Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Benefits of Stinging Nettle


      Many people find stinging nettle to be  a real nuisance.  I did too, but have since found it to be a blessing in disguise.  My first experience with stinging nettle was as a boy.  My mom liked roses, and Dad had planted a miniature rose on the edge of our property.  I remember the name of the rose was "Robin Hood."  It was a very tiny rose bush.  Being it was planted on the edge of the property, and my parents were so busy, the little rose bush had been neglected and had weeds growing all around it.  The weeds were very tall and thick, and I think it was a little bit of a surprise that the little rose was even alive.  Dad determined to help that little rose from its plight.  It was a pretty significant undertaking because of the magnitude of the wild plants around it, but he had help. Yes, he had me to help.  I tried to be a help, but soon found that the plants I was pulling stung my hands awfully.  I told dad, but he didn't seem to believe the nettles stung that bad, and wanted me to continue.  He was pulling the same plants, but didn't seem to feel a thing; at least nothing like I did.  Dad worked at a lumber mill at one time and often used hand tools in the garden.  His hands had become very callused, and he couldn't feel the nettles well at all.  He urged me to continue.  For me it was torture, and I started to cry.  He sent me to the house.  I ran to the house and washed and washed my hands with water trying to relieve them of the burning.  A short time later, dad came up also.  After weeding a while longer some of the nettle got between his fingers where they weren't callused and he had a little bit of an idea of what I experienced.  He washed his hands also, and apologized for having me pull them without protection for my hands.  This was my introduction to stinging nettle.  I've since learned to like it, and because of this experience, respect it.

      For years, I've studied herbs because of the many uses they have.  It is my belief that there was a plant created for every common aliment of man.  In fact, there was the tree of life that God made that had qualities to keep man alive indefinitely.  This healing tree was taken away from man because of man's rebellion towards his Creator.  We have many plants that have wonderful healing qualities, but none like the tree of life.  I believe the stinging nettle is one of the best plants available to man today.  While many search abroad for hidden treasure, the diamonds often lay buried in their own backyard.  I believe this is the case with stinging nettle.

     One of the reasons I was sold on stinging nettle is the fact that it is one of the plants that are an indicator of rich soil.  Plants like different types of soil, and if you see stinging nettle growing somewhere of its own accord, you can be pretty confident that the soil under it has lots of nutrients.  To me, it only made sense that if the soil is rich in minerals, the plants that grow in it must also share more nutrients.  This goes against the entire medical establishment and current agricultural practices.  The idea that what we eat makes a difference in our bodies health is a counter cultural idea.  I'm open to a lot of counter cultural ideas because I believe a lot of what is happening in our culture is totally backwards.  

     Years back, after seeing the lowly nettle as a friend, my belief in its value for nutrition was confirmed more from a booklet on a magazine rack at a check out counter at a grocery store.   Seeking to avoid the gaudy and sleazy publications, my eyes fell on a little booklet that gave the tip that a tea made from stinging nettle and peppermint could help those suffering with arthritis.  Stinging nettle removes uric acid from the body relieving the body of arthritic pain.  It also contains significant amounts of magnesium and iron.  One thing you will notice when you make nettle tea is that is has a vibrant green color.  This is because of the chlorophyll that it contains which makes it a commercial source of green dye.  I believe the green, chlorophyll is healthful for the body.

Other Uses of Stinging Nettle:
 
     As mentioned, stinging nettle is a source of a natural dye.  The fiber in the stalk of Stinging Nettle was traditionally used for producing a linen-like cloth.  Even the name "nettle" is derived from the term "textile plant."  The leaves are also known to be a good fertilizer.  It is used as an early spring potherb, and can be cooked like other greens.  I've dried and powdered the leaves to add some nutrition to other foods.  If you are looking for a good tea substitute, I think Stinging Nettle fits the bill.  It is my opinion that the mineral content of the tea gives it a smooth taste, without the astringency of regular tea. It is best to harvest stinging nettle in the spring as the leaves are more tender, and it is considered better to harvest it before the inconspicuous flowers bloom.

     Most the time, I harvest Stinging Nettle without gloves, but I am careful how I pick it.  I make sure to not grab the plants between my fingers where the skin is more sensitive.  I've found the broad part of the leaves don't seem to sting as bad as the stems.  I'd recommend wearing gloves for those who are unfamiliar with it.    It is a plant that requires some respect.  It is also a welcome part of spring.

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