Last Updated on June 23, 2023
Interested in learning how to make stinging nettle tincture? Tincturing herbs is an easy process that lets you preserve the constituents of medicinal plants for a long period of time. Learn about stinging nettle tincture benefits and why it’s worth learning to make your own.
- WHY MAKE STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE?
- HOW TO MAKE STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE
- HOW TO USE STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE
- STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE FAQS
- CAN I USE DRIED NETTLE LEAF INSTEAD OF FRESH?
- I DON'T USE ALCOHOL. CAN I STILL MAKE NETTLE TINCTURE?
- WHAT SIZE JAR SHOULD I USE FOR STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE?
- HOW LONG DOES STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE KEEP?
- I FORGOT TO STRAIN MY TINCTURE! IS IT STILL ANY GOOD?
- I HAVE A LOT OF ALCOHOL LEFT. WHAT CAN I USE IT FOR?
WHY MAKE STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE?
Maybe you’re already familiar with the benefits of nettle (Urtica dioica), a common herb popular for its positive impact on allergies and arthritis, as well as on muscular and urinary issues. Most often consumed as a tea, stinging nettle is a go-to for those seeking natural remedies for seasonal allergies. We’ve tried this in our house with some success, but shall we say that nettle tea isn’t everyone’s cup of tea?
Especially when made as a strong infusion (that is, large amounts of herb steeped over a long period of time), nettle’s powerful flavor can be hard to take every day for the months-long period recommended for tamping down seasonal allergies. Canadian wood nettle has a more mild flavor if you can find some, and North American herbalists tend to use it interchangeably with stinging nettle.
Making stinging nettle tincture allows you to concentrate the plant’s medicinal compounds, so the dose required is far smaller. Note that alcohol extracts different compounds than water, however. Nettle is often recommended for its high concentration of minerals, and an alcohol tincture will not extract those. To use nettle as a nutritive herb, you’ll want to make a strong nettle leaf tea.
STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE BENEFITS
Making a stinging nettle tincture allows you to preserve the plant’s medicinal compounds for a long period of time, and if you’ve got access to fresh nettle, a tincture will extract somewhat different compounds than those found in the dried leaf. Many herbalists prefer tincturing fresh plants rather than dry for this reason, but if your only option is tincturing dried nettle leaf, you can still make a useful medicinal preparation.
Nettle tincture’s benefits include alleviating seasonal allergies, relieving pain and inflammation, and supporting kidney function. In The Green Pharmacy, James Duke also recommends it for gout and arthritis.
Herbalist Matthew Wood praises nettles’ use for a wide range of conditions, including muscle atrophy, circulatory issues, stagnation affecting the kidneys or lungs, mental dullness, fatigue, as well as those mentioned above.
Some of the most prominent herbalists discuss how they like to use nettle here.
Are you newer to tincture-making? Though tinctures may sound a bit like something you have to have a degree to make, tinctures are simply herbal extracts made by letting an herb steep in alcohol for a period of time. As long as you have correct information about what type of solvent to use and the right ratio of plant material to solvent, you can make homemade tinctures quite easily.
Different solvents will yield different compounds from plants. We steep plants in water to make tea and in alcohol to make tincture. Herbs are sometimes steeped in vinegar (to make herbal vinegar) or in glycerin to make what are known as glycerites. Sometimes oils or honey are used as well.
As the Herbal Academy explains,
Using a solvent like alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin, you can extract a greater spectrum of the whole plant and preserve the medicine much longer than an infusion or a decoction. Alcohol is especially an excellent solvent that extracts a wide range of plant properties and allows for easy absorption of healing compounds into the bloodstream.
Stinging nettle tincture is made by steeping nettle leaves in high-proof alcohol for about a month to extract its beneficial compounds.
Most home herbalists use what’s known as the “folk method” for making tinctures, which uses rough measurements and produces tinctures with more variability of concentration. If you want to be more precise and consistent, you can use the “weight to volume” method instead.
Is getting more knowledgeable about using herbs on your bucket list? Check out the fantastic courses you can take online with the Herbal Academy. Find out more about their offerings here or by clicking the banner above.
FRESH OR DRIED NETTLES FOR STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE?
If you’re making nettle tincture at the right time of year, definitely try tincturing some fresh nettles. Many herbalists strongly prefer fresh plants for tinctures, though you will also find plenty of nettle tincture recipes that use dried nettle leaf instead. Mountain Rose Herbs also carries a number of nettle products to consider.
If it’s outside the window for foraging fresh stinging nettle, then you can make a dried nettle tincture. Just be aware its constituents and actions will be slightly different than if you make an extract from fresh nettle leaf.
Find more about correctly identifying stinging nettle here.
HOW TO MAKE STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE
Ready to make your own stinging nettle tincture? Here’s what to do.
SUPPLIES YOU’LL NEED
- Stinging nettles (harvested after positively identifying nettle), or dried nettle (buy here)
- Glass jar (amber glass jars help to block light, but they’re not necessary if you keep your tincture in a cabinet)
- Fine mesh sieve
- High proof alcohol (minimum 40%, or 80 proof, but higher is preferred), typically vodka, though you can also use grain alcohol; alternatively, use food-grade glycerin or vinegar if you don’t want to use alcohol
- Amber or blue bottles with droppers (like these or these)
- Cheesecloth can help strain out any tiny pieces of plant material, making a longer-lasting finished product
I prefer organic vodka made by a local distiller, which you’ll find in many midwestern liquor stores. A big bottle of vodka goes a long way when you’re making small batches of herbal tincture, and organic vodka will be cleaner than a non-organic brand. But if what you can find isn’t organic, I wouldn’t sweat it. Remember that we’re talking about consuming tiny amounts.
