Nettle Me This!   3 comments

What is green, full of beneficial phytochemicals, helps clear toxins from the body, boosts immunity, relieves inflammation, makes hair and skin radiant, tastes wonderful and packs a zing?

Give up?  Can’t touch this!

 Some years ago, while walking the Old Mill Trail in Hinsdale, MA, with my daughter, we came upon a patch of a somewhat familiar looking plant.  Although neither of us could immediately identify them, we both felt like we recognized what it was, yet could not pull up the name.  Walking closer, I reached out saying, “It’s. . . .um. . .maybe. . .” and as I touched a leaf, I sang out, loudly, “STINGING NETTLES!”  We both laughed, realizing that is NOT the way to identify a plant, no matter what you think it is!  Since then, I have not touched another plant, no matter what I “think” it is, until I am absolutely certain of its identification.  It was a lesson well received.  The sensation was immediately alarming, yet oddly familiar; not horrible, but, certainly unexpected!

 Now, let’s fast forward to the other day.  While hunting for Morel mushrooms (which I did not find) I spied a patch of familiar looking plants, from about 50 ft away, or so; and realized, that’s Stinging Nettles, Urtica dioica!  Goodness those Stinging Nettles made a lasting first impression!  From the research I did after my first encounter I remembered that this lovely ally is full of wonderful benefits.  Yet, I could not remember the full story.  So, I came home, hit the books and the internet, and then went back out to harvest.  Much to my delight I had come across Stinging Nettles at their harvest-ability peak!  YES!

The flavor of Stinging Nettles is similar to really good spinach, with a hint of sweetness and a slight nutty quality.  I put stems and leaves in my pot roast (during the last 10 minutes), along with tomatoes and cauliflower.  It tasted very much like outstanding spinach, only better.  The fragrance of the drying plant is heavenly; much deeper and heartier than any store bought.  I like to turn them twice a day, although the stingers remain, their zip quickly fades.  Stinging Nettle tea, is other-worldly.  Can a person drink too much Nettle tea?  I hope not!  This green brew is not in the least bitter, supports a squirt of lemon, nicely; and nourishes mind, body and spirit.  Hot or cold, rain or shine, ill or well, I like this tea.

 

This is some of what I found, about Stinging Nettles:

 “Recent studies suggest that the leaf tea aids coagulation and formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Several studies indicate that the leaf extract depresses the central nervous system and inhibits bacteria and adrenaline. The juice has a distinctly diuretic effect in patients with heart disorders or chronic venous insufficiency. The herb’s high potassium content and flavonoids may contribute to its diuretic action. In Germany, the herb is used for supportive treatment of rheumatic complaints and kidney infections.” (1)

 

“Pick the top leaves, bending the stem and finding its natural break point. (The number of leaves will vary with the size of the plant.) If you take only the tops, you leave your nettle patch healthy and growing so that you can harvest again and again until the plants begin to flower.” (2)  Great tip, thank you WildBlessings.  Really, this is how much of foraging goes.  It’s the meristematic growth we look for; the lighter, curled, more pliable, newer, upper, often stretchy, immature growth.  Gathering meristems often means reaching in between the taller plants, for the wee one.  

“After stinging nettle enters its flowering and seed setting stages the leaves develop gritty particles called “cystoliths”, which can irritate the urinary tract. In its peak season, stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The young leaves are edible and make a very good pot-herb. The leaves are also dried and may then be used to make a tisane, as can also be done with the nettle’s flowers.” (3)  So, all is not lost once flowering begins, BONUS!

 

“These are typical phytochemicals found in stinging nettle: histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, flavonol glycosides, sitosterol, lectin, coumarins, hydroxysitosterol, scopoletin, tannins, lignans.” (4)  Wow, so many blessings in one zippy package!

 

As if a free, very nutritious, beneficial, vegetable/tea package weren’t enough, I decided to give partial urtication a go! 

