Nettle Seed as Adrenal Trophorestorative & Adaptogen

For the March Blogparty on Nettles hosted by Julie at Crow’s Daughter.

Stinging Nettle’s has a remarkable ability to rebuild and restore. Part of this comes from the fact that it is intensely nutritive, being dense with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Nettle’s nourishing properties have been discussed at length by many authors, perhaps most notably (and infamously) by Susun Weed in her excellent book, Healing Wise.

A less explored aspect of this common plant, is its capacity as an adaptogen and adrenal trophorestorative. According to Winston and Kuhn in their book, Herbal Therapy & Supplements, these terms can be defined a:

“Trophorestorative: An herb that nourishes, strengthens, and tonifies a specific organ or function. Considered”food for the organ”. Hawthorn, with its specificity for the heart and circulatory system, is a cardiovascular trophorestorative. Examples: fresh oat (nervous system), nettle seed (kidney).”


“Adaptogen: A substance that helps a living organism adapt to stress (environmental, physical, or psychological). “

My personal experiences with Nettle would indicate that both of the above terms suit this remarkable plant very well. Winston and Kuhn specify Nettle seed as a trophorestorative for the kidneys, and I believe they may also serve the same function for the adrenals as well. Dried seed, when taken (chewed well, or ground) orally, promotes a sense of clarity, wellness, heightened energy levels, reduced stress and seemingly increased lung capacity. They are especially effective for those suffering from severe burnout, resulting in profound fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain and alternating feelings of depression and intense anxiety. Nettle seed can lessen all of these symptoms, and sometimes eliminate them completely. For some people, they can dramatically effect or shift perception, promoting a sense of connectedness, well-being and mild euphoria. Physical and mental stamina is usually increased, and exertion may seem more enjoyable to the individual. Several people have reported having their sense of color brightened and expanded, probably due to the mood altering effects.

An overlarge dose may cause a sense of “speediness”, much like other tonic herbs such as Ginseng, so care should be taken that an appropriate dose is used. In sensitive individuals, this may only be a small pinch and can range up to a tablespoon. Others may need to take a teaspoon per day for a week or so to notice significant effects, although results are usually noticed within a few days. I recommend starting with a small dose and working up as needed. These seeds do not seem to promote any kind of dependence, and smaller and smaller doses are needed over time. Unlike simple stimulants, one does not “crash” on Nettle seeds when their effect wears off (usually 4-7 hours after ingestion), and appropriate rest and relaxation is actually often enhanced by their use.

Ingestion of fresh seeds my cause intense feelings of stimulation and can prevent sleep, so they should probably be avoided by those sensitive to stimulants, although fresh fully ripe seed tincture has been used in renal failure as a kidney trophorestorative by herbalists such as David Winston. Dried seeds are milder in action and more adaptogenic in action. Tincture of dried seed is also useful, though less ideal than dried seed since alcohol does not effectively extract the trace minerals. I’ve used the tincture much less than the whole seed, but in my experience most individuals only need 1-5 drops of the tincture for this application. This can be combined with tincture of fresh Nettle tops, to increase the restorative effect on the adrenals.

This particular use of Stinging Nettle is not yet well known or often used, so we must assume that there’s much more to learn and understand about its profound effect on the kidneys, adrenals and body as a whole. So far, the results have been very gratifying for herbalists already familiar with Nettle leaf’s gentle yet deep effect on depletion. I am personally very excited to continue developing my relationship with this common and endlessly versatile herb.

While Nettle leaf and root can be too diuretic (and therefore drying) for those already dealing with systemic dryness or yin deficiency, the seed seems much less drying and more supplementing in action. Nevertheless, care should be taken not to aggravate a dry condition, and practitioners may consider recommending a demulcent such as Elm, Flax or Mallow be taken concurrently with Nettle. A nervous system trophorestorative such as Milky Oat tincture may also be recommended alongside Nettle seed to quicken and deepen healing and restoration.

