Sweet The Sting : Nettles Plant Profile
Often when I think of Nettles I am drawn back to a beautiful memory from my time living in Maine.
I was visiting Avena Botanicals when the herbalist and owner Deb Soule stepped out from the garden with a jar full of fresh Nettle tea. Deb glows with an inner radiance and she smiled commenting on how much she enjoyed her Nettles in the morning. We all agreed that Nettles was an abundant medicine that more folks would benefit from using. And then we went back to washing roots and enjoying the warmth of the growing morning light with the scent of Nettle tea in the air.
Now, I didn't grow up with Nettles in my backyard and didn't have to worry about falling into its sting when out on walks as a kid. When I think of Nettles I find myself drawn into feelings of gentleness. And while the sting of Nettles has left many wary of the plant, the affect of Nettles as an internal remedy is so nourishing that the simple act of drinking fresh Nettle tea can be a clear invocation of gentleness. Combine it with other herbs like Milky Oat (Avena sativa) and you're brewing up a hug in a mug (recipe below).
I explore both the sting and sweetness of Nettles in my plant profile. What are your favorite ways to use Nettles? Let me know in the comments below. If you're looking for all my plant profiles click here and you can learn how to connect with any plant with the Plant Ally Project. Enjoy!
Common + Folk Names : Stinging nettle, wild spinach, bee sting nettle, devil’s leaf, hidgy-pidgy, hoky-poky
Planet : Mars
Element : Fire
Signs : Aries (Guardian), Scorpio (Guardian + Remedy), Capricorn (Remedy), Pisces (Remedy)
Moon Phase : Waxing Quarter Moon
Parts used : Leaves, seeds, roots, and young tops
Habitat : Just about everywhere.
Growing conditions : Grow in wet, rich soil – think compost heaps and old manure.
Collection : Cut three to four inches off the early spring plants. Seeds can be collected in the early fall when plants are brown.
Flavor : Salty, slightly bitter
Temperature : Cool
Moisture : Dry
Tissue State : Cold/Depression, Damp/Stagnation
Constituents : Amines (acetylcholine, histamine, serotonin), ascorbic acid, flavonoids, minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, silica, vitamin B, C, E, K, silicon, manganese, zinc, magnesium, chromium, protein, tannins.
Actions : Alterative, antihaemorrhagic, antiallergenic, anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, blood tonic, circulation stimulant, decongestant, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, immune-stimulant, nutritive, vasodilator, thyroid tonic, antiseptic
Main Uses : Herbalist David Hoffman has a wonderful quote about Nettles that I heartily agree with: “When in doubt, Nettles.” A wonderfully nutritive herb, Nettles has a nourishing effect on the entire body with a broad range of uses.
Nettles has an affinity for the blood. It moves stagnant blood, improves circulation, and is a rich source of iron. The herb is also useful in reducing blood sugar levels and balancing blood pressure. Use in cases of anemia and general weakness and debility. The herb helps alleviate heavy and prolonged periods, nosebleeds, and to stops excess bleeding both internally and externally. Nettle also has a strong relationship with the kidneys, stimulating sluggish kidneys, moving stagnant water, and generally cleansing the fluids of the body.
During pregnancy, Nettles, in combination with other herbs such as Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus), is a wonderful daily multivitamin for parent and growing fetus. Use in postpartum, too, especially if there has been blood loss. Nettles has an amphoteric affect on the milk supply meaning that it increases milk if there is too little or reduces it if there is too much.
For reproductive systems in general, Nettle root has been used to treat prostatitis, vaginitis, and vaginal discharges. If infertility is an issue, Nettles is almost always useful for nourishing and revitalizing the body attempting to conceive. If low libido, erectile dysfunction or general sexual anxiety is present, Nettles helps to resettle and center the nervous system (combine with Avena sativa for an especially nourishing brew). Use during menopause for nightsweats - take as a tea before bed combined with Sage (Salvia officinalis). The root reduces prostate enlargement.
