|Photo by J Brew https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/2544110170|
Where You Find Stinging NettlesNettle is a bold, strong plant that likes moisture and shade. You will find it growing near creek banks, in partially shady areas. Nettle prefers moving water where its roots do not get bogged down in stagnant muck, but can grow in the muck also, especially if there is high nitrogen in that muck. This plant tends to spread out by sending its rhizomes in all directions. Therefore you find Nettles growing in thick patches. If you invite Nettles to your home to live, provide a semi-shaded spot and give her plenty of liquids and a rich, well-drained soil. If she is grown in poor soil, she will enrich the soil herself. She does love nitrogen. If you give her a rich compost she will grow big and her leaves will be a very dark green.
Whats The Skinny On Eating NettlesAs a food both the roots/rhizomes and the aerial leafy parts can be eaten. Although the roots are fine as soup stock, I mostly eat the tops of the nettles, and I prefer the early, supple, spring greens best. The most choice part is the top 4-6 inches.
I usually stir fry Stinging Nettle or cook it in soups. I think it tastes like spinach with an attitude. It is much tastier than spinach. I have also eaten it as a pesto made by a lovely student (warning fresh pesto probably won't sting you if you grind it down really good like my student did, but no promises), it is great as a side with fish and a nice sauce, or in casseroles, and as a substitute for spinach in any recipe that is cooked.
How To Collect Nettles
Watch Out For Those Stingers
|Photo by Mari Subb https://www.flickr.com/photos/54496854@N08/|
Helpful TipIf like me, you decide to harvest without gloves, remember that the leaves do not have stingers on the top of the leaf and this will help guide you in how to collect it without so many stings.
Talk About Odd JobsI once spent the summer as a student volunteer helping a researcher named Anna MacIntosh who had been hired to run a variety of experiments for an herb company named Eclectic Institute. I spent most of an entire day that summer, pulling stingers off of Nettles with a pair of tweezers. Now that is dedication. I did find myself asking if this was a prudent thing to be doing with my time. By the way histamine, serotonin , and acetylcholine are concentrated in the fresh stinging hairs on the leaves according to one research article.
When To HarvestIn the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the best time to harvest the aerial tips for food is from the end of February to the end of March. They can be harvested to dry as a medicine up until they begin to go into flowering stage.
As far as the rhizomes, they can be harvested fall through spring. Harvest after the plant dies back and before it starts to grow again.
The seed cam be harvested when it is ripe.
Caution About When To Harvest The GreensOnly collect aerial Nettles (the upper green parts) in the spring prior to flowering. Once it flowers, the aerial part is not safe to consume as a food or as a medicinal tea. After they flower they can be irritating and may inflame the urinary tract.
Why Nettles Are Used As Food And Medicine
High In Minerals And Vitamins For Nutritious SupportThe abundant minerals in those leafy greens make it a wonderful addition to our diet. Nettle is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and silicic acid. Nettle also contains vitamin A, C and K as well as various B vitamins. The high mineral content may be part of the reason for nettle tea’s ability to reduce the severity and occurrence of leg cramps as well as menstrual cramps (magnesium specifically) and its ability to support strong bones. The high mineral content also benefits anemic (iron), undernourished individuals.
Stinging nettle is beneficial as a spring tonic and rejuvenator. As a medicine it tends to be very stimulating and drying. It has a supportive effect on our immune system, spleen, circulatory system, urinary tract, nervous system, respiratory tract, digestive system and the endocrine system; including the adrenals, thyroid, and the pancreas. It nourishes our entire body as well as nourishing us spiritually by increasing receptivity to the natural energetic flow of our spirit.
I find long term use of nettle can be beneficial for support of multiple body systems. An example is the lungs. People with hay fever use the tea daily starting a month or more prior to allergy season beginning. They find it decreases their allergy symptoms during the season if they start early and continue throughout the season. People with other recurrent lung issues such as asthma have also found it beneficial when used over time.
Nettles have shown in-vitro inhibition of several proinflammatory substances that cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies. This includes decreasing the release of histamine, as well as inhibition of prostaglandin formation through inhibition of Cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1), Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and Hematopoietic Prostaglandin D(2) synthase (HPGDS), which are enzymes involved in the pro-inflammatory pathways. Nettle is thought to possibly have anti-inflammatory potential in allergic rhinitis by the following pathways: antagonizing H1-receptor, reducing of PGD2 production (allergy specific prostaglandin), and inhibitory effect on mast cell tryptase.
Nettle is also beneficial in excessive menstrual bleeding. It helps supply lost iron as well as helping to decrease the bleeding. Nettle favors elimination of uric acid and is therefore useful in gouty arthritis. It may be used as a diuretic. The root and seed are also diuretic. Nettle greens are best used long term in treating chronic illnesses.
A 2016 research study found a tea of Nettle was shown to significantly increase endothelial nitric oxide (and Super Oxide Dismutase) over an eight week period of treament for type 2 diabetes. This may be another reason for its ability to lower blood pressure other than its activity as a diuretic and supplying magnesium.
Nettle Root and SeedI am focusing on the leafy parts and have ignored the wonderful root and seed of this special plant. Both are used medicinally. The root is often used for BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy), while the seed is used to support kidney and thyroid function.
The root is astringent, and has diuretic properties. It is used to arrest bleeding and to treat lower urinary tract symptoms in males (LUTS)/benighn prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It has anti-inflammatory activity and has been shown to inhibit aromatase. Aromastase is the enzyme that convenrts testosterone into estradiol and is implicated in BPH. Clinical studies show use of the root improves BPH symptoms such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of bladder, post urination dripping and the constant urge to urinate.
The seed has more recently (past 20 years or so) been used for kidney inflammation and to support people in chronic kidney failure. I have only used the seed in tincture form and in 1/2 - 1 teaspoon (that is equal to about 60-120 drops) per day, 2 times per day.