hand and strip the stem from the bottom cluster of seed to the tip allowing them to drop into a large gathering basket, box, or bowl.  

Stinging Nettle Seeds images showing hand holding a large wooden bowl filled with stinging nettle seeds

Once in the bowl, remove any small stems and leaves, leaving only the seed clusters.  Or you could remove the leaves prior to stripping the clusters from the stem.

HARVESTING NETTLE SEEDS BY THE STEM

Harvesting by the stem is a great option for those with an area in which to hang the stems upside down to dry.

Snip the stem using protective gear on the hands (and I recommend at least a long sleeved shirt as well) 4-5 inches below where you want to hang it.  Taking the top ½ to ⅓ of the seed on the stem will ensure the seeds are at their fullest and most abundant.

DRYING NETTLE SEEDS

Drying nettle seeds is a quick process.  When the seeds have been harvested by the clusters, simply lay the clusters out onto a cooling rack lined with parchment paper, a large bowl, or just your countertop on a piece of parchment.  

Once dry, rub the clusters over a fine mesh sieve over a bowl between your fingers, wearing thin gloves if you choose.  You will be left with a bounty of dried nettle seeds.

For those residing in a highly humid climate, you may want to use a dehydrator to help out.  Process the clusters whole at about 104°F (40°C) overnight or until they are on the crispy side. 

Process the seeds from the husks by rubbing them together over a sieve into a bowl.

Stinging Nettle Seeds image showing stalk of stinging nettle with both stinging nettle leaves and stinging nettle seeds still attached hanging upside down with blurred background

When using the hanging method, take 3-4 stems, tightly tie them together near the bottom of the stems.  Turn them upside down and hang them until dry in an area out of direct light with good ventilation. 

This can take anywhere between several days to a week, depending on your climate.  Process the seeds as listed above.

HOW TO PROCESS & STORE DRIED STINGING NETTLE SEEDS

Take the dried nettle seeds and run them through a fine mesh sieve to remove any unwanted additions, & place into a jar.

Tightly seal with a lid.  Don’t forget to label and date the contents!

Store the jar in a dark, cool cupboard.

STINGING NETTLES SEEDS – HOW TO USE TO THEIR FULLEST

To use stinging nettle seeds to their fullest potential, you have some options.

IN COOKING

 As stated, stinging nettle seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition.  A superfood in their own right.  The taste mildly salty with an added yummy crunch, and can be eaten either raw or dried.

Nettle seeds that have not overly ripened have a wonderful texture to them.  A bit crunchy with a mild nutty taste that’s slightly salty.

Here are a few ideas of how to use stinging nettle seeds in cooking …

  • SPRINKLED ON TOP – Sprinkle them over just about any dish.  Salads, oatmeal, granola, and even sandwiches all benefit from the addition of 1 tsp to 1 Tbl of protein packed nettle seed.
  • POWDERED – Grind the seeds into a powder and add to smoothies, yogurt, & sprinkled on breads.
  • MARINADES & DRESSINGS – Add the seeds whole or ground to your favorite homemade salad dressings or marinades for a nutritional boost.
  • TEA & INFUSIONS – Add the seeds along with some of the dried nettle leaf, steep in a teapot for 15 minutes and you have a powerful cuppa.  Or create an even more powerful herbal infusion by adding 1/4 tsp to 1 Tbl of seeds along with ½ cup of nettle leaf to a quart size jar, cover with boiling water, cover lightly and allow to infuse overnight.
  • INFUSED – Powder nettle seeds and add roughly the same amount of raw honey.  Or create a true oxymel using a 1:1:1 ratio of herb, ACV, and raw honey.

TINCTURED

Soak the seeds in 100 proof alcohol, I prefer vodka as it imparts little to no flavor, for a minimum of 6 weeks up to 6 months, and you have created your own stinging nettle seed tincture!

A complete guide to making herbal tinctures using the folkloric & the measurement methods is a read I highly recommend before making your own!

To make stinging nettle seed tincture using the folklore method, harvest the seeds.  Optionally, you can break the fresh seed clusters down a bit if you like by processing them in a blender.  Some believe this aids the release of the plant materials’ beneficial properties a bit easier into the alcohol base.

Place the desired amount of seeds into a glass jar, cover them by 1 inch with 100 proof alcohol, cover with a plastic cover, mark and date the jar.  Place the filled jar into a dark, cool, cupboard for a minimum of 6 weeks or up to 6 months or longer.

Once complete, strain the plant material, reserving the liquid.  Compost the spent solids.  Store the tincture liquid in a dark amber bottle (it’s easiest to use dropper topped bottles), label and date. 

The tincture will last 2 years or longer when stored properly!

INFUSED INTO OILS

When it comes to utilizing nettle seed for topical uses, think joint pain, arthritis and the like here, I find infusing a bit into an oil works best.

To infuse stinging nettle seed into oil really just takes a bit of time for it to marinate and infuse.

  1. In a small 8 oz mason jar, place 2 tablespoons of freshly (green) dried nettle seed
  2. Into the jar, pour 4 oz of your preferred oil.  I recommend a light base oil such as that of almond, jojoba or the like
  3. Cover, label, and date the jar
  4. Place the covered jar in a warm, bright place for a minimum of 2 weeks time or up to 6 weeks
  5. Strain the oil from the seeds, reserving the infused oil
  6. If not using right away, label and date the covered jar of oil
  7. Store in your home apothecary, which should be dark and cool in temperature

This infusion can then be used straight and massaged into any affected, sore area, or made into your favorite salve or balm. My favorite dandelion salve recipe would be a good example to use, by simply substituting all or some of the oil for the nettle infused oil.

As with any new product, I would recommend trying the oil on a small test patch of skin for any reactions which may develop.

Although foraging for any wild plant is always preferable to purchasing, in both nutrition and beneficial properties, when it is not feasible to forage your own, you can alway purchase dried seed.

My favorite source for all things herbal related is by far Mountain Rose Herbs.  Their quality and reliability is par none. 

Stinging nettle seeds are easy to identify, fun to harvest, and put to use in so many amazing ways.

Will you be foraging stinging nettle seeds?

Love, Light, & Laughter ~

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7 comments

Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog September 21, 2022 - 4:27 am

We had no clue that you could eat stinging nettle seeds. This is something we will be looking into since they are also good for you.

Reply
Cindy Moore September 19, 2022 - 5:09 pm

I frequently use dried nettle leaf, primarily in tea. However I’ve never used the seeds! Now I want to. Great info.

Reply
kmf September 17, 2022 - 10:30 pm

I had never heard of stinging nettle seeds – or knew it was a superfood. I learn so much from you and your posts!

Reply
Lisa Manderino September 16, 2022 - 5:12 pm

There are so many great uses for the stinging nettle! I don’t think I have every seen it before but now I am going to start looking and see if they grow in my area.

Reply
Alicia September 13, 2022 - 7:21 pm

I drink nettle leaf tea for inflammation. Adding the seeds to ointments may be a great idea!

Reply
Megan September 13, 2022 - 12:17 am

My mind is blown! Who knew that you could eat stinging nettle AND that it was so good for you! I am really interested in trying this and will be sure to try it in the morning time. I like my sleep, too 😉

Reply
Suzan Ferreira September 13, 2022 - 11:50 am

Yes! Wise woman 🤗

Reply

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