Nettles are a strengthening herb to use when a person’s constituent is weak or weakened – when anemia is present or with a weak digestive system and especially during convalescence. Helps increase energy and overcome fatigue. Restores a worn-down emotional system. Nettles strengthens the kidneys and adrenal glands, activates the metabolism, nourishes the liver and blood, and improves elasticity of veins. The diuretic and anti-inflammatory actions of Nettles are useful in treating rheumatism and gout. The herb enlivens the immune system and has been used traditionally in the treatment of cancer. Overall, Nettles are great spring medicine - they help to brush off the heaviness of winter and enrich our bodies with an injection of Vitamin C amongst other nutrients. Include the tea in your morning routine and cook the young greens like spinach for your spring green meals.
As an anti-allergen, Nettles strengthens the outer membranes of cells which makes them less vulnerable to inflammation and allergic reactions. Nettles are used to treat eczema, hayfever, asthma, acne, and food allergies. Warm Nettle tea helps the body to release excess mucus from the lungs and colon and stops the cycle of mucous membrane hyperactivity.
Use externally as an oil or wash for bedsores, diaper rash, burns and wounds, brittle nails, and to treat the sting of Nettles itself. Traditional use includes hitting arthritic joints with fresh Nettles to alleviate pain and stiffness. Matthew Wood uses Nettles topically for muscle weakness of the inner thighs (especially for the middle-aged and older) to great success. I have found Nettles to be good (both internally and externally) for growing pains of all sorts, emotional and physical.
"No plant is more useful in domestic medicine."
- Hilda Leyel -
Magickal Uses : Protective powers employed to reverse curses and return negative energy to the sender. Use as a protective powder around the boundaries of the house and to keep away ghosts. Tossed into a fire it averts danger and combined with Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) it turns away fear. As a “carnivorous” plant it is used in purification baths to eat harmful energies. Used in wash to consecrate athames. Lucky for fishing. Silver Ravenwolf suggests an association with the Greek Goddess Hekate and the Egyptian Scorpion Goddess Selkhet.
The Nettles Personality : The Nettles personality struggles to live in the moment. They are often dazed, brain-fogged, and worn down. Many are simply going through the motions of their day, the little pleasant details of life are simply a blur, and pass by unappreciated. There can be a lingering feeling of sadness, wariness, and uncertainty. The blur and sameness of it all can make a Nettles person feel like their are boundary-less but not in an expansive and blissful sort of way. They can get walked all over by others and begin to feel resentful for not being appreciated. Fortunately, Nettles helps to bring us rapidly back to the moment (think about how their sting does just that when you accidentally stumble upon them). For the muddled and unmoored a healthy re-centering can go a long way in helping them to feel better. In addition to re-centering, Nettles also helps us to set boundaries with our selves which, in turn, allows us to set healthy boundaries with others. With the heat and stimulation of Nettles, the fog can lift and the excitement of life come rushing back in.
Contraindications : Do not take root during pregnancy. Nettle Seed can be too stimulating for some. Avoid overstraining the kidneys by using Nettles for 3 weeks on and 1 week off.
Drug interactions : Use with caution with blood thinners.
Dosage : Leaf: 1 teaspoon per of 1 cup of water. 3 - 40 drops (1:5, 60% alcohol extract).
Remedies + Charms
A General Sense of Wellbeing Tea | Alexis J. Cunningfolk
Combine equal parts of the following:
- Oats (Avena sativa)
- Nettles (Urtica dioica)
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Let steep for 20 minutes and then add in a generous amount of your milk of choice for a nourishing and relaxing brew.
Menopause Nightsweats Tea | Deb Soule
from The Roots of Healing
Combine equal parts of :
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Prepare as standard infusion and enjoy 1 hour before bed.
Electuary of Nettles | Elisabeth Brooke
from An Astrological Herbal for Women
Beat some dried nettle leaves into a fine powder and pass through a hair sieve to remove any large particles. To 25 g (1 oz) of powder, add 75 g (3 oz) clarified honey and mix well in a mortar. Store in an earthenware pot.
Dose: 15 g to 25 g (1/2 to 1 oz) to purge the body of phlegm.