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Sister Nettle, how we love thee.

Sister Nettle, how we love thee.
May 30, 2008 Mary Jo

In addition to the Lupine, the Columbine, the Rosebush, and countless other blooming beauties, we’ve been endowed with fields of Nettle. Stinging Nettles. The kind that sting. Like a hive of bees.

And I couldn’t be more pleased. Really. In my short tenure as Aspiring Herbalist, I’ve formed an alliance with Sister Nettle and recognized her as a valuable asset to the herbal medicine chest. Or apothecary, as it’s called in these parts. In fact, much of my herbal study, heavily influenced by Susun Weed, focuses on those herbs that are usually dismissed as weeds: dandelion, nettle, burdock, chickweed. You would not BELIEVE the things these herbs can do. Safely. I see their abundance and accessibility as some kind of proof that Mother Nature (insert your deity here) thinks we’re pretty great and smart and has given us all the tools we need to keep on top of our game.

Nettle, I’m learning, is one of the premier herbs for immune health. It’s chock full of amino acids, calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, Vitamin A, and many more great things I find too tedious to type. Nettle’s resume is pages long, listing abilities to stabilize blood sugar, help normalize weight, reduce fatigue and exhaustion, lessen allergic and menopausal problems, eliminate chronic headaches, infertility, skin conditions, kidney and bladder issues, like Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), respiratory issues from colds to asthma and even tuberculosis, pregnancy and lactation (boosts the milk supply!!) and on and on…. Quite the over-achiever, and I’ve got fields of it.

And I’ve been using Nettle for some time now, even before discovering this treasure trove. One of the easiest and most effective ways to add Nettle to your diet is to make a long infusion, or essentially a tea that is steeped for a much longer period of time than your Earl Grey. You can use fresh nettle or dried, as I was, having paid money to have some shipped to me. (she laughs at the irony of it now)

Nettle Long Infusion

1 oz dried leaves (2 handfuls cut or 1 handful whole leaves dried)

Add leaves to a quart/liter jar and fill will boiling water. Cover, to keep all of the good stuff from escaping, and let it infuse for at least 4 hours, up to 8 or 10. Then strain off and refrigerate the infusion. Keeps in the fridge for about 2 days.

Steeping it for this long allows for those vitamins and minerals and chlorophyll to come out of the confines of the leaves, where we can use them.  I find it easy to start the infusion before bed and strain it when I get up.  Easy-breezy.

What do I do with the infusion? We try to drink up to 2 cups per day for our allergies. I really like the mellow taste of it and drink it like water, cold from the fridge. You could add honey or even tamari or sea salt to it to hop it up a bit, or drink it warm or hot.

I’ve used it as the base for a broth or soup.

It’s also reputed to be a great hair rinse.

Pregnant or Lactating? Nettle’s got lots and lots of good stuff for you, and is as safe as food.

So this is all fine and dandy, but she still stings. So you need to PAY ATTENTION if you’re going to harvest your own. She was one of the herbs that Isadora first learned to identify, as she’s present all over the place here, and she’s also learned by experience. I’ll be harvesting those plants along our walking paths first, while wearing long sleeves and leather gloves.

The stinging is not a threat once she’s dried or cooked, but until that point, PAY ATTENTION. The sting hurts like a sonnofa… but is only a nuisance. Not poisonous or toxic or of further concern except the stinging, burning feeling that persists for a while.

Hungry for more nettle info? Here‘s a good online reference.

Some interesting Nettle lore, directly from Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal:

Albrecht Durer painted an angel flying to heaven carrying nettles.

Nettle flowers in England provide the nectar which is the sole nourishment of peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies.

The Tibetan Buddhist saint Milarepa lived exclusively on nettles in his retreat; it is said that he became both green and enlightened.

Which ties in pretty nicely with my own goals of green enlightenment.

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