Oh, Nettles, how I love thee and hate thee all at the same time! You are a beautiful blessing from Momma Earth, but like everything, you come with a price. I enjoy foraging for wild invasives in this beautiful part of Southern Appalachia that I live in! So many great herbs to add to your culinary and body care practices.
Urtica dioica, aka Stinging Nettles, is a powerhouse green that grows in phosphate-rich places. Which means that they like to grow where humans dwell, because human beings have a habit of making places richer in phosphate. (1) You know you have met Stinging Nettle when you feel her sting. And believe you me, the sting last quite a while. What causes this painful sting? Little hairs that when brushed inject you with inflammatory compounds that are just no fun. When we head out to harvest, we make sure we are covered from head to toe. Even then, we sometimes get stung through our pants and sleeves. Just remember a good forager identifies their plants with several characteristics, not just one. We take several field guides when we head out and really double check while we are harvesting because sometimes freeloaders want to join in the basket!
I love to use nettles in so many concoctions.
- We add stinging nettles to our vinegar hair rinse along with Lavender, Rosemary and Calendula for a soothing, balancing and strength building hair tonic. Check out this great rinse with Cailleach’s Locks
- Herbal Infusions!!!! Love love love drinking my vitamins! Nettles are full of vitamins and minerals and high in iron! Herbal infusions are easy to make. Take 1 oz by weight of dried herb, pour 4 cups boiling water over them and allow them to steep for anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. I usually make mine before I head to bed and allow to steep over night, then strain in the morning. I also rotate nettles with other yummy nutritive herbs like red clover and oatstraw. I even add a little linden to my nettles because nettles are very drying for me. They are also really really green tasting so I always add a little local raw honey for extra health benefits and sweetness!
- Nettles are a FOOD!!!!! Yay to wild food! They are great in eggs and casseroles, even soups and broths! You would just add to what you are cooking like you would spinach. The heat actually cancels the inflammatory compound so you will not have an unpleasant experience eating them! Just remember they MUST BE COOKED!!! Drying helps quell the sting, but can still be present at times.
- Nettles are a nutritive herb which means that it provides nutrition to the body because of its high mineral and vitamin content. So, vinegars are great for extracting minerals. I love to put nettles in my vinegars to add a splash more vitamins to our diet, plus it is a great diuretic! I make an amazing fire cider, which already has a slew of health benefits in itself, that is filled with local stinging nettles, local red clover and spirulina! A Siren’s Song is a powerhouse fire cider helps with allergies, mood swings and hormones! Want to add a little bit of wild to your foods, try this fire cider today!
- Nettles can also be used as fiber and a plant dye!!
- As a witch herbalist, Nettles’ doctrine of signatures gives me the sense that she is a mothering spirit, she nurtures and nourishes but also sets clear boundaries. I love to work with her as a hearth protector and kitchen protector. She sits in some form on my kitchen altar. I also make a space clearing and protecting spray using witch hazel and the dried herb. She reminds me daily to take the time to nourish myself and to not feel bad for saying no when I need to!
As the most amazing herbalist Frank Cook would say, “Eat something wild every day”. Get to know this amazing plant that grows abundantly here and create your relationship with her, you will not regret it!