I am currently in my 10th week of pregnancy and living in North India.
I have been eating nettle soup every few days for its high iron content.
Today a friend told me that local women do not eat nettles during pregnancy.
When I looked it up online i saw so much controversy about its use that I am thoroughly confused. While you and some other herbalists say it is a tonic for pregnancy, others are saying it is a uterine stimulant and should be avoided. I was eating the fresh nettles steamed in a soup. Could you please tell me if this is harmful or helpful and why is it contraindicated by so many?
A: Hello! I heard this concern from another recently so looked to see what the fear about nettles and pregnancy was about. Doing a google search the top results I see mostly tout the benefits - a few of the excerpts are below. Some say it is the concentrated extract that is a concern and one said the extract was okay, it was eating fresh nettles that was a danger. I trust people to make their own choices. Some of the top herbalists I respect, some quoted below, those who have actually worked with people for years, speak highly of it as a supreme nourisher for the pregnant woman, as a tea, infusion or fresh. I loved it as a near daily infusion through my pregnancy and had a wonderful pregnancy and birth. One site noted what would be my thought, perhaps it is the form and time of harvest that was the culprit (though none cited studies that I saw to back up the claim of danger). We are careful not to harvest once gone to flower and beyond as it then can irritate the kidneys.
However, that said, I see you are in India, and this friend said the local women do not eat these fresh nettles. Perhaps this is recently introduced fear or superstition of some sort, but I highly value the wisdom passed from women, and wonder if there is something specific about the local nettles that is a known concern?
I wish I could tell you what is safe or not. As I said I think highly of nettles, yet also think highly of local women wisdom. And having been pregnant I highly trust my own intuition and my own ability to know if something I am consuming is causing harm, before it is too late. I may be wrong though.
Nettles are rich in biochelated iron, calcium, and protein, as well as a host of other important nutrients. "It is virtually a pregnancy tonic by itself," says Gladstar. The benefits of drinking nettle infusion before and throughout pregnancy include nourishing and strengthening the kidneys, increasing fertility in men and women, nourishing the mother and the fetus, diminishing leg cramps and childbirth pain, preventing hemorrhage after birth, reducing hemorrhoids, and increasing the richness and amount of mother's milk. According to Sharol Tilgner, ND, president of Wise Women Herbals in Creswell, Oregon, nettles should be picked prior to flowering to avoid bladder and kidney irritation. Although use as a tonic is considered safe in pregnancy, concentrated extracts of stinging nettles (such as used to treat hay fever) can act as an abortifacient.
Use Nettle as a Tonic There's one medicinal weed that you just can't get enough of in pregnancy, the common stinging nettle. Nettles are an amazing source of iron, just what you need to keep your haemoglobin high and your blood healthy. If you can, regularly eat some fresh young nettles, add the leaves to soups and stews or any recipe that uses spinach. If you hack back your nettle patch regularly you should get an ongoing supply of fresh young leaves throughout the summer - old leaves or leaves from plants that have seeded are a bit bitter and irritating on the digestive system so you really want them young and fresh. If you can't get fresh nettles then try to take two or three cups of nettle tea a day. They will serve you well because as well as being a nourisher nettles are a wonderful diuretic so if you are prone to being a bit puffy it could well be the herb for you. If you think you are anaemic (tired, pale, breathless, palpitations, dizziness, headaches) get a blood check from you doctor and then take floradix iron tonic, a great non-constipating source of iron and B vitamins extracted from nettles and other plants. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/herbaltea.html "Nettles (Stinging Nettles) -(Likely Unsafe-see note ) High in vitamins A, C, K, calcium, potassium and iron. Used in many "Pregnancy Teas" because it is a great all-around pregnancy tonic. (*Note on the safety of Nettles: Natural Medicines Database gives Nettles a rating of Likely Unsafe, even though it is used in countless pregnancy teas and recommended by most midwives and herbalists. This may be in relation to which part of the Nettles plant is used, the root or the leaves, and how much is used. According to other sources, the use of Nettles is encouraged during pregnancy because of all its health benefits.2)
There are no safety concerns about the use of stinging nettles during pregnancy or nursing.
Dried nettle or nettle extract is widely used as a nourishing tonic for pregnant women, however the fresh nettle has uterine stimulant action and is contraindicated in pregnancy.