000_2390I have a close and enduring relationship with Stinging Nettle, and I’ll tell you why: This plant is a healing wonder. At least, she has been so for me and I suspect that if you were to make her acquaintance, she would bring her same gifts to you.

A few years ago, I was looking for help in healing my terrible chronic fatigue. There have been times in my life when I was nearly bed-ridden for months at a time with a crippling exhaustion of “undetermined origin” (That means, my doctors just thought I was a hypochondriac).

So I made a decision to start making food my medicine. In the course of changing my diet to one filled with wild plants and greens, homemade krauts and ferments, herbal teas, and medicine-in-a-bowl soups and broths, I stumbled across Susun Weed’s marvelous website. There I read about the idea of nourishing/healing infusions. These are “teas” made very strong and steeped overnight…

Susun suggests that you give each infusion a goodly long time to nourish you from the inside out, then perhaps try another herb months—or a year—later and see what gifts that one has to offer.

So for the next year, Carter and I drank Comfrey infusion every day for bone health and mental clarity. Then, also on Susun’s site, I discovered Nettles. One of the precious properties of this plant is her ability to stimulant energy. Boy howdy, you didn’t need to tell me twice. I ordered up a few pounds of dried, organic Nettle leaf from Mountain Rose Herbs (my go-to place for dried herbals when I need more than I can grow myself), and started drinking.

Long story short, Nettle gave me my life back. It was a slow, gentle process, but on daily infusions of nettle, my energy slowly returned, my allergies left me, and my skin took on a healthy blush. It also brought life back to my very ragged and dried out hair.

I’ll let the experts tell you a bit more. Here is what herbalist Kate Kirham has to say about this plant ally:

“Often when I talk to people about one of the best herbs to take regularly, I suggest Nettles.  Nettles has a long history of being used to strengthen and fortify the system, help with allergies, respiratory problems, anemia, fatigue, depression and exhaustion.  I find this herb particularly useful for those who are suffering from chronic fatigue, adrenal burnout and symptoms of despair and deep sadness.

Nettles are a super tonic because they are extremely nourishing and tonifying to the whole system.  Nettles is particularly rich in iron and is helpful for anemia, and general lack of strength and vigor.   Besides iron, nettles is also rich in calcium, magnesium, manganese, silica, potassium and phosphorus as well as vitamin C and B vitamins.  Nettles has long been seen as helpful for health complaints such as bronchitis, asthma, and respiratory illnesses.  Nettles also has a diuretic effect that makes them helpful for kidney and bladder conditions.”

Amen to all that. And here is a great write-up about Nettles on Susun’s site right here.

This is how I use nettles in my daily life: Before bed, I boil up a gallon of water. To this, I add 3-4 cups of dried nettles. I let this sit out overnight, strain it into a gallon jar next morning, and pop it into the fridge to keep. Some time during the day, I’ll pour myself up to a quart of this “tonic,” add a touch of stevia for sweetness, and sip all day.

There have been times when I have felt the need to drink quarts of nettle infusion in a week. Other times, I brew it up less often, but it is always in my rotation during the month. I don’t often drink plain water anymore. Instead, I am sipping healing herbal teas and infusions, or Kefir water (more about that later). It’s an easy way to add the goodness of healing greens and herbs to your diet. Just drink ’em!

000_2388When a plant has been a particularly good friend to me, I find myself wanting to grow her in my garden, to get to know her better, and to have her healing energy close by. This spring, I finally managed to get the jump on Nettles, and bring her home to MillHaven. In the past, I’ve always waited too late in the spring to gather, and by then, Ms. Nettle too tall to be a good traveler.

This year, I timed it right. The Nettles lining our local creek were just poking their vibrant green heads up out of the leaf mulch. I had brought along a small trowel, and canvas bag, and some gloves for gathering. But I decided against the gloves. Nettles bite, but I have arthritis in my hands, and that stimulating sting of Nettles sometimes feels good on my hands.

Carefully, I dug up eight small starts and set them gently in the bottom of the bag. I was careful to only take a few. Sometimes wild foragers get greedy and wipe out entire beds of wild herbs—criminal, as far as I’m concerned.

With hands hot and tingling, I replanted the Nettle starts in a large old truck tire that I placed in a fairly shady corner of our yard, where we would not be inadvertently ambushed by stings. I set the tire over a downspout, as Nettle likes her feet wet. Already, she is thriving! Hopefully, she will return year after year, and give me enough spring greens to brighten up our soups and stir-fries. Her sting vanishes with heat, but her green tips are a nutritional powerhouse.

Feeling tired in the middle of a long winter? Give Nettle a try. You’ll love her. I guarantee it!  

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