Nettles

Urtica dioica and urtica urens, Urticacea. The aerial parts of young plant are used.

They are also known as stinging nettles. The herb should be collected when the flowers are in bloom.

Functions of nettles

Nettles are one of the most widely applicable plants we have as they strengthen and support the whole body. They are very nutritious as they are high in vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, silica and potassium. They have been used for centuries for the treatment of anemia, weakness and debility and in convalescence.

Nettles:

  • have a stimulating effect on the bladder and kidneys and assist in cleansing the body of toxins and wastes. It is therefore useful in fluid retention, bladder infection and stones. Because nettles aid in the excretion of uric acid they are useful in the treatment of gout and arthritis as well as skin problems.
  • have an astringent action which assists with stopping bleeding. An infusion, tincture or fresh juice can be applied to cuts and wounds, hemorrhoids, to nostrils for nose bleeds and to sooth and heal burns and scalds.
  • have been used to stem heavy periods and as a galactagogue (a substance that increases breast milk secretion) it is useful after childbirth. It also makes a good restorative remedy during menopause.
  • clear catarrhal congestion and relieve allergies such as hay fever and asthma.
  • help remedy diarrhea, wind, inflammation and ulceration.
  • have been found to reduce blood sugar levels and a tincture of the seeds to stimulate the thyroid and reduce goitre.
  • reduce skin irritation, including the nettle sting, when applied directly to the skin.
  • have a specific action on childhood eczema and are useful in all varieties of eczema, especially when it is associated with stress.
  • have stinging hairs which contain formic acid and histamine. These have been used to stimulate the circulation and relieve arthritis and rheumatism.

Dosages

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 to 3 teaspoonsful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 - 15 minutes. This should be drunk three times per day.

Tincture: take 1-4 ml of the tincture three times per day.

For the gardener

If you want to grow this plant be aware that not only does it have a real sting it is also very invasive.

The nettles do prefer a moist soil and full sun or part shade.

It is suggested that you steam or boil the leaves for a few minutes immediately after harvesting. This takes away the sting, leaving the vitamin rich greens that can be eaten like spinach.

References

Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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