Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stung by a Nettle

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of the premier herbs in traditional Western herbalism. In addition to being high in protein, this extremely nutritious plant contains many vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, and chlorophyll.

Stinging Nettle - Such a pretty plant!
Also known as Stinging Nettle or Nettles, Nettle is a fundamental iron tonic for treating anemea as well as during pregnancy, when it helps to tone the pelvic muscles in preparation for childbirth.  For all of its nutritive value, one must take care when harvesting; the plant possesses fine hairs and spines on the leaves and stems that release formic acid when touched; just one careless grasp can result in a painful, stinging or burning rash. According to M. Grieve, the self-same plant is the cure for this rash.  Simply applying Nettle juice to the irritation will give near immediate relief.  I have no personal experience with this, as I've never been silly enough to touch one without gloves, however I'm willing to bet Ms. Grieve knew her stuff.

Ironically, for this very reason in some parts of the world, Nettle is used as a lust-inducing herb.  Though I cringe at the thought, apparently, lightly flagellating the sexual organs with a sprig of fresh nettles can act as an aphrodisiac and help - ahem - make things more interesting.  I sure hope K-Y doesn't get any ideas.

Therapeutically, Nettle is well known for having natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent herb for people with asthma or allergies. There have been several studies done which have shown the remarkable improvement of those who suffered from constricted bronchial and nasal passages, asthma, and hay fever when they were given Nettle. Also a diuretic, Nettle encourages excretions while at the same time discouraging nighttime urges to "go", making Nettle quite helpful for those with urinary, bed-wetting, and prostate problems.  It has also been used historically as a hair tonic to restore thinning, gray hair to its youthful luster, thickness, and color.  To quote Susun Weed,
Stinging nettle builds energy, strengthens the adrenals, and is said to restore youthful flexibility to blood vessels. A cup of nettle infusion contains 500 milligrams of calcium plus generous amounts of bone-building magnesium, potassium, silicon, boron, and zinc. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E, and K. For flexible bones, a healthy heart, thick hair, beautiful skin, and lots of energy, make friends with sister stinging nettle. It may make you feel so good you'll jump up and exercise.
Nettle Ravioli
So, how, you ask, can you use this powerhouse?  Making a tea is probably the easiest way.  Simply infuse the dried herb in freshly boiled water, covered, for 20 minutes. My favorite method is to make a nourishing herbal infusion (again, thank you, Susun Weed) by placing one ounce (by weight) of herb in a quart sized canning jar and filling the jar with boiling hot water right up to the rim.  Screw on the lid and leave it to infuse overnight.  The next morning, strain out the herbs, squeeze out all of the precious liquid, and consume all of it within 36 hours. You can also prepare them as a pesto - just as you would use basil, only blanch them first! - , add them to recipes with spinach, use as a ravioli stuffing, use them as a pizza topping ... the possibilities are nearly endless.

If you have new ways of cooking with nettles, I'd love to hear about them.

No comments:

Post a Comment