Note that most vodka you’ll find in stores is 80-proof. Many herbalists prefer higher-proof alcohol for tincturing fresh herbs, so if you choose to use 80-proof, be certain to let your nettle leaves dry completely. I switched the drying leaves to dry towels several times, and after I chopped them, I allowed the moisture that chopping released to evaporate before putting it in my jar. They were noticeably less moist just a half hour later.
–>Do not use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), which should never be taken internally.
If you want to know more about the details of choosing a solvent, I highly recommend this article.
1. If using fresh nettles, wear gloves to protect your hands. Rinse nettles to remove dirt or insects. Strip leaves and allow them to dry on a clean kitchen towel. A salad spinner can help remove excess water more quickly.
2. When nettle leaves are fully dry, chop them into very small pieces to expose as much surface area as possible.
3. Place chopped nettles or dried nettle leaf in a clean, dry jar. Do not pack them in tightly. If using fresh nettles, fill about 2/3 full; if using dried nettle, fill only half full because the herbs will expand as they absorb liquid. Cover completely with alcohol (or vinegar or glycerin) to an inch above the herb.
4. Cover the jar and seal it tightly. Give it a shake and allow herbs to settle for about an hour. Add more liquid if necessary to cover the herbs completely, seal and shake again.
5. Place your macerating nettle in a cupboard for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking it gently every day or two. Make sure nettles are completely submerged. Write the end date on a calendar or set a reminder on your phone to help you remember to strain your finished tincture.
6. After 4 to 6 weeks, it’s time to decant your nettle tincture. Place layers of cheesecloth inside a sieve and strain the infused alcohol into a bowl.
7. Squeeze the cheesecloth to remove all the liquid and discard the plant material.
8. Allow your tincture to settle for about 24 hours. If it looks like some plant material remains, strain again using a coffee filter in order to remove it.
9. Fill tincture bottles using a funnel. Remember to label with the contents and the date.
Notes: It’s generally recommend to harvest stinging nettle before it flowers. Mid morning is a preferred time for collecting herbs, after the dew has evaporated.
HOW TO USE STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE
Guidelines for using herbal preparations such as nettle tincture can vary quite a bit. Some herbalists recommend an entire dropperful of tincture taken in water several times per day, while others suggest just three drops under the tongue.
In Making Plant Medicine, Rico Cech recommends taking tinctures between meals to maximize absorption. He notes that smaller bodies will generally require less herb than larger ones, and acute conditions call for more frequent consumption of herbs than chronic ones.
For tailoring your use of nettle tincture to your own needs, you should consult a qualified herbal professional.
Remember that herbs can interact with certain medications and conditions. Speak to your physician before trying new herbs. In the case of nettle, it’s contraindicated for medications addressing the same conditions that nettle is used for, including blood thinners, blood pressure medications, diuretics, diabetes medications, and others. More details from Mount Sinai here.
STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE FAQS
CAN I USE DRIED NETTLE LEAF INSTEAD OF FRESH?
Yes. As mentioned above, fresh nettle is often preferred, but you can also use dried nettle. You’ll use about half as much herb by volume when you use dried.
I DON’T USE ALCOHOL. CAN I STILL MAKE NETTLE TINCTURE?
Yes! While it won’t technically be called a tincture, you can make a nettle extract using either glycerin or vinegar, as described above.
WHAT SIZE JAR SHOULD I USE FOR STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE?
The size of the jar doesn’t really matter, as tincturing is all about the ratio of plant to solvent. But be realistic. Will you go through a whole quart of stinging nettle tincture in the next few years? When I’m making something I use regularly, like elderberry tincture, I’ll typically use a pint jar, but for something I use less often I’ll use a half-pint jar, or even smaller if it’s a new herb I’m experimenting with. I follow the three drops under the tongue guideline, so even a small bottle of tincture lasts quite awhile.
HOW LONG DOES STINGING NETTLE TINCTURE KEEP?
Alcohol-based tinctures stored in a cool, dark place keep for several years.
Here’s more on the shelf life of herbal preparations from the Herbal Academy.
I FORGOT TO STRAIN MY TINCTURE! IS IT STILL ANY GOOD?
Though most instructions for homemade tinctures suggest a 4 to 6 week window for extraction, many herbalists will tell you they’ve left their tinctures unstrained for far longer and strained it when they remembered months later.
I HAVE A LOT OF ALCOHOL LEFT. WHAT CAN I USE IT FOR?
If you’re not planning to drink it in cocktails, keep it on hand for making tinctures with other useful herbs. With a single bottle of vodka, I’ve made enough stinging nettle tincture, pine needle tincture, goldenrod tincture, elderberry tincture, elderflower tincture, California poppy tincture, lemon balm tincture, and ground ivy tincture to keep me well supplied for years. It’s so helpful to have these plant medicines on hand for the six months each year that nothing grows here!
You can make smaller or larger quantities depending on how much you think you will use, and then place smaller amounts in dropper bottles. I usually take a couple of small bottles of pine and elderberry tincture when I travel because they’re so helpful for battling cold viruses.
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Save this stinging nettle tincture recipe for later!
Photo credits: Cover — scisettialfio; pin — Mykola Lunov
Disclaimer: I’m a health enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.