Plant Talk: Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

My favorite medicinal herb is Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica).*  It has many uses for health and wellness. and loves to impart its versatility as a recipe ingredient in the kitchen!

Historical:

  • “The sting of the Nettle is but nothing compared to the pains that it heals” from Lelord Kordels’ “Natural Folk Remedies”
  • Earliest uses – Bronze Age – of the plant were for cloth. It was common again during WWI when the Germans were stretching their cotton supply.
  • The leaves are so high in chlorophyll that the Brits used it to make green dye for WWII camo paint.
  • It is believed that the plant was brought to the U.S. intentionally because of its medicinal importance.

Plant Facts:

  • A member of the mint family – you can tell by its square stalk
  • There are approximately 45 nettle species worldwide.
  • Prefers shady areas and disturbed soil; a nitrogen-giver like alder & scotch broom.  They thrive in areas with abundant rainfall.
  • Dies back to dried stalk in late fall, then begins springing up in early spring.
  • Flowers are at the very crown of the stalk & topmost leaf pair; they are very tiny white blooms.
  • Planted amidst other herbs as a companion plant it stimulates plant growth and increases essential oils content.

    Photo by photobucket.com

    Stinging Nettle Hairs

  • Small, hollow hairs , or ‘needles’, on the stems & underside of the leaves are filled with formic acid which causes the stinging action.  The plant’s name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for ‘needle’.
  • Nettle’s own juice and that of mullein, will act as an antidote to a nettle sting.
  • Stalks can be made into a very strong twine

Medicinal Qualities & Uses:

  • The medicinal value lies primarily in the leaves; roots are used but less frequently.
  • A fabulous spring tonic for entire system, especially the liver & kidneys.  Seventeenth-century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper wrote that eating nettles “consumes the phlegmatic superfluities which winter has left behind.”
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Blood purifier & builder.  Also staunches blood flow, i.e. a nosebleed and internal bleeding.
  • Rich in: iron, silicon, potassium, phosphorous, protein, calcium & alkaloids which neutralize uric acid therefore making it a great aid for rheumatism.  Also contains potent levels of Vits A, C & D.
  • High in histamine content which accounts for its great help w/ allergy symptoms
  • Nerve tonic: very helpful when kicking tobacco addiction.
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Oily skin & hair
  • Prostate problems (root of the plant is used)
  • Itchy skin due to insect bites
  • Rids the body of worms
  • Stops diarrhea
  • Stinging action is destroyed by breaking the hairs, ie. in a blender or food processor and when heated (i.e. cooked)

CULINARY USES:

  • Use like spinach in soups, sautés, stir-fries or casseroles.
  • Infuse leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes and drink as a tea.
  • Make pesto!

No matter how you use this wonderful plant, you will be blessed by at least one of its gifts.

*SAFETY:  The freeze-dried form is contraindicated for pregnancy.

Feature image by Heather Michet; photo of Stinging Nettle Hairs by PhotoBucket

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These statements are provided for informational and educational purposes only and have been neither approved nor refuted by the Food and Drug Administration. Any advice and/or products mentioned should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any illness. Consult your healthcare professional if you have a health condition, are pregnant, or are currently taking medication before using any products or applying any of this information. Iris Healing Arts, LLC and Heather Michet cannot be held responsible for the misuse of essential oils, products, or any of the therapeutic methods presented herein.