Common Name: Nettle
Latin Name: Urtica Dioica
Nettle may be one of the herbal wonders of the plant world. Its usefulness can be dated back to antiquity not only as a medicine but also as a food. The Greeks & Romans cultivated it as a tasty food and used it medicinally for gout, rheumatism and poisonous snake and insect bites. When the plants get older the stems can get tough, these tough fibrous stalks were once used in fabric making and have been found in burial shrouds that date back to the Bronze Age.
Many know Nettle for its sting and as children we were warned to stay away. This sting, however, is medicinal and anti-inflammatory for arthritic conditions. In a rather unusual treatment called “urtication” which uses the fresh stalks to flog the arthritic patient in the areas of inflammation. The irritation produced caused a fresh supply of blood to the area to alleviate the deeper pain and blockages of arthritic inflammation.
Nettle is a nutritional powerhouse. Wild patches can be found here in southern Ontario from April – June, and again in the early fall. It is best to harvest them before they flower. Nettle is a classic spring tonic that defines "food as medicine" and invigorates the body after a long and sedentary winter
My favourite springtime green, nettle can be used similar to spinach. I personally love it as a nourishing immune boosting soup with other springtime vegetables like kale or asparagus.
Lastly Nettle is a well-known herb for pregnancy and female problems. Native American women used it as a tonic throughout pregnancy and as a remedy for hemorrhaging during childbirth.
Aerial parts, Leaves
Histamine, formic acid, chlorophyll, glucoquinine, iron, vitamin C
Astringent, diuretic, alterative, tonic
One of the most widely applicable plants we have to strengthen and support the whole body, nettles are classified as an "alterative" in herbal medicine. They gently support the major organs of elimination (liver, lungs, kidneys, skin, intestines) and improves their function. When our eliminatory pathways are not functioning properly (generally due to being overloaded by our own metabolic waste and sometimes environmental factors as well) we can manifest a huge variety of symptoms including digestive problems, low energy, skin conditions, seasonal and environmental allergies, headaches, and body pain. Hence, nettle is a known specific for childhood eczema and beneficial for all varieties of this condition especially in nervous eczema . It combines well with burdock for eczema.
High in vitamin K it helps prevent and control hemorrhaging, and its astringency is helpful for conditions like nose bleeds or uterine haemorrhage. A general female tonic, it is excellent for women during their moon cycles and for women in menopause. It helps reduce water retention and is excellent for correcting symptoms of PMS, specifically for excess menses.
Nettle is one of the most nutritive herbs it has high concentrations of vitamins and minerals that are easily assimilated. It is used throughout pregnancy as it is one of the best sources of digestible plant iron, and is rich in calcium, vitamin A and chlorophyll.
A more recent discovery is regarding nettle in the treatment of hay fever and other allergies. Rich in antihistamines, it is a wonderful ally for folks with seasonal allergies, which can sometimes be avoided by eating and taking lots of spring tonic herbs such as nettle.
When harvesting nettle you can wear gloves. It is best to harvest before flowering when the leaves and stems are fresh and not hardened. Highly nutritive, it is rich in Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Copper, Silica, Vitamins A, C, D, and K, and tremendous amount of protein for a plant. It can be used similar to spinach and added to soups, stews, or wherever a fresh green is called for. It should be mentioned, nettles lose its sting when cooked or blended. I personally love it as a pesto or as an immune boosting spring soup.