An honest friend – the stinging nettle

With the onset of spring comes one of our most common and prolific weeds, the stinging nettle. Many of us can relate to the nettle as mostly an unpleasant experience when inadvertently coming into contact and receiving a tingling, itching sensation to the skin for hours to come. Often the itching and tingling is joined by heat and becomes more active at night when you are trying to sleep. The more nettles that manage to sting you the longer it lasts and the more intensive the tingling. It is this very stinging that has the ability to stimulate circulation and relieve pain and swelling.

The Latin name for nettle is Urtica doica and it is the process of “urtication” (stinging the skin with fresh nettles) to stimulate circulation that was employed by the Romans to keep themselves warm, as stinging brings blood to the surface. This same technique, if you feel brave enough can be used to relieve swelling and pain from arthritis due to nettle’s antihistamine and anti-inflammatory actions.

The humble and prolific nettle is both sweet and salty to taste with predominant flavour of iron. The high iron content when mixed with molasses can be a very useful treatment for iron-deficient anemia and for pregnant mothers-to-be who suffer from low iron levels. Nettle is also very nourishing as it contains vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, as well as being packed with minerals including potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and selenium in addition to iron already mentioned.

Nettle is a cooling herb with affinity to the circulatory, respiratory, urinary and excretory systems. It nourishes and cleanses the blood and is especially useful when a person is suffering from excess Yin or too much dampness in the body that is felt and seen through heaviness, lethargy, excessive secretions and excretions, edema and copious urination. This herb builds strength, cleanses the blood, strengthens blood vessels and clears toxins via the bowel.

Nettle leaf when taken internally is an excellent nourishing tonic and rejuvenative, especially for the kidneys and the adrenals. For those convalescing nettle is especially beneficial providing all the necessary nutrients to restore vitality.

Spring is the ideal time to drink nettle tea, similar to spinach, eat as a wilted (cooked) green vegetable, or take as soup. The beauty about the nettle is that it is freely available, and when picked it quickly regrows. In most cases we are using the tops of the nettle rather than the whole plant, but nettle root is also used in some cases. Be sure to wear gloves when harvesting.

Many Ways to Enjoy and Gain the Benefits of Nettles

Nettle soup - takes approximately 20 minutes to make, is highly nourishing and delicious eaten either hot or cold. There is an abundance of recipes on-line for how to prepare nettle soup.

Nettle decoction/tea – infuse the tops of the nettles overnight in boiled distilled or filtered water. Strain and drink the bright green liquid either hot or cold as tea. It will likely have an earthy taste of iron and other minerals. Don’t be surprised if you pee more as nettle tea is diuretic, helping to remove toxins from your body. Unlike many diuretic medications, it does not drain the body of potassium. The tea is also beneficial for treatment of hay fever and other allergies as it is antiallergenic.

Nettle oil – the oil is very good for applying to your body to nourish the skin, whilst also being useful for irritating skin conditions such as psoriasis, and eczema. Chop the leaves and tops very finely. Put into a slow cooker about 2 inches deep and cover with either organic sesame or olive oil. Cover and leave overnight with the cooker on the lowest setting The liquid will be almost black due to the nutrient content. Filter and keep the oil in a glass bottle for rubbing into your skin and use as needed. The tea can also be used in this way.

Plant food – because of the nutrient content nettle stems and leaves make an excellent plant food for both indoor and outdoor plants. Soak the stems and leaves in water for several weeks allowing them to decompose. The smell will be unpleasant, but it will feed naturally your plants, vegetables and flower beds with all the nutrients they need for healthy growth. Dilute 1:5 or 1:10 before using.

As with all plants, nettles appear at the time of year when they are most beneficial to the human body. Spring is when we want to give support to the kidneys by shedding excess water and edema that has accumulated, and our honest friend the nettle, does just that, preparing us for the anticipated summer heat. Nettle is best taken on a daily basis, therefore for both detoxification and the treatment of hay fever, be sure to drink a minimum of three cups daily to gain maximum benefit.



Dispensing with Tradition, Annie McIntyre,Michelle Boudin

Healing with the Herbs of Life, Lesley Tierra L.Ac, Herbalist AHG

Weeds of the Heart, Nathaniel Hughes, Fiona Owen

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