Nettle (Stinging Nettle)
Also known as 'stinging nettle', these prickly springtime perennials are one of the first plants to start emerging as the temperature warms up and the herbaceous plants start sprouting. Native throughout most of Europe and North America, this classic medicinal plant can be found in damp areas and is commonly found in our California landscape along streams, rivers, seeps, and in the shade of Oak trees in open fields. Nettles have been known to pick up contaminants from the soil they grow in, so cultivating them in clean areas is important for the plant's medicinal quality.
Nettle gets its name from the histamine filled trichomes (hairs) that line its leaves and stems, which can result in a rather unpleasant sensation when touched with bare hands. These little hairs, however, are also one of the reasons that nettle is touted as being a potentially supportive herb during allergy season.
Full of beneficial vitamins and minerals, nettles are one of our most nutrient dense herbal allies and one of the most widely used and applicable plants in the herbal materia medica. In Europe they enjoy nettles as a spring tonic, helping to revitalize and flush the body after a long and heavy winter. Nettles act as a gentle diuretic, helping to assist the body in it's natural detoxification process.
The dried herb makes an excellent nutrient rich tea, and is often included in blends with other nutritive herbs. It can be cooked with and eaten as well, but care should be taken to denature the stinging hairs of the leaves prior to consumption.
My favorite way to enjoy nettles in the Spring? By making a large nettle tart! To harvest these beauties you'll need a good pair of gloves and a little patience to help navigate your way through the prickly patch. Once collected you'll want to clean them up and denature the stinging hairs. With my kitchen gloves on, I dip the nettles in a large bowl containing a mixture of ACV and water, then I rinse, and them cook them down by sauteing the plants until tender and cooked through.
The spirit medicine of nettle, to me, is almost as important as it's phytochemical benefits - which is the lesson that not all things that are good for us, are always pleasant at first. While the nettle can be a little tricky to harvest and work with, it's benefits far outweigh its challenges.
Please Note: East Bay Herbals does not promote wild-crafting for your medicinal plant needs. Natural populations of plants are vital to the ecosystems that they are a part of, and should be left alone for mother nature to care for. We encourage you to purchase fresh plants from a trusted herb retailer such as The Sonoma County Herb Exchange or your local farmer's market, or to experiment with growing your own.
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Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.
Mcintyre, Anne. Flower Power: Flower Remedies for Healing Body and Soul through Herbalism. Diane Pub Co, 2000.
Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West. Museum of New Mexico Press, 2011.
Note: The information on this site has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and is for educational, historical, and research purposes, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this site should not be used as medical advice. If you have a medical concern please seek out a qualified health care professional, and always consult your physician before adding herbal supplements into your diet, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or on medication.