“Urtication, or flogging with nettles, is the process of deliberately applying stinging nettles to the skin in order to provoke inflammation. An agent thus used is known as a rubefacient (something that causes redness). This is done as a folk remedy for rheumatism, providing temporary relief from pain.” (3)

I have arthritis in my hands; and it has been raining for weeks.  Needless to say, my hands ache.  So, I decided to try picking Stinging Nettles, bare handed; although, long sleeved.  Oh my goodness, what a rush!  The first minute or two was tough, I reverted to Lamaze breathing and toughed it out.  It somewhat reminded me of the first few minutes of a tattoo.  Knowing from that experience that my body would adjust helped get me through “the big burn”.  Soon the properties inherent in the sting started to dull the zing as the deep ache in my hands began to subside.  Then the sensation felt very much like the electrical stimulation given in physical therapy.  Maybe I was just happy to be gifted with such bounty.  It took a good 10 minutes before the sensation become more than I could deal with.  By then I had picked a nice bundle of nettles, enough to cook some fresh, dry some, and keep my hands in and out of, for much of the day.  Within seconds of stopping picking the sting again subsided into a most warm, enjoyable glow, which lasted several hours.  Honest to goodness it hurt so good it brought tears of gratitude to my eyes.  I do NOT recommending that anyone else do this.  Just reporting my experience.

P.S.  This was such a DUMB idea!  Not urticating, but, picking nettles bare handed.   I now have Poison Ivy all over both of my hands.  In my desperate, zealous attempt at pain relief, I over looked a good safety rule:  WEAR GLOVES WHILE GATHERING!  Urtication can happen at home, away for other irritants.  Another lesson vividly illustrated and well learned in the Nettle Patch!

“Many folk remedies exist for treating the itching including horsetail (Equisetopsida spp.), leaf of dock (Rumex spp.), Jewelweed, (Impatiens capensis and Impatiens pallida), the underside of a fern (the spores), mud, saliva, or baking soda, oil and onions, and topical use of milk of magnesia. Lemon juice also works for treatment” (3)

 I grabbed a Curly Dock leaf, (below) which was, conveniently growing near by, and gave it a try; indeed it did immediately relieve much of the itch and sting.  All I did was crush and rub the leaf between my hands.  How perfect Nature is.

 

As the folk saying goes, “Nettles In, Dock Out!”

Tomorrow I plan to try Stinging Nettle Soup; and will let you know how that comes out, in another post.

Stinging Nettles love abandoned buildings and property.  All the photos here were taken near a long vacant barn.

Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, is a perennial, growing 3 to 7 ft. tall.   The hairy, textured, green leaves grow 1 to 6 in long, are borne oppositely on erect, hairy, spiney, wiry, green stems, often with purple veins.

The leaf margins are very serrated.

  I will come back and harvest flowers in summer.

Stinging Nettles have a long history of use as a food source, as medicine and in textiles.  And, super bonus, have no known drug interactions. (5)

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time.

 

 GREAT RESOURSES:

(1) http://www.allnatural.net/herbpages/stinging-nettle.shtml

How do I love All Natural dot net?  Impossible to count the ways, just go, be quick with yourself and see!

 (2) http://wildblessings.com/plants/stinging-nettle/

Another fabulous, favorite resource.

(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stinging_nettle

 (4) http://www.phytochemicals.info/plants/stinging-nettle.php

(5) A-Z guide to drug-herb-vitamin interactions, Schuyler W. Lininger, Jr.

DC, editor in chief

      Prima Health, 1999.

 

Just click on any photo, to enlarge.

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3 responses to “Nettle Me This!

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  1. I tried Stinging Nettle for the first time last year. I also really liked the tea, but no one else in the family wanted to try it lol.

    • My family is reluctant, also; however that is wearing off, as time goes by and they taste new wonderful goodies. My son was funny with Garlic Mustard shoots, he said, “If this wasn’t so good I would try to tell you I don’t like it!”

  2. Reblogged this on Forageporage's Blog.

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