For the March Blogparty on Nettles hosted by Julie at Crow’s Daughter.
Stinging Nettle’s has a remarkable ability to rebuild and restore. Part of this comes from the fact that it is intensely nutritive, being dense with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Nettle’s nourishing properties have been discussed at length by many authors, perhaps most notably (and infamously) by Susun Weed in her excellent book, Healing Wise.
A less explored aspect of this common plant, is its capacity as an adaptogen and adrenal trophorestorative. According to Winston and Kuhn in their book, Herbal Therapy & Supplements, these terms can be defined a:
“Trophorestorative: An herb that nourishes, strengthens, and tonifies a specific organ or function. Considered”food for the organ”. Hawthorn, with its specificity for the heart and circulatory system, is a cardiovascular trophorestorative. Examples: fresh oat (nervous system), nettle seed (kidney).”
“Adaptogen: A substance that helps a living organism adapt to stress (environmental, physical, or psychological). “
My personal experiences with Nettle would indicate that both of the above terms suit this remarkable plant very well. Winston and Kuhn specify Nettle seed as a trophorestorative for the kidneys, and I believe they may also serve the same function for the adrenals as well. Dried seed, when taken (chewed well, or ground) orally, promotes a sense of clarity, wellness, heightened energy levels, reduced stress and seemingly increased lung capacity. They are especially effective for those suffering from severe burnout, resulting in profound fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain and alternating feelings of depression and intense anxiety. Nettle seed can lessen all of these symptoms, and sometimes eliminate them completely. For some people, they can dramatically effect or shift perception, promoting a sense of connectedness, well-being and mild euphoria. Physical and mental stamina is usually increased, and exertion may seem more enjoyable to the individual. Several people have reported having their sense of color brightened and expanded, probably due to the mood altering effects.
An overlarge dose may cause a sense of “speediness”, much like other tonic herbs such as Ginseng, so care should be taken that an appropriate dose is used. In sensitive individuals, this may only be a small pinch and can range up to a tablespoon. Others may need to take a teaspoon per day for a week or so to notice significant effects, although results are usually noticed within a few days. I recommend starting with a small dose and working up as needed. These seeds do not seem to promote any kind of dependence, and smaller and smaller doses are needed over time. Unlike simple stimulants, one does not “crash” on Nettle seeds when their effect wears off (usually 4-7 hours after ingestion), and appropriate rest and relaxation is actually often enhanced by their use.
Ingestion of fresh seeds my cause intense feelings of stimulation and can prevent sleep, so they should probably be avoided by those sensitive to stimulants, although fresh fully ripe seed tincture has been used in renal failure as a kidney trophorestorative by herbalists such as David Winston. Dried seeds are milder in action and more adaptogenic in action. Tincture of dried seed is also useful, though less ideal than dried seed since alcohol does not effectively extract the trace minerals. I’ve used the tincture much less than the whole seed, but in my experience most individuals only need 1-5 drops of the tincture for this application. This can be combined with tincture of fresh Nettle tops, to increase the restorative effect on the adrenals.
This particular use of Stinging Nettle is not yet well known or often used, so we must assume that there’s much more to learn and understand about its profound effect on the kidneys, adrenals and body as a whole. So far, the results have been very gratifying for herbalists already familiar with Nettle leaf’s gentle yet deep effect on depletion. I am personally very excited to continue developing my relationship with this common and endlessly versatile herb.
While Nettle leaf and root can be too diuretic (and therefore drying) for those already dealing with systemic dryness or yin deficiency, the seed seems much less drying and more supplementing in action. Nevertheless, care should be taken not to aggravate a dry condition, and practitioners may consider recommending a demulcent such as Elm, Flax or Mallow be taken concurrently with Nettle. A nervous system trophorestorative such as Milky Oat tincture may also be recommended alongside Nettle seed to quicken and deepen healing and restoration.
I’ve also written about Nettles several times over the last year, and here’s a list of a few of those posts: