Every spring, gardeners spend time removing prickly nettles from their gardens. In today’s world, the nettle is often regarded as a weed. But in traditional medicine, the nettle, or Urtica dioica, has a rich history. For more than 2,000 years, people have been using the nettle as an invigorating spring tonic to support wellness, and for joint health. Perhaps it’s time to shift our perception, and see nettle as a powerful herb.
Nettles are not easy to love. Virtually every part of the nettle is covered with tiny protrusions called trichomes, which release an irritating substance when touched. This substance is sometimes described as the “venom” of the plant.
Underneath the intimidating exterior of the nettle, however, is a gentle tonic. In traditional cultures, people forage for this spring plant and use it as food. The leaves are blanched, dried or cooked, and plant loses its sting. As a food, nettles provide vitamin A and calcium. Nettle is good in pesto, pasta, bread or soups and stews. The rich, earthy taste of nettles is also good in a tonic tea.
In Europe, where herbal medicine is widely respected, nettle is recognized as a strong defense against allergies. Unlike allergy shots and prescription drugs, which only treat the symptoms of allergies and have a number of side effects, nettles actually interrupt the allergy cycle. Nettle has been extensively researched, and an article in Herb Wisdom says:
Nettle has been studied extensively and has shown promise in treating Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, bladder infections, bronchitis, bursitis, gingivitis, gout, hives, kidney stones, laryngitis, multiple sclerosis, PMS, prostate enlargement, sciatica, and tendinitis! Externally it has been used to improve the appearance of the hair, and is said to be a remedy against oily hair and dandruff.
Stinging nettle is sold as an herbal drug in Germany, for prostate disease and as a diuretic. It is also an ingredient in drugs used to treat rheumatism and inflammatory conditions (particularly those of the prostrate or lower urinary tract). In the United States, herbalists used the leaf as a diuretic, for arthritic conditions, inflammation of the prostate, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and allergic rhinitis.
Our beautiful earth is a rich repository of everything we need to survive and thrive. Take a second look at the “weeds” growing around you. Some of them hold the keys to human health.