As winter fades into spring, the early greens begin to dot the landscape. Among the first "weeds" to appear are Stinging Nettles (Urtica urens). Considered by many to be a bothersome pest, the nettle is actually a valuable medicinal and nutritious herb. It has been used since ancient times as a source of food, fiber, and medicinal preparations. The stinging nettle is found world wide, but is most prevalent in the United States and Canada.
Although the nettle is shunned by much of modern society, it has been nurtured, and propagated throughout most of history. Nettle fiber is similar to that of Hemp or Flax. It was used into the seventeenth century for making cloth, from fine textured fabrics to coarse sailcloth and sacking. Europeans and Native Americans used the nettle fiber to make ropes an fishing nets. During World War I, the German Empire, plagued by textile shortages, used nettles as a substitute for cotton. Captured German uniforms were found to be 85% nettle fiber.
For over two centuries, nettles have been used for medicinal purposes. They have beneficial influence on various body systems, including the lungs, kidneys, skin, and blood. The herb has been recognized for its ability to stop bleeding, relieve mucous congestion and water retention, and improve skin irritations. It is considered to be an excellent blood purifier.
Nettle tea has been used to help increase the milk flow of nursing mothers. As a gargle, it is useful for mouth and throat infections. Applied externally, the tea is said to help relieve acne and eczema.
Dried nettles make a useful poultice to encourage scab formation on a small sore. The dried leaves, burnt and inhaled, are said to relieve bronchial and asthmatic problems.
Dried nettles have also been widely used for farm animals. Added to chicken feed, they will increase egg production. Used as fodder for cows, they will increase milk production. Whether for feathers or fur, nettles produce a healthier, glossier coat.
As a food, nettles are wonderful. The Scottish use nettles to make a pudding, the Irish use them to make a beer, and the French boast seven different nettle dishes. Young tender nettles are delicious steamed and served with butter and lemon.
Nettles are rich in iron, silicon, and potassium. They are very high in vitamins A and C. When dried, nettles are 40% protein. The dried plant makes a nutritious addition to soups, stews, or casseroles.
Nettles are best when gathered early in the season, February through April, depending on your location. Young plants, up to six inches tall, may be used whole. When picking older plants, use only the young, tender leaves. Nettles may be cut back to obtain a second harvest. NETTLES STING - USE GLOVES WHEN PICKING AND HANDLING THE FRESH PLANT. The volatile component is neutralized by heat (cooking or drying). Dry nettles at a low temperature. For even drying, separate leaves and stems. Nettles will dry in 8-12 hours. Prime nettle season is short, 1 to 2 months. Donít miss the opportunity to dry ad store this valuable herb.
Mix equal parts dried, finely crumbled:
Add one part each, powdered:
Add one quarter part each powdered:
Blend ingredients together, adjust seasoning to taste. Make a small amount at a time. Keep in a tightly sealed, small container.
From: "The Way of Herbs" by Michael Tierra
For healthier, shinier hair.
Bring to boil 1 pint Apple Cider vinegar.
Pour over 2 ounces dried nettles.
Cover, place in a cool, dark place for 7 days. Shake daily.
Strain. Store herbal vinegar in a dark, glass jar.
To Use: mix 2-3 tablespoons of herbal vinegar with 1 cup warm water. Use as rinse, rub into scalp.
For a stimulating bath. Great for rheumatic aches and pains.
Mix equal quantities of the following dried herbs:
Method 1: make a strong infusion of herbs, strain, pour into bath.
Method 2: put herbs in a cloth bag and float in tub.