The plant has small hair-like stingers containing a compound called, Formic Acid, similar to the compounds found in some insect stings. For some folks, this amounts to minor skin irritation, lasting several hours, while others may experience welts and pain similar to a bee sting. If you decide to forage this plant, do so with caution.
If you are stung, you may find natural relief by applying a poultice of leaves from Plantain (the plant, not the fruit) or Curly Dock or the juice from crushed Jewelweed stems. Some say relief can be found in the Nettle stem juices, though I’m not sure you’d want to get that close again, after experiencing her sting.
Why forage this plant and risk pain? Well, Nettles are an amazing super food. Cooked (cooking removes the sting), they taste similar to spinach and provide more protein than most plants. They are high in easily absorbable iron, calcium, and vitamins b, c and k, as well as a host of other nutrients and trace elements.
It can be used medicinally, as a gentle diuretic or to combat adrenal fatigue and exhaustion, arthritis and other degenerative diseases. Because of its astringent qualities, it helps stem the flow of blood. It works as an adaptogen and balances the entire system.
The best time to harvest nettle leave is the spring before they flower when the new shoots are tender or during the second harvest in the fall. They make a tasty addition to soups, juices, and smoothies. They can be used to make restorative tinctures, decoctions, and delicious tea. Use them to flavor vinegar. Cook or steam them as you would greens. In the summer, dried seeds are said to be energizing without being over stimulating. I’m looking forward to trying this for myself – Homestead renovations have us worn out!
Also, in the late summer, the stems, now tall and lanky, can be harvested for fiber, processed and used much like animal fiber.
In the fall, a decoction made from the roots and Horsetails makes for a lovely hair rinse that is good those suffering eczema, psoriasis, dandruff and some types of hair loss.
Caution! If you have a blood clotting disorder or are on a blood thinner, consult a physician before ingesting. Because of Nettles vitamin K content; as well as its astringent qualities, it has been used for its blood clotting abilities: nose bleeds, heavy menstruation, bloody coughs and urine.
Tinctures, decoctions, washes… Have you used Stinging Nettle? If you have, I hope you share a tip or recipe in the comments below.
(Disclaimer: I am not a Physician nor am I Certified Herbalist. The information provided on this site has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent conditions, illnesses or diseases, it is purely anecdotal and stem from my own personal fascination with the natural world around me. I use the following for my research: Peterson Field Guides – Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs, The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, books and videos by Rosemary Gladstar and Susun Weed, as well as various internet posts. I encourage you to do your own research. Before trying any herbal remedy, consult a physician or certified medical professional to make sure it is safe for you to use.)
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