Nettle (Xun Ma)
Botanical Name: Urtica dioica
Stinging nettles have been used for food, medicine and even to make fabric from. They are famous for being able to relieve almost all symptoms caused by allergies: itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and nasal inflammation. The herb’s tonic properties are considered to be anti-aging and can help purify the blood. Nettle’s fibers have been used by many cultures, ancient and modern, to make cloth. Nettles also help break curses and spells.
Below is an overview of Nettle, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Nettle.
Also Known As: Stinging Nettles
Organs/Systems: Lungs, Prostrate, Bladder
Key Western Actions: Decongestant, Antihistamine, Anti-inflammatory, Diuretic, Immune Enhancing, Mild Laxative, Astringent, Tonic.
Medicinal Uses: Arthritis, eczema, gout, anemia, enlarged prostate, high blood pressure, cholesterol, manage blood sugar, improve appetite, allergies, hay fever, constipation, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, balding, aching muscles, improve immune system function, memory, unwanted weight loss.
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Lung, Liver, Kidney
Key Actions: Tonifies the Lungs, Purifies Blood, Drains Phlegm, Builds Blood, Enriches Kidney, Tonify Liver Yin, Stops Bleeding, Regulates Metabolism, Astringent, Treats Skin
Medicinal Uses: Eczema, congested lungs, coughs, asthma, shingles, cleanses the Blood from environmental toxins and toxins in food. Treats urinary tract infections, allergy congestion, gout, edema, hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin, dull hair, brittle nails, regulate menses. hemorrhage, postpartum bleeding, heavy menses, improves stamina, poor appetite, wounds, burns, improves lactation.
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Astringing, Cool, Dry
Caution: Considered very safe, may cause allergic rash when handling due to the plants “sting,” wear gloves when handling.
History/Folklore: In Ancient Greece, stinging nettles were used primarily as a diuretic and laxative. The genus name, Urtica, derives from the Latin word “uro,” meaning to burn, as the plant is well known for its burning stinging properties due to the fluid contained in its stinging hairs on the leaves. An East Indian species is powerful enough to sting and burn for days. The species name, dioica, means “of two houses” and refers to the plant being male and female.
In Ancient Egypt, the oil from the seeds was burned in lamps and in Arab countries nettle seeds were ground and mixed with horses food to bring a gloss to their coats.
In Ancient Rome, soldiers would bring stinging nettle seeds with them to rub in to cold chapped skin to help counteract the effects of numbness due to extreme cold on their limbs.
The word “nettle” is thought to have derived from German or Scandinavia from the word “netel or noedl” meaning a needle as not only does the plant sting like being pricked by needles but is was also used to supply thread before flax or hemp was available.
“Net” means to “spin or sew.” Its fibers can make fine textiles or course (such as might be used for sailcloth or sacking). The nettles were cut, dried and steeped, with the fibers then being separated to be spun into yarn. Both hemp and flax were introduced into the Northern Europe to replace the use of nettles. Studies have shown that good nettle is equal to cotton in terms of quality and durability. In 1915, Germany used nettle to make cloth for their military uniforms. Using nettles to make fabric is an ancient art in China with hand-woven fabrics being found in mummy cases that date back as far as the fifteenth dynasty.
Besides being used as cotton substitute for making fabric and twine, stinging nettles have been used for sugar, starch, protein and ethyl alcohol production.
Stinging nettles have been used for centuries to treat allergy symptoms, particularly hay fever. In Germany, nettles are a common ingredient in herbal prescriptions for rheumatic and inflammatory complaints, including prostate enlargement.
The healing powers of stinging nettles are steeped in folklore. There is an old fairy tale, The Wild Swans, in which the heroine must weave a shirt of nettle leaves if she is to save her brothers from a curse that turned them into swans. It has been said that stings from the nettle can prevent sorcery. Nettles are a good protective plant that are considered good at breaking spells and jinxes.
Stining nettles are used in potions designed to transition a difficult situation into a nurturing one. The leaves can be burned to drive out negative energies or break curses.
The herbs ability to clear uric acid wastes from the body makes it a good herb for treating eczema, gout, arthritis and kidney stones. Combined with large amounts of water, stinging nettle is used in so-called “irrigation therapy” to treat urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
Stinging nettle leaves can be placed against the skin to externally treat arthritic pain and the branches of the stinging plant can be swiped at the infected area to also provide relief from arthritis.
An infusion of the dried herb, alcoholic tincture made from the fresh plant or juice of the fresh herb in doses of 1-2 tablespoons is famously used to stop uterine bleeding, nosebleeds, and internal bleeding. Nettles can help treat anemia, poor circulation and an enlarged spleen. Stinging nettles are considered one of the best all around female tonics as they are excellent for women starting their menses and women entering menopause.
Stinging nettle roots are used to aid urinary dysfunction caused by enlarged prostate or infection. This includes nighttime urination, kidney stones, painful urination, irritable bladder and frequent urination.
A common tea can be made by pouring 1 cup of just boiled water over 1-2 teaspoons of the herb. Steep for ten minutes and take 3 times a day. Honey can be added as a sweetener. To eat the leaves as a vegetable gather the top 6-8 inches of the plant’s young spring tops and wash them in running water with a stick, place the dripping sprigs in a sauce pan without adding any water and saute with just butter salt and pepper. This delicious dish of greens will have slight laxative properties and remember, this recipe is only for the young tops of nettle plants, by autumn the leaves are too hurtful and full of the stinging crystals they contain.
The burning property of the stinging juice is dissipated with heat, enabling the young shoots of the nettle to be eaten when boiled.
Steamed the leaves can be eaten in salads, soups, stews and pastas. The healthy and nutritious roots are a wonderful vegetable and easy to digest.
The sting of a nettle can be cured and eased by rubbing the afflicted area with rosemary, mint, or sage leaves.
Plants are harvested in May and June, just before coming into flower. The seeds and flowers can be dried in the sun.
Their presence in the environment is a good sign of nitrogen rich soil. Tradition says that nettles grow where either a human or animal once lived, probably due to the high levels of nitrogen and phosphates found in the soil where decomposition has occurred.
Those plants that are in rich deep soil can grow to be 5 to 6 feet tall and are the best for producing fiber from. If planted in the neighborhood of beehives, it is said nettles will drive away frogs. The plants are also an important food for the larvae of butterflies and moths.
Stinging nettle beer was an Old English folk remedy used by elders to help cure gout and rheumatic pains, but the beer can also be enjoyed simply for its flavor. Nettles can be used as a substitute for rennet in cheese making.
The juice of the plant is stronger medicinally than either the leaves or the root.
Cows will produce more milk if fed nettles that have been picked and allowed to wilt, so the “sting” is gone, than they will if only fed hay. Horses and cattle suffering from malnutrition and digestive problems have improved when fed wilted nettles. Dried and powdered nettles added to food for poultry increases their egg production and improves their health.
Don’t confuse stinging nettle (Uritica dioica) with white, yellow or purple dead nettle (Lamium album) they are four different plants. All of the “dead” nettles are called “dead” due to the fact that they do not sting and can be properly identified by their hollow, square stalks. White dead nettle (Lamium album) can be further identified once they are in bloom as their flowers are very different. Purple dead nettles (Lamium purpureum) have heart or kidney-shaped leaves that are blunt and not pointed. Yellow dead nettle (Lamium galeobdolon) has flowers that grow in whorls and are longer than the stinging nettles (Uritica dioica) are.
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