Botannical name: Urtica urens (and other species)
Common name: Stinging nettle
Parts used: Leaves, roots, seeds
Energy/taste: Slightly bitter, cool
Properties: Diuretic, astringent, tonic, hemostatic, galactagogue, expectorant, nutritive
Dosage: standard infusion; tincture, 90 drops; freeze dried capsules
My first experience with the infamous stinging nettle plant was in Germany. It was not a pleasant one. In 2018, I can identify a nettles patch from a distance, and know that I need to wear gloves to interact with its trichomes (hollow stinging hairs on the leaves and stems). Once dehydrated, steamed, or par-boiled, the trichomes lose their sting. In 2002 I did not know this, and happened to run my hand through one of the patches that grow with abandon along the banks of the Mosel river. I do not recommend it.
Fortunately, Nettle and I have come a long way since 2002. I have come to understand that when treated properly, nettle herb is capable of quite a range of helpful actions. Here's a handy list.
-The anti-histamine action of nettle leaf makes it a predominant spring allergy herb. While not completely understood, it is thought that the histamine in nettle leaf down-regulates the immune response. Its effect on inflammatory markers is also believed to play a role here, and its astringent quality helps to dry up runny noses.
-Nettle leaf shines as a nutritive tonic. It is rich in calcium, iron, silicic acid, and potassium, as well as carotenoids and Vitamins C & K. I use it in tea blends for both pregnant women and nursing mothers, as well as for women with osteoporosis/osteopenia. It plays a large role in my blackstrap molasses formula for blood deficiency (anemia).
-Nettle leaf is useful in both chronic and acute urinary complaints, including stones and cystitis.
-Nettle leaf stops bleeding, both internally and externally.
-Nettle oil and a strong infusion of nettle leaf is applied topically to the scalp to combat hair loss.
-Nettle root (combined with saw palmetto) is helpful for those suffering BPH, and is an effective diuretic.
Herbalist David Winston has used nettle seed clinically to increase kidney glomerular function and reduce serum creatinine levels, thereby treating degenerative kidney diseases with great success.
This spring I will harvest the young and tender nettle leaves for pesto, for soup, and for my first attempt at nettle beer. Once the plants have gone to seed, I will harvest those for tincturing. I will purchase nettle leaf in bulk for use in commerce, because I can't get my (gloved) hands on enough to make your allergy tincture, pregnancy and lactation teas, blood-building syrups, and bone health teas.
If you harvest your own nettles, I'd sure love to hear about it!
Journal of The American Herbalist Guild [4(2):22-25]
The Way of Herbs, by Michael Tierra, L.Ac., O.M.D.
Brew Your Medicine, by Kristi Shapla