The Mighty Nettle
STINGING NETTLE (Urtica dioica)
Stinging Nettle is one of those medicinal herbs that borders on being a food. It is arguably one of the most nutritious wild plants in North America, providing a significant amount of highly absorbable vitamins and minerals, along with chlorophyll and a full spectrum of plant-based protein.
It is an edible wild green which can be harvested from June through October. Be sure to clip the newer growth with protected hands to avoid nettle's notorious sting and steam or cook the greens before eating. The dried leaves and seeds make an ideal nourishing tea for the winter months.
All parts of the plant are used as medicine – leaf, root and seed. It is a restorative and nutritive tonic, as well as a gentle detoxifier for the kidneys and bladder. Various types of Nettle preparations are used in the treatment of gout, osteoarthritis, seasonal allergies, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and anemia.
Nettle is a mild diuretic with alkalizing and anti-inflammatory properties, helping the body to flush out acidic waste. As a mild astringent it will tone and dry mucous membranes, relieving the body of excess mucus. Nettle also provides caffeine-free energy in the form of dense nutrition. It contains a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals but is particularly rich in:
· Vitamin A with Beta-carotenes
· Vitamin K
WHY I USE NETTLE
Personally I use nettle leaf and seed tea extensively in the winter time, when the cold and lack of sunlight becomes depleting for me. It energizes me like a multivitamin would, without overexciting my system. Nettle fortifies the body with calm, grounded energy.
In clinical practice, I use nettle root as a prostate tonic, and the leaf and seed for people who are run down, anemic, or need joint support. The freeze-dried leaf or fresh leaf extract is most effective for seasonal allergies.
Many herbalists like to add a dash of lemon or apple cider vinegar to their infusions, to help the body better assimilate nettle's rich bounty of minerals. Adding molasses as a sweetener will boost the tea's level of bio-available iron for those prone to iron anemia.
HOW I USE NETTLE
Nettle has a really mild, neutral flavour, so its quite palatable to most people. However, it’s flavour can be nicely enhanced with the addition of herbs and spices like mint, lemon balm or ginger.
This winter I stocked up my dispensary with nettle seed and locally grown milky oat seeds. Similar to nettle, oat seeds are rich in nutrients, especially the minerals like calcium and magnesium. Combined together they nourish and soothe a frazzled nervous system in the most extraordinary way. I throw a rounded tablespoon of each into my 1 litre tea pot and steep for 30-60min if I am short on time or overnight if I am planning ahead.
I also like to make ‘Nettle Infusions’, a preparation popularized by folk herbalist Susan Weed. This method requires 1 full cup of dried leaf to 1 litre of hot water, steeped in a covered jar overnight. The tea will be a deep, dark green colour chock full of nutrition. It is a powerful energy booster for the weary and run down. I will typically do nettle infusions for 1-2 weeks to reboot my system, as part of a seasonal detox in winter or early spring.