Herbalist Sean McCarthy, DBTh MIRCH writes on the healing properties of Urtica dioica — the stinging nettle to you and me.
Some of the major areas where Urtica dioica (sometimes called Urtica urens), is used is to aid digestion, liver metabolism and elimination from the kidneys
Touch this particular herb once and you will be very wary of doing so again.
Stinging nettle is considered a pest by most gardeners but if its value as a medicinal herb were fully or more broadly understood, perception would change.
There was a time before I knew better, when the young leaves of a nettle plant poking out of the soil meant it was springtime and time to get spraying. Not so anymore. Now it is a time to get picking or cutting.
Readers with a septic tank or a manure pile somewhere in the garden will have noticed that that’s where nettles like to grow. Could its favourite position show the nettle’s ability to deal with protein waste products in the body?
Some of the major areas where Urtica dioica (sometimes called Urtica urens), is used is to aid digestion, liver metabolism and elimination from the kidneys — all areas which deal with protein elimination.
The common nettle also forms part of allergy treatments as it helps eliminate mucus from membranes which have become inflamed by an allergic response. Nettle can also be of huge assistance in the treatment of low blood pressure.
While any good herbalist would not be without this herb in their treasure chest, the sometimes-maligned nettle has plenty of other practical uses — as well as many ways in which to be ingested.
The easiest way is to take it as a tea. You can do this as a fresh tea or from the dried herb. For fresh tea pick the leaves (with gloves on —you don’t touch nettles intentionally a second time), and give a quick wash to remove any dust.
Let the leaves steep in a pot of boiled water for 15 minutes and drink when cooled. Lemon juice or honey can be added if required.
Tea can also be made from dried herbs. Any of the good health stores will have dried herbs, but if you are more adventurous, you can try drying a bunch yourself.
Group a handful of nettle stems and tie with a piece of string. Hang upside down in a dry area in a brown paper bag with holes poked in the bag, (this helps keep flies from the bunches), and will also aid with the drying process. Of course if you like you can buy pre-made tea bags and make your nettle tea that way.
The nettle has other uses as well as its medicinal properties. It can be used as a food and the leaves steamed as a spring green for 4-5 minutes. It can also be used to make a healthy and hearty soup. Using a 0.5 : 1 ratio with potatoes ie, 4oz nettle to 8oz potatoes, an onion, some stock and a dash of cream can make a delicious soup.
Even in the garden it can be of huge assistance to the gardener. It can make a nitrogen-rich liquid feed. Nettles are also a great compost booster as well, due to the presence of the nitrogen.
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