If anyone would have told me when I was a child that one day I would eat, enjoy, and purposefully grow stinging nettle — I would have thought they were crazy. Stinging nettle was my nemesis. It surrounded the chicken coop turned play house, it buried the old red truck in the grove that turned into a submarine at the push of a button (really, it did!), and it was something to dodge as we ran out to play in the woods. (Psst. We didn’t have computers back then.)
I hated it. If you were unlucky enough to brush up against it, it stung, burned, and the tingling stayed with you for hours. The reason for its existence was not something I contemplated — because obviously it served no purpose but to scare and annoy me.
I’m so glad learning doesn’t stop at eight years old, aren’t you? Otherwise, I would have never come to appreciate all of stinging nettle’s benefits.
What is Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle is a perennial herb — not a weed. It grows in colonies and can get up to 8 feet tall, though most I’ve seen around the midwest are 4 to 5 feet tall.
Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle
So what good can come of stinging nettle? Hippocrates, called the Father of Medicine, reported over 60 uses for nettles. They say history repeats itself, so let’s see how it was used in times past:
- Galen, a Greek physician in the second century, knew way back then that it was good as a laxative, for gangrenous wounds, swellings, nose bleeds, excessive menstruation, spleen-related illness, pleurisy, pneumonia, asthma, tinea, and mouth sores.
- In the Dark Ages it was used for shingles and constipation.
- In the seventeenth century it was recommended to use with honey for gout, sciatica, and joint aches.
- Native American medicine claims that if you hit the leaves around painful, arthritic joints, it relieves the pain. That’s not as far-fetched as it may seem. Flogging oneself with fresh nettle, called urtification, stimulates circulation and clears uric acid from the system. It’s said to have been used by Roman soldiers to ease the pain in their legs after long marches in cold and wet climates.
- Ancient Egyptians reportedly used nettle infusions for arthritic and lumbago pain.
Stinging Nettles for Fertility
Nettles are considered a multi-vitamin by many herbalists because they contain iron, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein. And for a mother-to-be, nettle holds a special place in her heart (or should) because of its:
- vitamin E — also known as alpha-tocopherol. Tocopherol comes from the Greek words tokos and phero, which literally mean “offspring” and “to bear”. Vitamin E also increases sperm health and motility, helps prevent miscarriages in women with a history of miscarriage, and increases the quality of the amniotic sac, helping to prevent premature rupturing.
- chlorophyll — detoxifies the body and regulates menstruation
- ability to provide nourishment to the uterus
- improvement of the adrenal and kidney functions
Well this is all fine and dandy, you say, but how do you go about using nettles in day to day life? Join us next month for Stinging Nettles Part 2. You’ll discover simple and easy ways to use this God-given herb! Until then I’ll give you a little hint — don’t eat them raw.