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HERB OF THE WEEK: NETTLE!

HERB OF THE WEEK:  NETTLE!
By Angie "Oriana" Jenkins, B.A., Wolfville's Belly Dancing Herbalist

Nettle (or "stinging nettle" as it is also known) is popping out of the ground & wants you to celebrate spring!  Though its stings may be intimidating to some, nettle is an amazing plant which can be used as a food, medicine, cosmetic, & material fibre.  When harvesting & handling the plant, be sure to wear protective gloves.  If you happen to get stung regardless, look nearby for Yellow Dock leaves.  Add moisture to the Yellow Dock & place over the sting & you will soon feel relief.  Remember this old saying:  "Nettle in, Dock out!"

As a food, it makes an incredible steamed green resembling the flavour of spinach.  Once steamed, there is no longer a sting so don't fret!  Try it in soup, spanikopitas, or even lasagna. Susun Weed, in her book
Healing Wise, dedicates a whole chapter to nettle with an abundance of fun recipes to try.  This plant is a rich source of iron, calcium sulfur, B complex vitamins, & other nutrients.

Medicinally, nettle leaf is a specific for many female ailments.  In menstruating women, it will curb profuse blood flow while providing the lost iron.  Pregnant women benefit from the consumption of nettle as their need for calcium & iron increases.  Traditionally, the plant was administered by midwives to women who were at risk of hemorrhage in the last trimester of pregnancy.  After babies are born, mothers can continue to include nettle in the diet in order to improve the quantity & quality of breast milk.  By acting as a mild diuretic, it will also help her to slough off excess pounds she may have gained during pregnancy.  All genders will notice this common beauty herb will have a beneficial effect on the hair, skin, & nails when taken internally as tea, capsules, or tincture or when used topically in the form of a hair rinse, cream, or ointment.  As allergy season begins to hit, remember that this plant has an anti-histamine effect & is one step in lessening common hayfever symptoms.  Men are commonly prescribed nettle root by herbalists for prostate issues. 

One of my early teachers taught me how to make nettle string.  What a time-consuming activity!  During the world wars, when Germany was cut off from cotton sources, uniforms were made from the fibers of this very durable plant. 

So, go get your gloves on!  Eat, drink, & make string!


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