Spring Stinging Nettles
The seedlings are starting to pop up, a few salad greens, a few little herblings here and there among the already huge Mugwort, Mullein and Monarda. The rain’s stopped, the sun’s come back out but the river is still rushing above its banks. It’s Spring in the Gila! Have I said that already?
I’ve been eating and using tender new Nettle greens since December, but it’s really lush and vibrant just now, and last week I made a tincture of roots and leaves together to experiment with. I love the look of Nettle tincture, all those beautiful emerald leaves suspended in liquid green.
Besides being incredibly nourishing (all that Magnesium, yum!), Nettle has countless applications as a medicine. I consider it one of my Top Ten Herbs I Can’t Live Without, and as prevalent and persistent as Nettle is, I’ll probably never have to.
My most recent successful uses of Nettles have been for gout, allergies, psoriasis and low energy related to depleted kidneys (thankfully not all in one person). For the client with gout I recommend consistent doses of Nettle infusion to flush out some of that excess uric acid. For the allergies and psoriasis I use the fresh plant tincture, as it seems to work more reliably and rapidly in that form. In addition to the tincture, I use a Nettle leaf salve or oil directly on the psoriasis (White Sage Oil and Mugwort Oil also work nicely). For the allergies, I also suggest long term Nettle leaf infusion. Either dry or fresh plant seems to work great for the kidneys, as well as for bladder/urinary tract infections. I recommend Nettle soup to EVERYONE.
As Boulder herbalist Paul Bergner has often pointed out, Nettles can be drying to those of us living in the arid Southwest or individuals with very dry constitutions. If you feel that Nettles is too drying for you, try adding a bit of Licorice, Mallow root or Asparagus root to your infusion or formula. It won’t improve the taste but it will certainly moisten up the mix.
I’m not going to go into all the uses for Nettles here, because I would be typing all damn night, Nettle is just that good. And besides, it has already been written about extensively by many talented (and infamous) herbalists.
As per Michael Moore and Susun Weed’s advice, I prefer to use powdered Nettle rather than other strange green powders such as Spirulina and Chlorella. It has much the same nutritional impact without the price, environmental impact or really weird taste. Anything you’ve read about adding either of the aforementioned “superfoods” to, try Nettles for instead… The energy kick is great.
I’m looking forward to trying Nettle seed this Summer after hearing from Henriette and Jim McDonald what an amazing adaptogen is. You can read the post that originally inspired me here. I would have tried it this Winter had been able to track down some dried seeds.
Below is the recipe for my favorite soup in the world, created by my dear Loba. It is excerpted from her phenomenal cookbook, The Enchanted Pantry.
1 big bag of fresh wild nettles
6 cups water (use filtered or spring water)
Butter Toasted Almonds
3 cloves garlic, minced and sauteed till just golden in a little butter
1 big organic carrot, chopped
3 or more tablespoons miso (I use Westbrae Mellow Brown or Genmai)
2 or more tablespoons almond butter (optional)
If using fresh picked nettles, put on gloves to strip the leaves from the main stem. Rinse well if needed. Put the water in a pot over high heat and submerge the greens. Let come to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer the greens until tender– about 10 minutes for nettles. Add the garlic and carrot and simmer for another minute, then turn off the heat and add the miso and almond butter, mashing them with a spoon against the side of the pot and stirring, mashing and stirring until you don’t see any big chunks in the pot and the soup has a creamy texture. Taste often, and add more miso or almond butter as you like. Serve in warmed bowls topped with chopped butter toasted almonds…
Add 1 tablespoon fresh grated and toasted ginger when you add the greens.
Nettles by Janice Schofield
Healing Wise by Susun Weed
The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism and The Book of Herbal Wisdom by Matthew Wood
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West and Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore
Paul Bergner’s excellent article on the Mineral Content of Herbal Decoctions