Stinging nettle

“Let him

Who was love's teacher, teach you too love's cure;

Let the same hand that wounded bring the balm.

Healing and poisonous herbs the same soil bears,

And rose and nettle oft grow side by side.”

                                                                               ~ Ovid

When I was a child, a nettle patch was something you stayed away from. Nobody taught me about the gifts nettle can offer us. Now that I got to get to know nettle, I love it.

Nettle, as I found out, loves to grow in places where iron was left to rust. Nettle has a deep connection to iron. Hans Christen Andersen wrote a fairy tale, symbolic of the nettle's connection to iron, about 11 brother princes that were transformed to swans by their wicked stepmother. Their young sister was instructed by a crone to weave a nettle gown for each one of the swans. Once they wore the nettle gowns, their human form was returned to them. Although nettle was used throughout history for clothing, I believe that this beautiful legend is loaded with symbolism about iron in the body. If you ever had anemia you will recognize the feeling of “floating,” being somewhat detached from your body, having a hard time to keep focus and to remember what you meant to do. The human self is pulled out and is lost. The iron carried by the blood centers us and allows us to incarnate. This important interconnection of blood and iron is expressed in the Hebrew language; the word “Adam” means human, while “dam” means blood. Nettle, the “iron plant,” changes the entire energetic system. It contains more protein than any other native plant, large amounts of iron, trace minerals, fat and chlorophyll. It is the herb for debility, when the body needs to get moving again.

Nettle's botanical name “urticaria” means urine in Greek. Nettle strengthens the kidney and the adrenal gland and nourishes the liver. It is blood purifier that is used to remove uric acid from the body. Nettle can stimulate the body to expel metabolic waste, therefore healing rashes and eczema.

Nettle is an ally to women in all life phases. Nettle with raspberry leaves nourishes the adrenal gland and balances the hormone level, hence easing cramps, moodiness and fatigue during the moon cycle. Nettle combined with raspberry and borage leaves is a great strengthening tea for new mothers and provides nutrients for the newborn through nursing. Nettle, sage, oat straw, raspberry leaves and borage leaves support woman through menopause. It reduces heat waves and sweating and helps with overcoming the low energy level and fatigue that color this time.

                                                                          Nature invented death in order to have abundant life.

                                                                                                                                                        ~Goethe

Urtication – flogging with nettle – is a folk medicine used to create inflammation and warmth to treat stiff joint, paralysis, rheumatism, sciatica, varicose vein and arthritis. The stinging is a result of the formic acid, a substance that nettles, fire ants and bees have in common. Formic acid is toxic when ingested in large quantities, but in homeopathic doses it has the ability to counteract hardening and death process.

“The role it (stinging nettle) plays in nature by virtue of its marvelous inner structure and way of working

                                                                                               is very similar to that of the heart in the human organism”

                                                                                                                                                       ~Rudolf Steiner

Adding nettles to manure in biodynamic preparation 504 helps to transform the manure into a living substance that is sensitive to the environment and infuses it with the cosmic power of warmth.

Stinging Nettle flower essence is useful in grounding those who because of childhood trauma lack nurturing and support and have a weak self identity. It strengthens the core of such a person, and through this strength he or she can support others. It is also useful for those whose body/soul fusion has been incomplete, or is damaged due to trauma. As the nettle plant is nurturing of nearby plants, strengthening their unique healing oils and essences, so the person with a strong body/soul fusion strengthens the essential beingness of those with whom he or she has contact.

Here in New Hampshire, stinging nettle season is at the end of April and throughout May. This aligns with our need of zesty, fresh green leaves after the heavy foods of wintertime. You can dry stinging nettles for use year round, but there is nothing like using stinging nettles fresh in season, when they are full of life forces. Stinging nettle is very sustainable economically, you just need to go out there and pick. Unless you want to sting yourself, which is another way to get the goodies stinging nettles share, you will probably want to wear long sleeves and gloves. Although stinging nettle is found in abundance, it is very important to be respectful when wildcrafting it. Please pick up only what you are going to use, and do not forget to give thanks to this very special being, the stinging nettle.

Here are some good stinging nettle recipes to inspire you to try this wonderful herb.

It is good to blench the nettles before using them to get rid of their stinging edge. The act of boiling a green thing in very salty water for a short time, then shocking it in a bowl of ice water sets and brightens color. You now have prepared stinging nettles to be frozen in a vacuum-sealed bag or cooked in any number of ways.

Nettle Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons grated cheese (any hard cheese will do)
  • 6-8 tablespoons blanched, chopped nettles
  • Salt
  • Olive oil (use the good stuff)
  1. Pesto is best made with a mortar and pestle, thus the name, which means “pound.’ You can make this in a food processor, but it will not be the same. First add the pine nuts and crush lightly — as they are roundish, they will jump out of your mortar if you get too vigorous.

  2. Roughly chop the garlic and add it to the mortar, then pound a little.

  3. Add the salt, cheese and the nettles and commence pounding. Mash everything together, stirring with the pestle and mashing well so it is all fairly uniform.

  4. Start adding olive oil. How much? Depends on how you are using your pesto. If you are making a spread, maybe 2 tablespoons. If a pasta sauce, double that or more. Either way, you add 1 tablespoon at a time, pounding and stirring to incorporate it.

  5. Serve as a spread on bread, as an additive to a minestrone, as a pasta sauce or as a dollop on fish or poultry.

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