I’ve also written about Nettles several times over the last year, and here’s a list of a few of those posts:


  1. michele tyson
    Apr 30, 2008

    Any suggestions for treating adrenal exhaustion (which was near fatal for me 2 yrs ago) and resulting systemic candida infection. I have be receiving wise council from God and treating myself with herbs and probiotics etc. Still nearly three years later I need much more manifestation of healing and am taking hundreds of dollars a month worth of stuff. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated. Thank. Michele

  2. Kiva Rose
    May 3, 2008

    Hi Michele,

    It’s really hard to provide good suggestions without knowing more about you. In general, proper nutrition is probably the most important aspect of adrenal healing, along with elimination or great reduction of whatever is causing stress to your adrenals (including removing food allergens, adjust stressful living situations etc). Supplementation may be very helpful (magnesium, fish oil, b vitamins and zinc come to mind). Adaptogens specifically for the adrenals such as Nettle seed can certainly be helpful, usually along with nervines like milky oats or skullcap to help rebuild a stressed nervous system. If you want more details, feel free to to contact me for a consultation.

    I do seriously doubt you need to be spending that much per month for your health though! Herbal healing can almost always fit into the tightest budget.

    PS I removed you phone number from the comment so that you don’t receive phone calls from random strangers, spammer or worse. In general, it’s not safe to give out your phone number on a public forum such as this.

    Thanks and blessings,

  3. greenfertility
    Jun 3, 2008

    Thanks for leaving the comment on GreenFertility–I’ve alwys understood it’s not good to pick the leaves when the plants are in flower/seeding. I didn’t know that about the seeds. I have a nice patchin my garden that I clip to keep from going to seed. Must try it.

  4. Lorene Adachi
    Jul 16, 2008

    Hi Kiva Rose,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts on nettle seed. I’ve been trying some as they’ve started ripening here in Seattle. It’s really quite amazing!

    I was recently pointed to them by Susun Weed’s books as a thyroid helper. You write about nettle for adrenal and kidney issues. Do you think she helps the thyroid directly too (as opposed to indirectly just by helping the adrenals)?

    And I wanted to know what kind of proportions you used for nettle seed tincture and the strength of the alcohol.

    Thanks so much.

  5. Kiva Rose
    Jul 16, 2008

    Hi Lorene,

    I can’t say definitively, but my experience and understanding is that Nettle seed is primarily affecting the adrenals, and the thyroid secondarily. They seem to have the strongest influence on those with clearly depleted adrenals, and that’s also when they seem to exert the most influence on the thyroid (when thyroid trouble is a direct result of tired adrenals).

    I tincture freshly dried Nettle Seeds (finding the fresh ones too stimulating) in 50% alcohol at a proportion of 1:5 or so…. Nettle seeds are pretty fluffy so sometimes I just eyeball it, still seems to work fine though.

    Thanks for reading!

  6. Nickie
    Nov 14, 2008

    Dear Kiva

    Where does nettle tea fit into adrenal healing? I have suffered from chronic fatigue and have benfited greatly from acupuncture, but I am keen to help myself to the extent I can. I am a little nervous however of taking nettle seed as I seem to be very sensitive to just about every thing I eat, especially stimulants.


  7. Kiva Rose
    Nov 14, 2008

    Hi Nickie, that’s a big question and not one I can answer in a few minutes in a comment… you’ll find more about Nettle leaf if you look it up in the search bar. I don’t generally use Nettle tea, I prefer an infusion because of its superior extraction nutrients. I also use the fresh leaf tincture for helping the body with excess adrenergic stress, and getting back into a more parasympathetic state.

  8. terri L.
    Jan 23, 2009

    kiva rose,

    I came upon this website by chance looking up nettle root extract.. I love it. the verbage is easy to understand for the lay person and extremely informational.
    I have always been interested in herbs and natural wholeness. i am adding you to my favorites..


  9. Natalie
    Feb 23, 2009

    I just wondered if Nettle Seeds or leaf can be bought at the store for adrenal stress? I was prescribed bovine..then found out it came from the glands of pig and cow. I do not eat pig. I avoid it due to parasites and other reasons. Really looking for the alternative.

  10. Kiva Rose
    Feb 24, 2009

    Natalie, i’ve listed the sellers that you can get nettle seed from several times on here in the posts and comments. People like Ryan Drum, Horizon Herbs, Jean’s Greens and so on…. I don’t really keep up on retail sources though, because I gather my own.

  11. Simon
    Mar 13, 2009

    Hi Kiva
    Been reading your comments to those questions posted. Interesting and educating.
    I have a quick question though. Comparing the benefits between Panax ginseng and nettle which would you regard as a stronger adaptogen or as an alterative?

