Weeds? What weeds?! The virtues of Stinging Nettle

This is a post from a previous blog – suitable for re-post this time of year. In terms of climate action, I am a strong believer that everyone should know where their food comes from and should try their hand at growing it – even it is herbs on a window sill. Nurturing life from a seed is a magical thing. Eating it later is a bonus. As I am quite passionate about learning to garden, I’ll post on the topic here from time to time. A post on food security in general is in the works…

As I plan and prepare my gardens for the summer, I have become more and more intrigued by the various things growing in and around my yard, and I wonder how each resident might be made useful…

Okay, so maybe I’m lazy and don’t want to dig out every dandelion… but seriously, there are a lot of plants in roadside ditches that get mowed over without every being considered purposeful, yet might be valued in the right circumstance.

When you were a kid, did you every collect random bits of stuff from outside, throw it in a bowl, add water, let it stew, and then try and feed it to your little brother to see what happens? I’m still like that I guess… curious, resourceful, creative… and if my brother would oblige, I might still engage in unethical experiments… actually, I’m more inclined to keep the stuff I find in my yard to myself, because it might just be useful.

Okay, to the point: When we first moved into our house, my husband Dan discovered a small patch of stinging nettles. This defining moment in our marriage involved lighter fluid, a blow torch, a nearly defenseless plant, and shall we say, a close call. Funny in hindsight, only because the house didn’t burn down, and because the stinging nettles came back.

…I have vague memories of my grandmother sharing some of her world war II histories with me when I was quite young… as we picked blackberries surrounded by a labyrinth of nettles… I’m sure she had knowledge to share about a plant that was considered a vegetable in Germany. (Recently, a friend made nettle soup and raved about it … I have yet to try it…)

So it might be that nostalgia prompted me to do some research on the uses of stinging nettles. Or, if a crazy man with a blow torch can’t take’em out, they’d better be useful for something! (You know, “can’t beat them…”)

So here is some of what I’ve found nettles to be good for:

  • as diuretics,
  • as astringents
  • as blood builders – aids coagulation and formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells.
  • to treat anemia (due to their high iron content). T
  • applied to cuts to stop bleeding or taken in tea to reduce excessive menstrual flow, as well as to treat nosebleeds and hemorrhoids.
  • Nettle tea has been used to stimulate blood circulation (specifically in particular “regions”…*nudge, *nudge)
  • as a spring tonic for chronic skin ailments.
  • for treatment of mild acne and eczema.
  • as a folk treatment for arthritis.
  • hair tonic – topically applied to increase shine and decrease balding
  • nettles are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, silica, iodine, sodium, sulfur and other elements including tannin, beta-carotene and amino acids
  • because they are rich in vitamins, nettles are excellent additions to compost and make a fine compost tea for fertilizing gardens.
  • nettle leaf product has shown slight activity in the treatment of allergies (they are a natural antihistamine).
  • Several studies indicate that the leaf extract depresses the central nervous system and inhibits bacteria and adrenaline.

In Germany, the herb is used for supportive treatment of rheumatic complaints and kidney infections. Here are some links for more information: http://www.allnatural.net/herbpages/stinging-nettle.shtml and http://www.vitalitymagazine.com/node/216

So ladies, when that time of the month hits, you might consider slipping a little dried nettle in your comfort tea… and save a fresh stinging sprig to ward of any PMS commentary! (Note: nettles only sting when they are fresh).

🙂

Heather

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