Holy Flippin Spring. I don’t know where YOU are but I’m in the beautiful land of Western Washington and Spring has just decided to arrive. We are all bouncing around, feeling better about all the things, as the sun breaks thru our thick winter clouds and like the flowers we all stand, arms wide, collecting energy. We may not exactly have the ability to photosynthesize but something magic definitely happens.
And so I need a minute just to say “ahhhhhhhhhhhh”.
If you’ve ever listened to me get jumpy and excited about plants then you’ve probably heard me talk (excitedly) about stinging nettle. Oh, nettle. I love her. She is truly one of my favorite herbs, in many ways, she is my favorite.
I wandered into the woods earlier this week - on a cloudy day - and checked on my super secret stand of nettles. As I poked my way towards them I started to see the little shoots, only 2-3 inches tall but coming up all over. I squealed with joy and carefully backed away so as not to hurt my precious supply. When I was a kid wandering in the PNW woods and I happened across a stand of nettles I squealed in a different way, those babies hurt! Rich with formic acid and histamine, nettles get their name for the sting they give you if you touch the underside of their leaves and stem without gloves. I’ve had nettle stings hurt for days.
Fun fact, if you do happen to get stung by nettles, often growing nearby you will see plantain, a common weed, the leaves of plantain can be chewed into a poultice that when applied to a fresh sting (nettle, bee, insect) will minimize the reaction. It’s like nature provides or something. Weird.
So why do I like these little stingers so much?
Nettle is unbelievably nutritious. There are few plants that can compare to this dark, mineral rich green.
I was introduced to nettle as a medicine when I was newly pregnant with my oldest son. A wise friend asked if I was drinking raspberry leaf or nettle tea. I was drinking raspberry tea, but nettle? Eternally curious I needed to know why she would ask this, so I started reading up on nettles. I decided to start drinking 2 cups raspberry/nettle tea each day. Some interesting things happened. 1) I began feeling more energetic and less likely to crave salt and 2) my next round of lab work revealed that I had healthy levels of iron and ferritin - levels that I had been unable to maintain for several years prior.
Being a plant, the amounts of minerals and vitamins in nettle work symbiotically together for optimal absorption into the body. It is totally different than taking a supplement. I, for example, suffered from adrenal fatigue and exhaustion, I often had dismal ferritin and iron levels that were a bit concerning. I had spent a gazillion dollars on top of the line iron supplements for many years, and though they lifted my levels they never really stabilized. Enter nettle, I haven’t taken an iron supplement in 8 years.
Nettle seems to exhibit adrenal restorative properties, the mechanics of which I haven’t been able to get a consistent answer on, but the fact is that before I was “studying” herbs, I noticed that they were giving my adrenals a boost (I recognized this due to my pronounced reduction in salt cravings while using nettle regularly). Craving salt? Real Salt? You’re tired. So are your little hormone producing, overworking and underpaid adrenal glands. That craving is your body being awesome and talking to you about what is up. You should listen and call your local herbalist for help ;)
Back to nettle.
With all the histamine activity in nettle it is a fabulous plant for seasonal allergies. I find this works best if taken daily, as a tea, beginning in the Fall. By the time Spring rolls around you’ll notice less running, less sniffles, less watering eyes, less itchy throat, in fact, you may notice nothing - like no allergies, either way you’ll be happy. Nettle is very drying and even if you didn’t start drinking nettle last Fall, if you are suffering from allergies that manifest as excessive moisture, you can certainly begin using nettle infusions to dry you out.
Nettle is such a nutrient dense powerhouse it has the potential to benefit virtually all ailments. This is largely due to the fact that we are a nutrient deficient nation and our bodies get sick because they don’t have the tools to stay well. You throw enough nutrition in any body and things will start repairing and restoring. There are a few herbs that are ideal for this use, nettle tops the list.
To sum it up…. “When in doubt, choose nettle.” - David Hoffman, Herbalist and Author
I use nettle in many ways, I absolutely live for nettle pesto in the spring, but I drink nettle infusion basically all year. Check out Susan Weed’s recipe here: http://www.susunweed.com/How_to_make_Infusions.htm