Before there was access to what ever food could possibly be desired at any time of the year, our ancestors ate what was in season and local. So after a long winter of eating dried and preserved foods, anything fresh was highly sought after. Not only would they have started early season crops such as lettuce, spinach and radishes; they would have collected nutritious greens from the wild.
Stinging Nettles are a great plant to wild harvest in the spring. They are packed full of all kinds of nutrients including iron, protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, beta-carotene, and Vitamins A, B, C and D. This makes it an amazing spring tonic. Not only does it boost your system with all of these nutrients, it also acts as a gentle but highly effective cleansing herb. So if you are looking for a full body tune up after a long, cold and stagnant winter, then Nettles are what you are looking for!
Harvesting & Use
When nettles emerge in the spring they are tender, vibrant green and full of wonderful nutrients. As the summer goes on they will become more fibrous and much of their energy will shift from the leafs into the production of flowers and seeds. So it is ideal to gather your nettles while they are young and supple. I typically wait to harvest mine when there are several sets of branching leafs on the plants, and I make sure to only take the top couple sets of leafs. This way there is still plenty left for it to grow into a lush plant for the summer. This ensures that I will have a thriving nettle patch next year.
Many people are familiar with nettles not for their edibility but for their potent sting. These stings are delivered by the fine hairs that cover the plant. This makes harvesting with bare hands invigorating to say the least, so make sure to take along a pair of gloves when you are looking for a nettle patch. Stinging Nettles are quite easy to identify, but make sure that you know what you are looking for.
Now what to do with your carefully harvested nettle leafs? The possibilities are endless! Unless you want a bit of acupuncture for your mouth, they do need to be cooked, but it is ideal to cook them as little as possible. You want to keep all those nutrients viable so that your body can soak them up. You can steam or gently saute the little emerald beauties, and add them to just about any meal.
You wouldn’t have to cook the nettles if you wanted to send a handful through your juicer with some of your favorite fruits and veggies. How about tossing in a couple beets, half a dozen carrots, one apple, a chunk of ginger, half a lemon and a big handful of Stinging Nettles. Now that will super charge your body!
The number of ailments that Stinging Nettles are used for is extensive. While I will share a few of it’s most common uses here, I highly recommend researching it further to see its myriad of applications. One of the more informative write ups I found on the subject was Dr. Christophers Herbal Legacy.
Urinary Tract Infections
Stinging nettles are a great herb to use if you suffer from bladder infections. Working as both a diuretic and cleanser it helps to flush the bacteria from your bladder. It also reduces inflammation in the bladder. Drinking a tea of nettles through out the day is beneficial when suffering from a bladder infection. (disclaimer: bladder infections can lead to kidney infections. Be sure to see a doctor if your symptoms persist more than a day or two, or if your symptoms are severe)
Containing antihistamines and anti-inflammation properties nettles help to ease the symptoms of allergies. What better way to deal with springtime allergies than to go on a spring time foraging trip to find your own allergy medication?
Arthritis & Gout
Nettles work to promote the elimination of uric acid from the joints. To accomplish this it can be used as a tea, juice, cooked, or pills. Another application for Arthritis is to take the fresh leafs and tap them against the afflicted area. The sting promotes blood flow to the area, reduces pain and inflammation.
If you are looking for a super female herb, then look no further. Stinging nettles are a great herb for the female reproductive system. It is useful for everyone from young women just starting their cycle to women going through menopause. It has also been used through pregnancy because of its high nutritional value, blood building properties and it’s ability to stop excessive bleeding during child birth.