Exploring using nettles to keep you well.
This month we are looking at this wonderful nutritious food.... that may be growing near by.
Liking nitrogen rich soil, Nettles grow in grassland, heathland, moorland, freshwater, farmland, coastal, wetland, woodland, town and garden. You can find it along hedgerows, ditches, untended gardens, along rivers. So it is likely there are nettles close to you.
Both male and female flowers appear on a single plant. Being wind pollinated, nettle has dark green lanceolate leaves and a square stem, all covered with fine needle like hairs. These fine needles contain formic acid, and are what agitates the skin causing hives and similar reactions. This erect perennial plant can grow up to 8ft high, it flowers in summer with tiny yellow-green flowers, females hanging like catkins, males in spikes.
Nettle is a really sustainable plant, being very widespread and hard to get rid of. That said, as more housing is built, there will be less land available for nettles to grow on (but nettle do like untended gardens!).
Harvesting – Nettle tops are best harvested in the spring (If nettles are constantly harvested from spring, then the tops can continue to be harvested through to Autumn). Wear gloves to pick. (Or see how I pick nettle tops here - https://youtu.be/knEpYz4FZvc ). There is an additional video on Nettle here - https://youtu.be/dRZDdEIMWv0
Nettle Seeds are harvested when almost ripe (generally late summer, early autumn). Cut the tops (with the seeds) with scissors
Harvest the roots, ideally in the Autumn, but anytime is okay if they are needed. Use a stout garden fork and a pair of close fitting garden gloves. The roots will need untangling.
As with all herbs, avoid harvesting from the road side, as it will also contain pollutants.
Indications / Uses
Tea – consumed internallly
Anaemia, Bleeding, Diarrhoea, Gout, fluid retention, low blood pressure, coughs, allergies (including hayfever), regulating breast milk production, skin problems / hives, high blood pressure
Tea – applied topically
Cuts and wounds, hair tonic
Kidney support, cough, yin tonic (TCM), Aphrodisiac, Convalescence
Arthritis and gout (note, it is rich in Iron, and may not suit some people with rheumatism).
Preparation and Dosage
Tea – allow a couple of fresh nettle tops to infuse in boiling water for up to 20 minutes. Strain and enjoy (adding honey if desired – for drinking). – Drink as needed.
If using to bath an affected area, allow to cool sufficiently before use.
Nettle Seed Electuary – Cut the seed tops when almost ripe and lay them on brown paper out doors on a warm dry (still) day. When dry, strip the seeds off from the stems (it is best to wear suitable gloves). Grind the seeds into a powder and then mix with a little honey to make a paste. Store in a wide mouthed jar. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons daily.
Use the whole plant to whip the inflamed area with nettle until a rash appears. This is believed to help clear the affliction. (NB – this is not a method I recommend to my clients, but it is one my previous neighbour used. I personally feel he may have had better results drinking nettle tea!)
As a soup – see recipe below – use as needed
As a tincture – 1 teaspoon 3 x a day. If using topically for burns, cool the burn under cold running water and then apply the tincture. Texts suggest applying with a cotton ball, I prefer to apply by adding tincture to water and submerging the affected area (if possible)
As a decotion – drink a cup full 2 to 3 times a day
As a decotion tincture – drink 1 teaspoonful daily to maintain prostate health, use 3 x daily for more acute problems.
Contra-indications or cautions (and drug interactions)
Do not use Nettle Root in pregnancy.
Because of their high vitamin-K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin should avoid taking nettles as it increases the vitamin-K concentration in the blood (which is what the drugs are often usually attempting to lower. The patient would effectively would more of their drug.
Use caution if patient has had an extreme reaction to nettles in the past.
Would you like to use nettles in your diet, here is som iinspiration
Folklore (from Grieve)
In old Herbals, taking the seeds inwardly, were recommended for the stings or bites of venomous creatures and mad dogs, and as an antidote to poisoning by Hemlock, Henbane and Nightshade.
A quaint old superstition existed that a fever could be dispelled by plucking a Nettle up by the roots, reciting thereby the names of the sick man and also the names of his parents.
Preparations of Nettle are said to act well upon the kidneys, but it is a doubtful diuretic, though it has been claimed that incipient dropsy may be remedied by tea made from the roots.
A novel treatment for diabetes was reported by a sufferer from that disease in the daily press of April, 1926, it being affirmed that a diet of young Nettles (following a two days' fast) and drinking the brew of them had been the means of reducing his weight by 6 stone in three days and had vastly improved his condition
And if you do not want nettles in your garden!
To get rid of nettles, it is reported that you need to cut them down 3 times a years for three years.