The common stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) can be found almost everywhere in the British Isles and other temperate climates. They are an ancient herb and have been used for their many food and health properties over the centuries. Nettles have thrived and flourished due to their resilience and sting, which protects them from being eaten by predators, including us humans. Unfortunately for Nettles, humans have invented handy things like gloves so we are now able to harvest at will!
Nettles have many benefits for horses and are used for ailments, such as laminitis, lymphangitis, blood cleansing, detox, kidney flush, skin allergies and arthritis. Nettles contain large amounts of vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant, mopping up circulating free radicals, especially during a laminitis episode. Their mild diuretic properties act as a kidney flush and detox to flush out toxins and harmful chemicals. Nettles also aid circulation and support cardiovascular health, along with antihistamine properties for the ever-increasing allergies and itching we see regularly in horses today. What wonderful herbal ‘weeds’ they are!
Horses will rarely eat fresh Nettles for obvious reasons but relish them once they are dried and the sting has been deactivated. If you are harvesting in public places, avoid roadside herbs as they will be contaminated by pollution. Wooded areas are full of Nettles and they will happily grow and take over your back garden given a chance. They are certainly not a high maintenance herb but offer so many health benefits to us and our beloved horses.
Little known Nettle facts: Nettle fibres can be made into paper and a linen- type fabric, similar to Hemp. Nettle beer is popular for people suffering from gout and rheumatoid arthritis.