actions: NOURISHING * ANTI-INFLAMMATORY * ENERGIZING
systems: RESPIRATORY * RENAL//ADRENAL
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are commonly known as a "spring tonic" - spring tonics are super nutritious plants that help clean-up and refresh our systems after a long winter of (usually) heavy foods. These plants are also known in herb-speak as "alteratives," they enhance the nutrition and repair of tissues and generally promote healthy changes in a body.
Nettles are a good source of protein, vitamins A, B, C, and D, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, chlorophyll, and silica - whew! They also have an alkalinizing effect on the blood and body. (Things like sugar and wastes acidify the body and things like cancer cells prefer acidic environments, so we want to be slightly alkaline!) It's best to eat nettles fresh to preserve their bioflavinoids, enzymes, and vitamins B & C - but how do you eat a raw plant covered in tiny stinging hairs? Blend it! Nettle juice is alkaline and neutralizes the acid that causes the sting. If I can convince you to make one recipe with nettles, let it be nettle pesto - just swap nettles for basil and process with olive oil, parmesan, garlic, and nuts of your choice. SO GOOD. Nettle nutrition can also be extracted with vinegar or honey for use in salad dressings, sauces and beverages. Making teas or infusions with the dried herb is also a great choice if you don't have the fresh.
Medicinally, nettles are a great herb to know. In acute scenarios nettle tincture can reduce inflammation caused by allergic reactions or asthma by dilating the bronchial tubes, sinuses, and throat. When taken long-term nettle will help to heal lung and sinus tissues. Nettles have a diuretic effect and improve urinary tract health by nourishing the renal and adrenal systems. They're particularly useful for urinary tract distress caused by irritation rather than infection.
Nourishing and supporting our renal and adrenal systems also gives us sustainable energy! One of the mind-blowing things I learned during my first week apprenticing at Cedar Mountain Herb School is that by nourishing our adrenal system, nettles can help normalize our cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone our body produces in response to stress or low blood sugar. It's an important and normal part of our stress response, but like anything, too much can be bad news. Symptoms of wacky cortisol levels include weight gain, poor sleep, low immune response, fatigue, low libido, and feeling strung-out or crazy. But nettles help balance us out - how cool is that?! Thanks nettles!!
**This post also appears in the zine POSEURS #13.