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Posts Tagged ‘medicinal herbs’

Dear Readers,

First of all, I would like to apologize about the very long interval between my writings. I am aware that many of you were left on the edge of your seats waiting for more information on nettle, and I don’t want to seem unsteady in my reporting of hard hitting herbal information.  This time of year can get a little overwhelming for me, with a dizzying array of flora all competing for plog space. I plan to wrap it up tidily at this point, because to be perfectly honest, some of the other spring plants are getting a bit jealous.

It’s always hard to know where to begin with Nettle. Nettle is beneficial for so many conditions, when I list them all I fear I may come off as bit of a snake oil salesman.  Not only do nettles have a positive effect on multiple body systems, and each part of the nettle can be employed for different purposes. You can even use its fibrous stalks to make fabric and rope if you ever find yourself with a lot of time on your hands (and a lot of gloves on your hands). Tomes have been written on the properties of our fair Nettle. But, for the sake of brevity, here’s my best snake oil pitch:  (to be read at a fast pace with much enthusiasm)

Allays Allergic Ailments!

Nettles provide relief from seasonal allergies by exerting an anti-histamine effect in the body. This is carried out by those no-nonsense stingers on the fresh nettle plant and it is less effective for this purpose when it’s dried.  Therefore, for best results, it is prudent to use FREEZE-DRIED Stinging Nettle in capsules. (This will be one of the only times I will ever recommend buying capsules over taking the tea or tincture). I recommend Eclectic brand nettle caps, because I trust their herb quality and their exacting preparation of the nettles. (Buying herbs in capsule form is dodgy business- more on that later). Freeze-drying gives you the therapeutic effect of eating fresh nettles without the physical punishment of actually doing so. The dose is 2-4 capsules twice a day during allergy season. It always works best if you begin this regimen the month before your main allergen blooms. Example: If Alder is your nemesis come March, start taking nettle caps in February. If you missed the boat on that one, start now-it will still help. (Puppy News: Molly is currently enjoying nettle powder on her meals to help with her cute little puppy allergies. It is working great!)

Revivifying Renal Tonic!

For those of you prone to kidney and bladder problems, nettles can strengthen renal function and tone and soothe the mucosa of the urinary tract. A prompt diuretic, Nettle increases the volume of urine and supports the excretion waste products. I use nettles for cystitis, recurrent UTI’s, water retention, and kidney and bladder stones. Tea is the best preparation for problems of the urinary tract, so try drinking a quart of nettle tea per day. To make a cup of nettle tea put 4-6 Tbls. of dried nettle leaf in a quart of freshly boiled water. Let steep for 20 minutes up to overnight. Pee away your problems with Nettle!

Nature’s Nifty Nutriment!

Nettle’s profound effect on multiple body systems stems in part from it’s nutritional profile, which puts most of our cultivated “greens” to shame. Nettle is not only greener than most plants (it’s off the charts in terms of chlorophyll), it rides that fine line between food and medicine. Eating or drinking nettles offers significant amounts of vital nutrients in a highly absorbable form, most notably Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and trace minerals. Nettle tea is one of my favorite remedies for maintaining or improving bone density. It gives those large 6-a-day horse-pill calcium tablets a run for their money.

Handy Hemostatic!

Nettles astringency can be employed in any situation where bleeding needs to be checked. It is a popular and effective treatment for excessive uterine bleeding (let’s not test her powers by foregoing medical care in life threatening situations though, OK?).  I use nettles mostly during non-acute bleeding, when its predictable but annoying. Regular use of nettle tea successfully slows or stops bleeding from uterine fibroids or those weird cycles throughout menopause where the bleeding never ends. Midwives use nettles to control spotting during pregnancy and for post-partum bleeding. Though nettles work particularly well in the uterus, they will also slow or stop bleeding in the bladder, lungs, or digestive tract. (Do I need to caution you that these problems can signal a deeper issue? Make sure bleeding from strange internal places is not serious before using nettles to stop it). She’s even great for shrinking hemorrhoids. (And very discreet.)

Pregnancy and Postpartum Panacea!

Not only will Nettle prevent excess blood loss during childbirth, it is an excellent nutritive herb that is safe for use throughout pregnancy. Its astringency tones and prepares the uterus for the big event, while the high nutrient content feeds your tissues, relaxes aching muscles, and speeds the removal of metabolic waste products (not to mention shrinking those cankles in the last trimester!) Nettle’s supportive effect on the adrenals can help you to maintain steady energy and spirits through this demanding physiologic process. Once your babe is in your arms, nettle tea will supply you with the nutrients to produce ample, nutritious milk.

Prostate Pal!

Hey guys! Nettle root tincture is just the thing for prostate inflammation and urinary tract problems. Remember what I just said about it’s effect on the female reproductive system? Well Nettle’s astringency is tonifying for you Outies, too. I usually combine Nettle root tincture with Saw Palmetto to prevent and treat the symptoms of BPH.

Vanguard of Vanity!

If none of the scenarios above apply to you, Nettle has one last trick up her stalk. Perhaps an appeal to your vanity might win you over? Those abundant minerals and vitamins I keep going on about, well how would you like to see them set to work on transforming your hair into a gleaming mane? Or restoring a youthful glow and suppleness to the skin? Or strengthening those raggedy nails of yours? Regular consumption of nettle tea will do the trick, or for a more direct approach (if you don’t want to bother with all of those systemic health benefits) you can make a nettle vinegar to apply to the hair in the shower. Your hair will look just like those Pantene commercials, but will smell faintly of vinegar for an hour or so after (worth it.) Nettle seeds are reported to stimulate hair growth even better than the leaves and I have made a small batch of nettle seed vinegar hair rinse for research purposes. (I am currently looking for unpaid research participants.)

