by Maya Skalinska M.H.,R.H.T
Nettle leaf is among the most valuable herbal remedies in the northern hemisphere. It’s packed with important nutrients and grows abundantly all over the Kootenays.
It is rich in protein, iron, boron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulphur, vitamin A, B complex, vitamin C, chlorophyll, antioxidants, as well as many constituents that have anti-inflammatory, diuretic, anti-allergenic, decongestant, expectorant and tonifying effects, just to name a few. So, what does this all mean?
Nettle’s iron content makes it a wonderful blood builder, and the presence of vitamin C aids in the iron absorption, which makes nettle an excellent herb for anemia and fatigue.
Boron is a trace mineral essential for healthy bones as it helps bones retain calcium. It also has a beneficial influence on the body’s endocrine (hormonal) system, and hormones play a role in helping the body maintain healthy bones and joints. The magnesium helps with calcium absorption. The boron, calcium and magnesium combination help to prevent osteoporosis.
The antioxidants and high levels of potassium and chlorophyll help with cardiovascular disorders and immune deficiency.
On top of that, nettle leaf is very effective for arthritis, rheumatism, gout, kidney disease and fluid retention. It also gently cleanses the body of metabolic wastes, and has a stimulating effect on the lymphatic system, enhancing the excretion of wastes through the kidneys. A perfect, gentle spring cleanser.
Nettle leaves sting due to its formic acid content. To harvest nettles, wear long sleeves, gloves, and boots. Using scissors, cut 5 to 7 inches from the top. Never harvest nettle that’s already gone to seed. To dry, hang it in bunches, upside down, in a well-ventilated area. I find twist ties work great for keeping the bunches together. Once dried, remove the leaves from the stems, (I still wear gloves for this) and store in a glass container away from direct sunlight. If you have arthritis in your hands or wrists, (and if you’re brave) try not to wear gloves. The sting is an effective medicine for arthritis. Before harvesting any herbs do your research to make sure you’re harvesting the correct plant.
To treat yourself to a spring tonic, I recommend two to three cups of nettle tea per day, for two to three weeks. Always start with one cup per day and increase slowly. Typical ratio is two teaspoons of dried leaf, per one cup boiling water, steeped covered for 5 to 20 minutes. The longer you steep, the stronger the medicine will be. Start with a shorter steep and increase the strength slowly. For fresh leaves, use 1:2 ratio (1 part leaf to 2 parts water). When using fresh leaf, you can make an infusion (adding boiling water to the herb, cover and steep) or decoction (add herb and water, bring to boil). If using the decoction method, boil for just a few minutes, strain the tea, and use the boiled leaves in soups, sauces or stews. For a stronger tonic, I like the “jar method”: add the nettle leaf (dry or fresh) to a jar, using the ratios above, add boiling water, close the lid and leave it overnight at room temperature. In the morning strain and keep in fridge for about 2-3 days. As nettle is a diuretic, it will increase urine output, but at the same time it will replenish nutrients and electrolytes. Do not use nettle as recommended above if you’re on CNS depressants, diuretics or anticoagulant drugs.
As food, you can steam or stir fry just as you would any greens. Cooking nettle leaf takes away the sting. There are many great recipes using nettle, my favorite is soup. I always make enough nettle soup to freeze for winter dinners when I am missing my fresh nutrient dense greens. Using nettle as food in moderation is safe if you’re taking the pharmaceuticals mentioned above.
We are so blessed to have this amazing, nutrient packed plant growing in our back yards. I encourage you to take advantage of this marvelous gift mother nature is offering us. Happy Spring everyone!
Maya is a Master Herbalist, and Registered Herbal Therapist with BCHA. She offers Iridology, Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Consultations in Crawford Bay and Nelson. For more information please email Maya.