The intelligence of plants always amazes me. They always seem to pop up at the exact moment we need them most - Nettle is no exception.
Nettle is rich in minerals, such as manganese, calcium, iron, and potassium, and vitamins A,B, and C, making them a powerful nutritive tonic. If you go out in early Spring, you can see that some leaves are a deep purple. This is a sign they have higher level of anthocyanins - a flavonoid found in purple and red vegetables. From a PubMed article - "Health benefits of anthocyanins have been widely described, especially in the prevention of diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that health-promoting effects attributed to anthocyanins may also be related to modulation of gut microbiota."
Nettle has a long history of being used in herbal preparations to soothe gout, eczema, and urinary issues. This powerhouse is also a long loved vegetable, added to many dishes for their nutrient benefits as well as their delicious taste.
Have you ever wondered why they are called 'Stinging" Nettle? Tiny, hollow hairs line the stem and leaves, called trichomes. The 'sting' happens when you brush against them or handle with, the silica tips break off. They then act as a needle, pierce your skin, and inject neurotransmitters (histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin) and acids (formic acid, tartaric acid and oxalic acid) into your body, resulting in increased circulation, irritation, and inflammation. If getting 'stung' by Nettle is not your cup of tea, try squishing a fresh nettle leaf (which breaks the hairs and 'cancels' the sting) and rub the juices over your sting. the juices from Dock and Jewelweed leaves have also been traditionally used, although I don't have any personal use with those.
On the other hand, some people intentionally sting themselves with Nettle to help with circulation and arthritic pain. So, if you're feeling a bit adventurous, give it a try. The sting can last anywhere from an hour to a few days, and tends to be emphasized when exposed to cold water, FYI.
Another part of Nettle that is commonly used are the seeds. The seeds have adaptogenic qualities, helping your body respond to stress in a more balanced way. In the same way the leaves are used in foods, the seeds can also be added to recipes for their nutritional benefits. They are quite stimulating! (note of caution: be careful when eating nettle seed not to exceed 30 grams a day. It can be over-stimulating).
Stinging Nettle also happens to be April's Herbal CSA Box! You can find it in the apothecary either as an individual box, or part of the 12 month subscription. This is a great box if you are wanting to learn more about Nettle (and other wildcrafted plants in the PNW).
Each box contains:
•1oz freshly dried herb
•single extract tincture (with our signature glycerin twist)
•a third extract (differs with each box - Nettle is seasoning salt)
•32 page page written by Kassaundra Lynn (owner of Rooted Remedies)
•materia medica card