Friday, April 13, 2012

Stinging Nettles!!!

I promise I'll do a new and original post soon (hey, it's garden planting season). For now, get out into the nettle patch...

She is known to nearly anyone who spends time outdoors by her sting, but not as well known for her gifts, and I have been blessed to receive her gifts for many years now.

"Rainer, do you want to say anything about nettles?"

"If you brush them they can sting you. But they are good in smoothies."

That's my boy! Yes, we drink nettles and we eat nettles. They are one of the most nutritious and nourishing of the tonic herbs, full of vitamins and minerals, including iron, selenium, and vitamins A, C and K (among many others). It is a powerful blood purifier, an excellent tonic for the adrenals, nerves and kidney. Regular use of nettles improves hair and skin, increases energy, reduces aches and pains, reduces allergies and rheumatism, and generally tones and strengthens the whole body. It is excellent to take during pregnancy and milk production, as it nourishes the growing baby, eases birthing, reduces post-partum hemorrhage and improves the quality and quantity of mother's milk.

Now is the time to harvest nettles, at least around these parts. She is just poking her head up and spreading her first few tender leaves. The tops are what we want, but how to harvest this prickly plant? I do not use gloves, and you don't need to either. I'll show you how.

My nettle patch came from a tiny plant given from herbalist Susun Weed's garden. She is the one who showed me how to harvest nettles without the sting (most of the time). Nettles sting because they are covered with little hairs filled with formic acid. When we brush up against the plant, the hairs act as a sling shot of sorts and shoot the acid onto us. But if we very deliberately grab hold of the plant and release it without brushing it, no sting.

Ready to try? Don't be scared. even if you do get stung, that's a good thing. The sting is therapeutic, especially for those with arthritic joints. Some cultures purposefully sting areas of joint pain and inflammation.

Once you have your harvest, what do you do with it? Well, you can infuse it (really strong tea), add it to soups, make a tincture, dry it, or, my favorite, make a smoothie...

Place harvested nettles along with any other greens in a blender, add a banana, some agave or honey, water or almond milk and any other fixins'. Blend until smooth and no big green pieces floating around.


Remember, nettles is an alterative, so you have to take her regularly over an extended period to feel her real benefits.

Also remember, this is not a salad herb. She will make you very unhappy if you attempt to eat her leaves raw without processing first. If you are brave and a little crazy (like me), you can take a leaf, roll it up, and roll it back and forth between your fingers, then pop it in your mouth. This should break up all those little hairs of acid. Why would one want to do this? Well, when getting to know the herbs taste is a wonderful way of gathering information and getting a direct physical contact with the plant, really feeling her energy.

Ready to make nettles soup? Recipe here.


  1. We have some growing wild here but I'm SO afraid of it, after walking through a patch bare-legged years ago and itching like crazy.

    But I've been reading your blog for a while now and I'm SO curious about it! If I wear gloves and whiz the dickens out of it in a blender, do you PROMISE it won't hurt?

    1. Jain, yes, wear gloves and pants and socks and shoes if you are feeling intimidated at first. Blend it up to a liquid and I promise it will be OK. The first step is starting to see all the benefits of this plant. Then, little by little, you may start to let go of the negative associations. We all know first impressions can be wrong. Give nettles another chance. She's rough around the edges, but a softie with many gifts inside.

  2. I have to say, I have never come across Nettles in our neck of the woods! ( or the bush! LOL) I am intrigued though and very keen to try some. These nettles seem to pop up all over the place when I least expect them. Shame the real thing does not hey?

    1. Karisma, urtica dioica may not grow wild around you, but you may find a couple other species of nettle...
      Maybe you'll be spotting some soon.

  3. A wonderful post, April! We put our nettle in smooties most mornings. My patch is still new but I might have enough to a soup before I pick it, blend with water and freeze for later use. I told my arthritic husband that he needs more stings. They don't bother him when he is stung so...

    1. Annie, your husband should definitely partake of the nettles! And your patch will grow to abundance in no time. Enjoy.