Well, there you have it, and these are but a few of Nettle’s many astounding attributes!  However, now that the nettle stalks are a few feet high in the Puget Sound, I’ll be moving on to other topics.  Nettle takes a graceful bow and will bask in her accolades until next spring. But like any good snake oil peddler, I’ve got nettles for sale! Inquire by emailing me at radicletea@gmail.com.

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Well, we have returned, but it turned out that the mythical plants down in Oregon and Northern California are at precisely the point of ripeness that our Seattle plants are (not that ripe at all). So we weren’t able to gather what we set out for. However, I would still consider the trip a success. I slept on the beach in the Redwoods and gazed upon a beautiful early spring landscape as we traveled down the coast and back up through the Siskiyous. And I am back in time to reap the harvest of one of our early spring medicinals- Nettles! Here are some more reasons to love her:

Nettles vs. Coffee

As someone who routinely renounces coffee and then falls off the wagon, I am all too familiar with the repentant state of adrenal depletion that follows a binge.  I’m on the tail end of a bender right now,  a hollow shell of the person I once was, jittery, exhausted, nerves frayed. This is perhaps why nettles hold such a particular place in my heart.  Nettles are the antidote to coffee.

Coffee, delicious as it is, shrivels and taxes the adrenals glands.  Nettle plumps and restores them. Coffee speeds you up and then burns you out.  Nettle fills your reserves with steady energy. Apparently, I am someone who likes a bit of both.  But I believe in the harm reduction model, and I think of nettles as being food for your kidneys and adrenal glands so that they can handle coffee sometimes. I can almost feel my adrenals chomping the nettles I send down to them, nourished at last.

Any period of prolonged stress or exertion can overwork the adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys like funny little hats.  Your adrenal glands are responsible for the production of all sorts of important chemicals such as the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, the sleep hormone DHEA, and the hormonal precursors to  estrogen and testosterone, so neglect in this department can be ruinous.  On the bright side, strengthening adrenal function can have a profound effect on your overall well being by balancing hormones, helping you sleep better and increasing your resilience during periods of stress.  With attention and some nettle tea you begin to feel like a sturdier, less brittle version of yourself.

In the spring, or whenever I’m on the straight and narrow, I drink a pot of nettle tea every day. Within about a week I can feel this energy welling up inside of me. It feels powerful, yet calm.  I am always surprised by this sensation because it’s not nervous energy, which is mainly what coffee provides me with (leaving me ravaged and shifty-eyed hours later). When we are truly nourished we feel bright-eyed and bushy tailed, but also calm and self possessed. The lure of caffeine is that it can trick us into feeling awake and alive when our body is telling us something different. Now I know coffee is a plant also, and I certainly don’t want to slander a plant, but I’m going to go ahead and say I think nettles are a better friend. And they are probably growing near you right now, friendly little baby nettles with their stingers drawn, just waiting to get your attention.

Here are the details for having nettles as tea. Put 4-6 Tablespoons of dried nettle leaf into a quart sized teapot or mason jar. Pour boiling water over the herb, cover and let steep for 30 minutes or so. Pour through a strainer and drink the whole quart throughout the day.  (If you want to make one cup at a time it’s one rounded Tablespoon per cup).

For those of you not afflicted by a love-hate relationship with caffeine, try some nettle tea anyway.  I expect to have some nettle revelations in the “comments” section in a few weeks.  Wondering where to buy nettle? Email me at radicletea@gmail.com.  Cheers!

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Part one- She bites

Nettle is one of my favorite plants. I leave off the first bit of her full name when I recommend her to people. “You must eat and drink nettles” I say matter-of-factly, to which they reply, “STINGING nettles?” Well, yes, to be perfectly accurate. But we needn’t start things off on the wrong foot. There is so much more to her than her sting. Although even that you might learn to appreciate.

The tiny hairs on the stalk and leaves of the nettle plant are not to be trifled with. They contain a cocktail of insulting chemicals that include formic acid and histamine, which causes burning, swelling and a strange buzzing feeling the day after a sting. I have been stung many times. As I’m sure a snake handler or bee keeper will tell you, they still get you. It’s just an occupational hazard, I guess. And it really isn’t that bad, it just smarts for a while. Sometimes when I’m picking I think that she won’t sting me at all because we’re such good friends and then she does anyway.

Do not be fooled by the accounts of people who say that they can pick nettles and eat them raw without being stung. There are certain techniques that limit the amount of acid-laced needles you come in contact with, mainly practiced by the brave or foolhardy. If I sound bitter, it is because I have endured the searing pain of being stung in the mouth by a thousand tiny fire needles whilst demonstrating this very technique (in public).

Nettles demand your respect and attention while walking among them. I think that this is part of their medicine. They will not be trounced upon by gay picnickers like some of our other more passive plant species, ready to offer us their last limp, trampled leaf if ever we were to notice them underfoot. Nettles will not be abused or ignored. They stand at the ready to nourish and sustain us as food or medicine and they can be stern at times, but they mean well. Think of nettles as your no-nonsense depression-era aunt, perhaps not the cuddliest of family members, but handy as hell. Nettle knows a thing or two about rescuing you from adrenal fatigue, restoring optimal kidney function, arresting bleeding, tonifying the prostate gland, and restoring youthful beauty to the skin and hair. But she has something to teach you. It’s about cutting through all of the artifice, all of the wasted energy we spend on things that don’t strengthen us, the things that we are told are so important. It’s about finding the source of real nourishment in your life. The truth in your life. Sometimes the truth stings.

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