Nettles: Urtica dioica
As the name implies, stinging nettle does indeed pack a punch. The extremely small, nearly invisible stingers are such a part of this plant, you are sure to grow to love them! But do beware if you go collect some you are bound to get a sting or two, which in itself is quite medicinal.
Stinging nettle is one of the first spring greens shining through the recently frosted grounds. Little sprouts are the best ones to consume but as the plants grow, the top 6-8 inches will remain fairly tender for eating. When cutting some to dry for tea, I generally cut 10-12 inches so that I have some stalk to hang them upside down from.
An amazingly wonderful addition to soups and stews, steamed, or stir-fried, nettles is a very versatile green. Just make sure to cook them for at least 10 minutes to remove that little sting!
For those who like to remain sting free, you can purchase dried nettle herb from nearly any herbal store, coop or natural section of your favorite grocery store. Make a strong infusion of stinging nettle by placing about ½ cup (approximately 8 tbsp) in a quart jar. Cover with room temperature filtered water and allow to sit overnight (6-8 hours). This will provide you with a nice drink extremely rich in minerals, vitamins and amino acids. The same can be done with recently boiled water, however you will end up with a tea richer in tannins and astringency, better for those more prone to loose stools. Sometimes those tannins can bind those amazing minerals though. Try making one of each and you can see how green the room temperature infusion is, compared with how brownish green the hot infusion is. Those with immune system challenges, it is always recommended to use the boiled water preparation.
Stinging Nettle for Allergies
Stinging nettles are truly an wondrous plant and I use them all the time. They are my go-to for seasonal allergies both being used during allergy season, but even better as a preventative medicine before allergy season strikes. You can find freeze-dried nettles in the store or online. Generally about 2 capsules 3 times a day during allergy season is recommended. The capsules must say ‘freeze-dried.’ Making the above tea is another way to get nettles in to help quiet the histamine response. Histamine overload is the main cause of the symptoms allergy sufferers’ experience. Stinging nettle is great at reducing seasonal allergy symptoms, asthma associated with allergies, hay fever and hives. For more information on allergies, see this post: Allergy Season is Here
How Stinging Nettle Can Help You
Stinging nettle is a slow acting nutritive herb that helps to cleanse the body of metabolic waste by improving excretion of urine by the kidneys. In fact, nettles are considered to have an affinity for the kidneys helping them process waste, prevent stones and urinary tract infections, and giving them much needed vitamins and minerals.
Stinging nettle helps ‘drain dampness’ in the body, which after winter everyone needs! Dampness is a term used in Traditional Chinese Medicine which is defined as a sluggish and slow system demonstrated through such symptoms as fatigue, excess weight, sluggishness in the digestive tract (ie fullness or constipation), difficulty concentrating or difficulty remembering. The body has a hard time utilizing fluids when there is excess damp, essentially the body is ‘clogged up.’ Energy/chi cannot flow freely in the body that is clogged, so physical symptoms manifest. In draining this dampness, nettle helps to support the adrenals and provide the body with much needed sustained energy and stamina.
Stinging nettle helps the liver clear toxins from the body, including excess hormones. Women who experience PMS, sluggishness (bloating, fatigue) around their moon cycle or breast tenderness may benefit from nettle’s cooling effect on the liver.
Rich in nutrients, stinging nettle really is an ideal food. Containing both iron and vitamin C, nettles are great for individuals experiencing mild anemia and fatigue from anemia.
In one study of arthritis, patients were able to lower their dose of a prescription NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) with the combination of nettles, and got the same benefit in pain relief as the group taking the full dose of the NSAID. Why is this important? Well NSAIDs can be hard for the body to process and breakdown requiring the liver to work harder, digestive distress including decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, as well as cause digestive bleeding including ulcers. So lowering the dose is always beneficial!
The root can be used for BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia). Combined with Saw Palmetto, studies in Germany have demonstrated this combination to be just as effective as finasteride at relieving symptoms.
If you are feeling especially adventurous, stinging nettle has even been used for arthritis externally. The method employs ‘whipping’ the joint with the fresh nettles, which will cause MANY of the stingers to become embedded into the skin. This stimulates the immune response and cytokines come flooding to the affected area, ultimately reducing inflammation. Not a therapy for everyone, but effective none the less!
Already using Nettles? Please share your experience so we can all learn from each other. Post a comment below.
Your Wellness Expert,
Take the sting out of allergy season by using stinging nettles.