Nettles (Urtica dioica) - classic spring tonic
by Ellen Evert Hopman
Nettles are perennial plants found all over the world. They have opposite, heart shaped leaves with saw toothed edges. The leaves have tiny hairs covered with an irritating acid that produces a stinging rash when handled.The acid washes off easily in cold water and is harmless to the skin, even if painful.The leaves are gathered just before the plant begins to flower. You will definitely want to wear gloves when gathering this plant.
Ancient people used Urtica dioica,the Latin name for nettles, in the making of cloth.They also used it to slap a paralyzed limb because the stinging hairs of the plant increase blood circulation on the parts that are struck.Anglo-Saxon herbalists of the tenth centuryused it to counteract poisons and the bites of dogs and of bats. The seeds and flowers were taken in wine for fever and chill.
Nettle leaf tea is a classic spring tonic. It stimulates the kidneys, cures diarrhea, stops internal bleeding, cleans the blood, and is an important source of iron, calcium, and vitamin C making it valuable in anemia.Nettle tea has been used to treat asthma,wheezing, and shortness of breath.The tea is also diuretic and has been used for cystitis and high blood pressure. To make the tea steep two teaspoons of nettle leaves in a cup of boiled water for about ten minutes. The dose is 1/4 cup four times a day, not with meals.
The decoction of the root is useful for diarrhea and dysentery and can also be used as a scalp wash to stimulate hair growth. It is used as an external wash for old wounds, itching conditions and for gangrene. To prepare the root, chop it and simmer about two teaspoons per cup of water for twenty minutes in a non aluminum pot with a tight fitting lid. Take about 1/4 four times a day.
The fresh juice of nettles can be taken to improve digestion and to increase milk flow in nursing mothers.The dose is one teaspoon in a glass of water, three times a day. It can also be rubbed into the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
Nettles can be added to soups and quiches, the older plants must be cooked thoroughly but the young plants gathered in spring can be eaten fresh in salads. Add nettles to winter time teas to increase circulation and to warm the body.
Recent studies have shown that nettles are an effective antihistamine when taken for seasonal allergies and that they are also anti-inflamatory for arthritis.
Ellen Evert Hopman
Snailmail: PO Box 219, Amherst, MA 01004 U.S.A.
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