"Nettles are so well known, that they need no description; they may be found by feeling, in the darkest of night." - Nicholas Culpeper
Many have met Nettle in a not so pleasant way and felt the sting for hours after walking through a patch unknowingly. My first encounter was in fact a pleasant one. I had first begun to seriously study herbs and the teacher whom I was studying under said we all needed to pick an ally to work with for a year. I was living by a creek at the time and there were nettles everywhere so, nettle was the one! I absolutely love this plant and so does my body. I find this to be an herb that most people find very pleasing and really feel the benefits of continuous use. Now, without further ado, I present to you Urtica dioica.
Stinging Nettle can be found across many continents of the world. There are also other varieties of nettle in the Urtica family that are native to specific regions. Urtica dioica is the most well known and originates from Europe. The young nettle tops in early spring were a regular spring green eaten to build up strength and renew the body after the cold dampness of winter. All parts of the plant can be used, but the green tops, (this includes leaves and stem,) are the most commonly used.
Nettles are mostly found growing in rich, moist soils. Often along stream banks, next to out buildings, and beside barns, but they will really grow almost anywhere. I have definitely found that the more moist the soil, the more the Nettles will grow. They seem to really prefer partial shade as well, although they can be found growing in full sun in some circumstances. Nettles grow easily from seed and will also transplant well when mature plants are dug up and replanted elsewhere.
The wonderful effect Nettles have on our bodies have to do with a multitude of things. One of these is that this ally is packed full of vitamins and minerals. In fact, Stinging Nettle is the most proteinaceous plant in North America! Traditionally Nettles were eaten in early spring, a time when our ancestors were usually in dire need of nutrition as their diets over the winter were bland and lacked key nutrients. A list of the vitamins and minerals of Nettles includes, but is not limited to: calcium, magnesium, trace minerals, chlorophyll, protein, cobalt, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, B complex of vitamins, vitamins A, D, K, and niacin. This is a great herb for everyone after a long winter when we need to get some green goodness in our bodies and get
recharged for spring. For folks who have been sick and have been weakened, Nettles will help restore their strength.
Nettles are beneficial to many of the body systems. Just as they enhance and enrich the soil of the Earth, they work their green magic deep within our being as well. The body system that first comes to mind for me are the Kidneys and Urinary system. Here, Nettles strengthen, tone, and promote the healthy flow of liquids. This action is also known as being diuretic. Nettles are also very helpful in the prevention and treatment of blockages and stones and are beneficial to those receiving dialysis. This is a great ally for men who are reaching the age of prostate issues or anyone who has common bouts with stones and gravel in their kidneys and urinary system.
"If they would eat Nettles in March and drink Mugwort in May, so many fine maidens would not go to clay." - Funeral song of a Scottish mermaid
Moving on we come to the respiratory system. Stinging Nettle is a great ally for allergies and helps to dry up mucous and phlegm. Adult asthma can be kept in check in with regular use of Nettle and some even find it goes away completely. Nettles are great at breaking up long standing congestion in the lungs and sinuses and can be used in the treatment of pneumonia, bronchitis, and other chest complaints.
With all the vitamins and minerals the body receives from Nettles, those who consume this plant will start to show improvements on the outside via the skin, hair, and nails. Hair grows strong, thick, luscious and fast, the nails grow harder and strengthen, and our skin becomes vibrant and clear. One way I love to utilize Nettles is as an herbal hair rinse. There are a few ways to do this. One, is to make a strong Nettle infusion and pour that over your hair without rinsing out. When I do this I also add a little apple cider vinegar and sometimes a few drops of an essential oil of choice. Another way is to add a tablespoon of Nettle infused vinegar to some water and use that as a last rinse for your hair. Both methods result in shiny hair and improved scalp health.
It is known that Nettles have wonderful actions on the bodies of women through all stages of life. Nettles can restore energy, increase iron levels, balance hormones, create healthy menstrual flow, and ease menopausal symptoms. The ability of the cells in the body to metabolize nutrients is increased with the regular use of Nettles. This is extremely important for reproductive health. Women are encouraged to drink Nettles throughout pregnancy to build up iron and vitamin K levels. Nettles can help prevent postpartum hemorrhage, help stop a hemorrhage if it starts, and help heal the body afterwards. Drinking a few cups of Nettle infusion a day is known to increase quantity and quality of breastmilk.
Stinging Nettle has warming and drying energetics. If you have ever harvested the plant you will know how it feels dry to the touch and the sting certainly warms up the fingers! Spring is a time of dampness and cold so consuming Nettles this time of year is a great way to balance out the elements within the body.
I mention in the title how Nettle is an ally of strength. Not only do Nettles increase the strength of the body but they can be used to create other types of "strong" preparations. One of the main uses of Nettles in the past was for fiber. Nettle fiber is gathered from the stalks and is 50 times stronger than cotton and almost as strong as silk. Garments made from Nettle long outlast those made from other fibers. There are quite a few YouTube videos you can find demonstrating the technique used to gather the fibers and make cordage. Nettles also make a great plant dye.
My hope is that all of you reading this are now eager to partake in some Nettles and try out the green goodness for yourselves. Here are a few ways to prepare Nettles for your pleasurable consumption:
Nourishing Infusion: Because Nettles have such a high vitamin and mineral content they release their energy very well to water. The key to making a nourishing infusion is your steep time, at least 4 hrs and you can let them go as long as 8 hours. To start, bring water to a boil and add to a quart jar with about 1/4 cup of dried Nettles in it. Use more Nettles if you are using fresh. Let this steep anywhere from 4-8 hours and then strain and store in the refrigerator, (Nettles go bad very quickly once cooked.) Once you have made your infusion drink 1-3 cups a day, warm or cold as you prefer.
Vinegar: Herbal vinegars are one of the best ways to extract vitamins and minerals from plants and also have a long(er) shelf life than water. Plus, vinegar has its own healing properties. i prefer to use apple cider vinegar (ACV) but feel free to use what you prefer most. To make an herb infused vinegar fill a glass jar with Nettles, 1/3 of the way if using dried and 3/4 of the way if using fresh. Next add your vinegar filling the jar all the way to the top, cap tightly with a plastic lid, or a metal lid with some parchment paper underneath, (vinegar will erode metal.) Let your vinegar sit for 2-4 weeks, strain and enjoy. Vinegars are very versatile in that they can be taken by the spoonful as is, used in cooking, made into a salad dressing, used as a hair rinse or a wash for irritated skin.
Tincture: To tincture Nettle, gather fresh tops, if possible, and pack as much as you can into a glass jar. Fill the jar to the top with 100 proof vodka, or something similar. Label and store for 2- 4 weeks.
Food: Eat Nettles in everything! Use as a green in cooked dishes, soups, omelets. pesto, whatever your creative mind can think of. Just not fresh as that can sting the mouth.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) breakdown
Parts Used: Whole plant Plant Family: Nettle; urticaceae Actions: Tonic, vulnerary, diuretic, astringent, hypotensive, alterative, anti-asthmatic, expectorant Energetics: Warm, dry Taste: Salty
ENERGETICS: WARM, DRY Element: Fire Planetary Association: Mars Astrological Association: Aries
Next time you come across that Nettle patch, stop and stay a while, pick some tops and nourish yourself. Until we meet again, may the green gods and goddesses be with you. Green Blessings!
THE CONTENT OF THIS WRITING IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. NOTHING HERE IN IS MEANT TO PREVENT, DIAGNOSE, TREAT, OR CURE ANY DISEASE. THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FDA.
ALL PHOTOS ARE THE SOLE PROPERTY AND CREDIT OF THE WRITER, MEAGHAN MOORE. PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION.