Nettle - spring greens

Nettle – spring greens

“My idea of a good herbalist is not someone who knows the uses of forty different herbs, but someone who knows how to use one herb in forty different ways.” ~ Sveno Brooks

There are several herbs that have a long and diverse list of uses; Nettle is one of them. It is an amazing plant who’s virtues have been masked by its awful habit of stinging people. There’s a natural fear of plants that have that kind of reputation, but, rest assured, its benefits far outweigh the sting.

A few facts about Nettle (Urtica dioica):

Urtica means “to burn” – dioica means “two houses” because it has both male and female plants

Nettle’s sting is caused by formic acid, the same chemical used by red ants

Nettle can stimulate uterine contractions and may interact with medications for high blood pressure and diabetes

Young, tender leaves and ripe seeds are used medicinally

Nettle Seeds on the right are ripe; on the left, still at flowering stage.

Nettle Seed on the right is ripe; left is still at flowering stage.

Nettle Seed Tincture

Nettle Seed Tincture

Nettle is an incredibly rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially the trace minerals that most people don’t get in sufficient amounts. According to well-known women’s herbalist, Susun Weed, Nettle has “anti-cancer selenium, immune-building sulphur, memory-enhancing zinc, diabetes-chasing chromium and bone-building boron.” She also notes that a Nettle infusion provide these critical nutrients directly to the blood stream, to every cell in the body, without having to be digested. (Infusions are stronger than a simple “tea” and usually steeped overnight.)

Check out this list of Nettle’s uses and get to know this marvelous herb:

  1. Remedy for hay fever
  2. Remedy for food allergies
  3. Used to treat candida
  4. Controls excessive menstrual flow
  5. Increases mother’s milk
  6. Used as a nutritious food source
  7. Ointment used to treat hemorrhoids
  8. Clears congestion from nose
  9. Clears congestion from chest
  10. Lowers blood sugar
  11. Used to prevent hair loss
  12. Used to treat dandruff
  13. Roman Soldiers used it to keep warm
  14. Urtication – stinging arthritic joints to relieve pain
  15. Known as a blood purifier
  16. When taken before meals, helps with food allergies
  17. Used to make horses “smart and frisky”
  18. Used to treat eczema
  19. Used to treat acne
  20. Considered an “alterative” – gradually restores proper functioning of body
  21. Aids digestion
  22. Stimulate metabolism
  23. Improves elimination of wastes from the body
  24. Used as a compress for sprains
  25. Used as a compress for tendonitis
  26. Used as a compress for sciatica
  27. Eaten as a steamed green
  28. High in Vitamin K
  29. Contains Iron and the Vitamin C needed to absorb it
  30. Nettle seed used to improve mood
  31. Nettle seed used to improve general nervous system health
  32. Nettle seed eaten for trace minerals
  33. Nettle seed tincture used to restore adrenal function
  34. Fiber used to make silk-like cloth long before flax
  35. Used to treat urinary tract infections
  36. Used to treat enlarged prostrate
  37. Poultice used to relieve insect bites
  38. Used to treat kidney stones
  39. Leaves make a greenish yellow dye
  40. One species of Nettle causes a sting that lasts a year

And that’s just the list for humans. Nettle leaves increase production of eggs when fed to chickens and make an excellent “tea” to give plants extra vitamins and minerals.

Young Nettle plants

Young Nettle plants

Young Nettle makes a delicious and nutritious spring green, cooked like spinach or added to pasta and egg dishes. For an easy side side dish, try steamed, chopped Nettle with risotto rice or orzo pasta. Potato Nettle Soup is a hearty meal, loaded with nutrition. Potato and Nettle also make a great casserole with butter, cream and cracked black pepper.

Potato Nettle Soup

2 cups Nettle Leaves (young shoots)
1 Onion
6 small Potatoes
8 cups Water (or vegetable stock)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. Parsley
3 cloves Garlic OR 3 stalks green garlic

Puree onion, garlic, and nettles with 1 cup of water or stock. Cut potatoes into small pieces. Simmer pureed mixture with potatoes and remaining water or stock for 45 minutes or until tender. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes making the soup thick and creamy.

Nettle can be added to almost any soup or stew for extra nutrition and delicate green flavor:

Vegetable Soup with Nettles

Vegetable Soup with Nettles

When harvesting Nettle, remember to look for this plant, Burdock, growing nearby to use as an antidote to the inevitable sting… Nettle in – Dock out. And if you’re so inclined, go ahead and harvest the Burdock root to add to your Vegetable Soup. They are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, as well as a liver tonic. But, that will have to wait for next week’s post on spring herbs.

Young Burdock plant

Young Burdock plant