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STINGING NETTLE - the seaweed in the NIH garden

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

The tallest plant (left), young shoots (centre) and dried for use (right).

Stinging nettle is homegrown in the NIH garden, clipped, dried and then infused into our product line. It is a key ingredient infused into our WOODS products- including Wild Serum, Woods soap, Clay deodorant, and Fresh Skin Wax. As well stinging nettle is chopped up and added into our herbal tea line- found in Immune Boost, Lemon Time/Morning Time, Fem Blend and Wind It Down.

Herbal Properties of Nettle

  • Alternative - a blood purifier, helping to increase assimilation of nutrients and eliminate waste products of metabolism

  • Antihistamine - relieves asthma and allergies

  • Mild diuretic - flushes excess fluids from the body

  • Hemostatic - to arrest hemorrhaging

  • Astringent - has a constricting or binding effect

  • Galactagogue - increases the flow of milk

  • Expectorant - assists in expelling mucus

  • Tonic - tonics have an overall effect on the body, they promote the functions of the body as an overall system

  • Nutritive - especially boosts iron

The way I view nettle is that of a super nourisher. The dark green color is an indicator of high chlorophyll and mineral content. I call it the algae in my garden; a plant that grows vibrantly, uncontrollably and is packed with nutrients.

Traditional Uses of Nettle

In herbal medicine nettle has been traditionally used for treating the following:

  • Nourishing blood health.

  • Hormonal health, both cleansing male prostate and relieving female PMS, supporting fertility and milk production.

  • Seasonal ailments like allergies and supporting immune health.

  • Arthritis and inflammatory joint conditions. Such as gently lashing inflamed joints with the stinging ends of nettle boosts circulation and warms movement.

  • Taken to release water retention.

  • Treatment of urinary gravel.

  • Treatment of anemia.

  • Topically sprinkling the dried leaves to help clot a bleeding wound.

In the culinary world, nettle can be used as an early spring green, cooked down in place of spinach and used in dips, soups and roasts. The young shoots are sweeter, the thick stocks/leaves are more bitter.

Tips for growing and harvesting Nettle

Nettle grows tall- mine are 15 ft and in full sun. It is wise to plant and tame your nettle plant to grow in a low traffic area to avoid accidental nettle stings. Nettle is hard to over harvest, it grows very easily, weed-like. You can harvest young shoots from the base of the plant or entire long mature shoots. Discard/compost the burning tips, keep the leaves.

#1 recommendation for working with nettle: wear gloves! Sometimes I am lazy, thinking I can dodge the stinging hairs, but I rarely win that game! The result is pulsing skin all evening long.

About a Nettle Sting

A nettle sting makes the surface of the skin hot and feels a little like pins and needles depending on how severe it is. It subsides by the next day. Early in the season before my skin is used to the plant, a rash is common or the appearance of a scratch/burn. The burning hairs line the entire stock of the plant, as well the very tops where there are bundles of flowering balls that sting as well.

How to Use Nettle

My favorite part of the plant to use is the leaves. Young shoots are the sweetest and mildest in flavor. The large thicker dark leaves from mature plants have the heartiest mineral-dense flavor. Both delicious in herbal teas and oil infusions.

I hang the stocks upside down in a well ventilated area until they are dried. Then I carefully clip all the leaves from the stock. From here you can add them to herbal infusions, teas, etc.

What do you think?

* DISCLAIMER: Please note the NIH herbal encyclopedia is created to share the herbal benefits and notes through personal experience working with plants in the NIH garden and in the wild. Herbal knowledge shared here is referenced by various herbal texts in the NIH library. Any information gathered from our herbal blog posts should be utilized at your own risk. If you have medical conditions, are taking medication or are unsure of your health diagnosis, please speak with a physician or medical professional about the use of herbs.

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