By Jordan Douglas, HHC
Nettle, Urtica dioica, is one of our most nutritive plant allies and a quintessential spring herb. Nettle is a nutrient powerhouse —rich in chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, silica and iron —and can be used as both food and medicine. Nettle nourishes, builds and tones the body’s system and cleanses the blood. Nettle is an ideal spring herb because it enhances our body’s defenses against common allergens, molds and pollen. The stem and leaf are the parts most commonly used as medicine, although both the seeds and the roots can be used. Nettle is astringent and a mild diuretic. As a nutritive tonic, it strengthens and supports the entire body.
Nettle is commonly known as stinging nettle for a reason: the underside of the leaves are lined with stinging hairs. These little stingers do have therapeutic value. Upon contact with human skin, the stinging hairs promote an immediate hypersensitivity reaction which invokes the body’s inflammatory response and induces urticaria. Through a technique known as flagellation, swollen, painful joints are whipped with the fresh, mature nettle leaves. While this practice should only be performed by an experienced hand, it can be tremendously helpful for some in easing joint pain and inflammation.
The culinary applications for nettle are endless. The fresh nettles are lightly steamed to removed the stinging hairs, then can be consumed as a nutritive green much as you would spinach. They can be blended into pestos, pasta or soup. Nettle-infused oil enhances any culinary creation. To make it:
- Combine nettle and olive oil in a jar and seal tightly.
- Place the jar in a brown paper bag (to protect it from direct light).
- Place the jar in a warm, sunny spot or windowsill for several weeks.
- Strain and use as you would olive oil.
Due to it’s high mineral content, nettle is fantastic for supporting healthy hair, skin and nails. Try combining equal parts nettle, oat straw and red raspberry leaf for a mineral-dense infusion. Nettle also offers excellent seasonal support for those suffering from spring allergies. It can be enjoyed alone, as either a hot or cold infusion, or in combination with other herbs. Once of my personal favorite combinations is nettle, holy basil and red clover for allergy, lymphatic and stress support. If making infusions isn’t your cup of tea, try out a nettle tincture or Urban Moonshine’s Aller-Blast. Whether you’re looking to increase your nutrient intake or support seasonal allergies, I encourage you to give nettle a try this spring!