  12. Kiva Rose
    Mar 13, 2009

    Simon, well, they are very different plants… And I’ve used Nettle seed a whole lot more than Panax Ginseng. Panax tends to be very warming and stimulating (good for those who are straight up deficient and cold with not deficiency heat), whereas Nettle seed is specifically for those with adrenal deficiency, perhaps with some deficiency heat…

    So stronger is a relative term here, it just depends on what you need. See my post Terms of the Trade: Adaptogen for more on this.

  13. carrie
    Mar 30, 2010

    I have alot of stinging nettles growing wildly around our place. How do I go about harvesting the seeds, or making oil??

  14. Linda
    Sep 4, 2010

    Is there any evidence of Nettle Seed tincture raising blood pressure?

  15. Stephanie Pearson
    Feb 8, 2011

    I just tried nettle seed (dry tincture) today for the first time. I have low adrenal energy w/ fatigue during the day and insomnia some times at night. Today was excellent! I had so much more energy and a brighter outlook. *The sun was also out today and I’m in Oregon, so this was a rare treat too.* I recently saw a naturopath who specializes in neurotransmitters; she is talking about doing a natural therapy to help my HPA axis, etc. This type of therapy scares me a bit bc is so new and it feels a bit too much like meddling to me. So, I really hope that nettle seed will enable me to feel good and sleep better w/ out messing around too much w/ isolated amino acids & the like, even if they are natural. I’m thinking, I’m just a mom w/ three young kids who keep me up at night, I need a more simple cure. Thanks, Kiva!

  16. kim
    Aug 4, 2011

    Hi Kiva,
    Great information. Perhaps you could clarify the harvesting of nettles for me. I know once the leaves are ‘big’, they should not be eaten due to something occuring in the leaves at that point that make it dangerous to eat?? However, can I still harvest these same mature nettle leaves just to make infusion, and not eat? Also, am I still getting same adrenal & thyroid benefit from the seeds if I include them in the infusion along with the nettle leaf. I ask since I have a huge nettle patch in a local field but didn’t harvest them this spring. They are just sitting there going to seed, and I’d like to use the leaves as well. Thank you. Much gratitude to you, KIm

    • Kiva Rose
      Aug 4, 2011

      Hi Kim,

      Most people prefer not to use Nettle tops/leaves once they’ve flowered (has nothing to do with the leaf size) because crystals are formed that can cause kidney irritation, especially when used in food. I don’t harvest them for infusions during that time either.

      I don’t have any definitive information on how heat effects the Nettle fruit, but I’ve always used them unheated or ground up and sprinkled on top of hot food but I’ve not exposed them to boiling water or similar.

      Hope that’s helpful,

  17. Adrian
    Oct 7, 2011

    Hi Kiva,

    How would you compare nettle seeds with maca in terms of adrenal restoration? I read that maca is also a great help for those with adrenal fatigue. Which one do you think is better suited/stronger in it’s helping qualities?


    • Kiva Rose
      Oct 7, 2011

      Hi Adrian, I don’t really work with Maca, being such an exotic plant, so I can’t really give a comparison at all.

      • Adrian
        Oct 13, 2011

        Hi Kiva,

        Do nettle seeds need to be washed before eating, or is it OK to eat them just as they come from the bag. Do they need to be refrigerated?


  18. Robert
    Jan 17, 2012

    Thanks so much for writing this!

    I had just spent the afternoon taking dry seeds out of a bunch of clippings I took a few weeks ago on New Years eve. My intention for clipping was for the leaves, only to later realise that there were virtually no leaves and thousands of seeds.

    On closer examination, the seed clusters resembled spirals a bit like what I envision DNA looks like… the cluster strands also wrap around each other nicely in a way DNA also does in computer visualisations I’ve seen, to clump together and create a kind of rope.

    So I was looking for Nettle Seeds and DNA and thats how I found this page. Interestingly, adrenal depletion and kidney depletion is something I’ve been taking nettle root and powder for quite a while now to restore the balance.

    About 5 minutes ago I took a teaspoon of the Nettle seeds, chewed them well, and already I can feel the elation in the heart and a real sense of excitement as its moving down my body. I feel a heat in my face. It actually kind of reminds me of the feeling of certain stimulants I have taken in the past which I believe depleted my adrenals and kidneys.

    Oh doesn’t life has a funny way of coming full circle on itself? :)

    I will read your further articles on Nettle now. Thanks

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