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All About Nettles

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Nettles are considered valuable medicine thanks to their ability to treat respiratory and lung complaints as well as cleanse the system of any poisons. Despite nettles protective sting, forgers, herbalists and chef's alike have all sought after the spring time herb.


Wild Nettles (Urtica dioica)

In the spring time nettles can be found growing in abundance, especially near sources of water like waterfalls and rivers.


I often come across nettles hiking in the pacific northwest, but in my recent travels to Switzerland I found them in abundance right in the middle of the city Zurich along the river path.


When harvesting or handling nettles beware of the stinging hairs that encompass the entire plant which contain histamine, a potent irritant for the skin. Be sure to wear gloves and handle with care.


Hadeling Nettles with Kitchen Tongs
Hadeling Nettles with Kitchen Tongs

In the early spring when the nettle leaves and stems are tender they can be used for culinary purposes. In late spring you'll find that the nettle stems start to get large and fibrous, this is your cue to make something medicinal like tinctures or salves that can be used year round.


To make nettles edible you need to remove the sting. You can do this by soaking nettles in warm water or cooking them. When cooked the taste and texture closely resembles that of spinach. Some of my favorite ways to use nettles include nettle pesto, spring detox soup or to simply saute them with garlic and lemon (they also make a fabulous pizza topping)


Blanched Nettles

 

Culinary Uses


Nettles are an ideal spring tonic given their ability to cleanse the system. Consider making my favorite spring detox soup to cleanse yourself of any residing winter sludge. Don’t fear my use of the word detox, this soup goes down easy and won’t have you glued to the toilet. Think of this nettle soup as a gentle cleanse for the body that tastes a little bit like split pea soup.





 

Recipes

 

A plant-based non-traditional take on pesto


Quinoa Fritters with Nettle Pesto
Quinoa Fritters with Nettle Pesto


A earthy and bright spring detox soup using seasonal local ingredients



A simple nettle soup using seasonal wild nettles from the PNW




 

Medicinal Information:


Nettles are considered astringent, diuretic, antirheumatic, hemostatic, circulatory stimulant, and blood purifying.


Used in: infusions, tinctures, ointments, infused oils, capsules and decoctions


Used to treat:

  • Gout, Rheumatism & Arthritis

    • Capsules and tinctures can be used to relieve pain of rheumatic conditions and stimulate circulation.

  • Anemia

    • The mineral content of nettles makes it a good tonic to the blood. Consume capsules, tinctures or young leaves

  • Excess menstrual bleeding and irregular periods

    • Capsules or tinctures taken regularly over a course of 3 cycles can help to regulate excess or irregular bleeding

  • Dandruff

    • An infusion of young leaves can be poured over the hair and massaged into the scalp to relieve irritation.

  • Allergy symptoms

    • Freeze-dried nettles or tinctures work best for diminishing symptoms such as excess mucus, and itchiness


 


References:


Harding, J. (2017). Herbs A colorful guide to herbs and herbal healing. Quarto Publishing plc.


Pursell, J. (2015). The Herbal Apothecary. Timber Press.



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