Homemade nettle leaf powder

The powder made of dried nettle leaves is actually a concentrated form of nutrients contained in these leaves that are rich in minerals (calcium, potassium, silica, sulfur, magnesium, iron, copper), vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B9, vitamin C, Vitamin D, vitamin K), amino acids, proteins, polysaccharides, plant pigments (chlorophyll, carotenoids), fatty acids, sterols, tannins and many other phytochemicals.  


Homemade stinging nettle leaf powder


Nettle leaf powder can be used as a nutrient-rich food additive in sauces, soups or salads, as well as a conditioning agent in cosmetic preparations, shampoos and hair masks. It is rich in the green pigment, chlorophyll, so it is perfectly usable as a natural food, cosmetic and soap colorant. Its high content of proteins, vitamins and minerals makes nettle leaf powder a great dietary supplement which is often sold in a capsule or tablet form. Nettle is well-known for its high iron content and it is often recommended to people suffering from iron deficiency. When mixed in a cup of water, homemade nettle leaf powder can be used for the same purposes as tablets or capsules.

How to make homemade nettle leaf powder

Making homemade nettle leaf powder is easy. The main trick is to find healthy, unpolluted nettle plants. To make your own powder, choose nettle plants which grow farther away from busy roads and agricultural lands representing a permanent source of pollutants and pesticide drift. Otherwise, purchase fresh, organically cultivated nettle herbs. Late spring to early summer is the best time to collect or buy them, i.e. before they start flowering.

The further processing is extremely simple:

Pick nettle tops, 15-20cm high, because well-developed but still young leaves contain the highest amount of nutrients. The leaves can be dried with or without the stems (these can be discarded before drying). It is entirely up to you.

Nettle contains about 22-24% of dry matter, and dried leaves will retain about 10% of the moisture. Thus the yield of nettle powder makes for about ¼ of fresh nettle leaf weight. 

Wash carefully freshly collected nettle and discard damaged or spotted leaves. Use gloves to avoid skin irritation caused by nettle stings. When washed, place the nettle between two towels to absorb excess water. 

Washing of stinging nettle     Absorption of excess water from washed nettles

The nettle leaves can be dried in the open air (protected from direct sunlight) or in the oven. Drying in the open air is easy and cost-effective, but since it takes a few days (depending on the weather conditions) you should expect some dust contamination. The oven-drying method is faster and the dried leaves will remain free of dust. Set oven temperature to 40- 50oC  (104-122oF) and place the leaves in a thin layer for 2-3 hours. The oven door should be slightly open (1-2 cm/ 0.5-1 in) to allow the moist air to escape. If possible, turn on the fan because it will significantly speed up the air circulation and shorten the drying time.

Drying of nettle in oven     Dried nettle herb

Beware that leaves dry much faster than stems. When the leaves become brittle and crumble to the touch, take them out from the oven and crush them by hand. Drying will destroy almost all the nettle's stinging constituents, so further handling can be done with bare hands. Discard the stems and all other parts that are still moist. Return the crushed leaves in the oven and continue with drying for one more hour to be sure that they are completely dry.

De-stemming of dry nettle     Dried stinging nettle leaves

Crush dry leaves by hand and then grind them in a coffee grinder or blender. 

Crushed nettle leaves     Grinding of nettle leaves in food processor

Sift the obtained powder through a sieve. Some larger particles will remain in the sieve, so you can grind them in a mortar and sift them again.

Sifting of nettle powder     Grinding of dry nettle leaves by pestle and mortar

If you want to obtain even finer-grained powder, pour it in a jar, cover the jar mouth with a double layer of nylons and fix them with a rubber band. Sift the powder on wax paper. Although this process is a little time-consuming, it is definitely an easy and cheap way to obtain fine, homemade herbal powder.

Sifting of nettle powder using nylons     Nettle leaf powder-sifted

300g (10.5 oz) of fresh nettle herbs (leaves and stems) or 150g (5.25 oz) of fresh leaves will yield about 20-25g (0.7 - 0.9 oz) of fine powder and about 10-15g (0.35 - 0.5 oz) of additional coarser powder that remains in the jar after sifting.

Coarse and fine fraction of nettle leaf powder

The fine powder can be used in making homemade cosmetics, and the coarse fraction can be used for preparing food or tea.
Store the nettle powder in an airtight container or in a zip-lock bag, in a dark, dry and cold place. Since volatile stinging nettle compounds are not important in this case, this powder can be stored for several months.

How to use nettle leaf powder in handmade cosmetics

Nettle powder can be used as a source of active ingredients in formulating handmade cosmetics and hair-care products, or as a natural, green colorant. Some of indications for the use of nettle leaf powder are:
-    In hair care: Dull, fragile and  devitalized hair, oily hair, hair loss, dandruff, stimulation of hair growth
-    In skin care: Tired and dull skin, dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), 

Dosage: 10-20% in most cosmetic products, or even more in poultice preparations.

Depending on the recipe, nettle powder in cosmetic formulation can be used as a powder or as a liquid extract:

In powder form, it can be directly incorporated in formulations like dry shampoo, face masks, hair masks, shampoo bars, soaps and similar products.
In liquid extract form (infusion, decoction or macerate), it is used when hard particles of plant tissue are not desired, e.g. in tonics, lotions, liquid shampoos and similar products. The extraction of nettle active ingredients for handmade natural cosmetics is usually done with water, by infusion or maceration. After extracting and filtering, the water that contains these active ingredients is used in the formulation while the hard, filtered particles are discarded.

To prepare macerates and infusions use 10% of nettle powder and 90% of water.

Nettle leaf powder aqueous macerate:

When preparing macerate, weigh 90g (3.15 oz) of cold distilled water in a small jar. Next, weigh 10g (0.35 oz) of nettle leaf powder and pour it into the water using a mini funnel. Close the jar and shake well. Allow the process of maceration to last 24h, protected from air (oxygen) and light. Shake again occasionally. Shake again occasionally. When the time is up, pour the macerate over a coffee filter and use the liquid extract in your cosmetic formulations. Maceration is an excellent method to preserve heat-sensitive constituents from degradation.

Nettle leaf powder infusion:

To make an infusion, weigh 90g (3.15 oz) of distilled water and bring it to boil. Pour the boiling water over 10g (0.35 oz) of nettle powder and let it steep for 15 min. Pour the infusion over a coffee filter and let it cool before use it in your cosmetic formulations. An advantage of making an infusion is its fast preparation; however, heat destroys heat-sensitive constituents. 
To keep the macerate and the infusion fresh, refrigerate and use within 24 hours.