As a child, I remember fearing the prickles of these wild and rampant weeds. Little did I know that the sting of this plant was protecting a delicious green vegetable, a healing herb and a wonderful vegan-organic fertilizer.
Nettles (Urtica dioica), are high in many minerals, flavonoids, essential amino acids, proteins and vitamins, including chlorophyll, nitrogen, iron, vitamins A, B1, B5, C, D, E and K, iron, potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and more. All of these beneficial plant-based compounds combine to create a natural tonic and immune builder for both your body and the garden.
Nettles have traditionally been used to treat allergies and respiratory related illness, reduce inflammation, cleanse the blood, relieve pain, stop hair loss, lower blood pressure, heal wounds, stimulate digestion, relieve anemia, balance blood sugar/hormone levels and the list goes on and on. They are a powerful plant that is great to have around the house.
Weeds are simply plants that have adapted to self-seed and propagate rampantly, basically any plant that is difficult to control. So stinging nettles are best harvested wild, or planted in a large pot far, far, far away from your garden.
Thankfully, they are abundant in many parts of the world.
So most likely, all you’ll have to do is go for a spring walk with your nettle-picking gear in hand, or pop down to the natural health food store and buy the dried leaves in tea bag or bulk form.
Nettles have historically been regarded as a superbly healthy food in many different cultures.
Milarepa the famous Tibetan sage and saint ate them when meditating for ten years in a cave, eventually turning green and gaining the ability to fly (I love these legends). Sometimes I think we feel like exotic foods, with cool names, are our only source of sparkling nutrition. However, there are so, so many super foods on our doorsteps (or nearby).
Nettles are also known as the devil’s leaf and even wild spinach, they are certainly equally delicious and even more nutritious. There are literally hundreds of health properties attributed to this wonder plant, here are a few:
Nettles strengthen the kidneys. Their Greek name is Urtica Dioica, ‘Uro’ meaning urine.
They are a powerful tonic, anti-anaemic, diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-allergenic, decongestant, anti-arthritic, laxative, antiseptic, anti-rheumatic, anti-asthmatic, expectorant……..the list goes on and on.
Nettles are ideal for women, especially during pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. Nettles help with menstrual cramps, nausea and bloating.
A general relaxant that helps with hypertension.
Fresh nettle juice is antispetic and can be used as a kitchen spray, for washing skin.
Nettles infusions can be used to wash hair, leaving it shiny and thick. They are also said to prevent hair loss.
Helps with gastrointestinal diseases, IBS and constipation.
Cures the common cold.
They can also help with hormonal, adrenal and energetic imbalances and the circulatory system.
They can be taken as an anti-histamine, which over a period of time, can cure ailments like hayfever.
Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouthwash.
Nettles are known as a digestive restorer and consistent use of nettles strengthens lungs, intestines, arteries and kidneys.
Even the nettles sting has been shown to alleviate joint pain!
And many, many more……
Nettles are especially high in calcium, vitamin C and iron. They are also high in protein and fibre, a whole host of minerals and many more vitamins.
The whole plant is basically a powerful medicine, from roots to seeds. It is especially good for ‘pale and pasty types’. I like this little rhyme:
“If they would eat nettles in March and drink Mugwort in May, so many fine maidens would not go to the clay” (Funeral song of a Scottish mermaid)
We seem to have lost touch with so many of natures gifts that surround us throughout every season which are there to give us health and vitality. I believe that in each environment we can find the nourishment we need to thrive, that is, if we have the knowledge and are inspired to seek them out.
Nettles are easily transformed into a delicious edible green leaf vegetable. Simple blanch them in boiling water, this breaks down the formic acid which stings. You can leave them to steep to make a lovely tea or use as you would any leafy green. Try a Nettle Aloo or Nettle Soup. We love them in smoothies and iced teas. Nettles make for a great pesto and can be used in place of basil and we especially like nettle hummus an stirring the leaves into hot pasta.
Wondering how you brew a cup of tea from this pesky powerhouse?
If you’re making a tea for yourself, the ratio is usually one teaspoon per one cup of water, although you can make a stronger brew once your body adapts to this tonic. The leaves need to steep for at least ten minutes to deactivate the stingers or you might have a bit of a tingly mouth. I’ve enjoyed this tea hundreds of times with no problem though.
Most health food stores also carry nettles in tincture and capsule form depending on what you are using this plant for. Consult a naturopath for any contraindications that may apply to any condition you may have or medications you are taking.
Tip: Another way to ingest nettles is in a wonderful soup or as steamed greens!
They have been eaten in these forms for hundreds of years. Don’t worry if you’re stumped on how to start cooking with nettles – there are a myriad of recipes online to fuel your creative culinary pursuits and you can also use nettles in place of spinach in most of the recipes like stews and soups (at least that’s what I do).
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