Nettles ~ Urtica Dioica

by Gillian Nye

(as published in The Lighthouse Peddler, April 2010)

Some of my favorite signs of Spring are here; red winged blackbirds, migrating whales, wild Lupines in bloom, and the glorious Nettle!

The wild nettle plant, Urtica dioica, has been used as medicine for centuries, valued for being one of the best nourishing herbal tonics! We are so blessed to have it growing in abundance here, on the trails to the beaches, in wet gullies and alongside creeks. Nettles started shooting up their spiky green shoots in March this year, indicating a very early Spring!

The benefits of Nettle are many, having something for everyone in it’s varied uses! Nettles are one of the best sources of digestible plant iron and are rich in calcium. They are high in vitamins A, C and K, chlorophyll, and potassium making them a great source of daily benefits! Nettles are also known to stimulate the liver & kidneys, helping to gently cleanse the body. Nettles are a diuretic and have been used to relieve fluid retention, cystitis, and urinary/bladder infections. They can help to clear the skin and are used as a successful remedy for acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Nettles are also used to alleviate allergies and hay fever.

Most importantly to me, a tonic of Nettles helps to restore health and vitality to our whole body! Whenever I’m in a slump, a cup of Nettle tea is a wonderful rejuvenator, I love it cold with a sprig of fresh mint!

Nettle is a plant that teaches us to respect it while harvesting, there are many people who harvest it with their bare hands and eat it raw. I have yet to experience this, choosing instead to wear gloves and long sleeves when I visit Nettle. If you do get stung, the fresh juice of the plant will alleviate the sting, as will fresh Yellow Dock which is usually growing nearby.

There are many ways to enjoy Nettles, there are recipes available for everything from Nettle Pesto to Nettle Pickles! One easy way to use Nettles is to simply pour boiling water over a few leafy stalks in your tea pot or quart jar, let sit for a couple of hours, strain and drink, hot or cold. There is really nothing like fresh Nettle tea, it is amazingly green and vibrant in color. It’s taste is pure earthy health, and I hope this inspires you to get outside, harvest some Nettles and enjoy them yourself!

For more information on Nettles or other herbs, visit Roots Herbal Apothecary at 250 Main Street in Point Arena. We are open from 11-4:30, Monday - Saturday and have an extensive research library available, as well as many herbs, tea blends, natural medicines and body care products.