Other common names: Stinging nettle, wild spinach
Parts used: Spring leaves are used most often, though the seeds and the root can also be utilized
Many people despise stinging nettles because the hairs on the stems and undersides of the leaves contain formic acid that stings some people. Many of us have probably had the experience or heard tales of people accidentally running into a nettle patch. Bruised plantain or yellow dock leaves rubbed onto a sting will act as an antidote to the formic acid. Nettles can be an ally, if you let yourself befriend this plant.
Nettles grow wild in wet, rich soil in various placed around the world. If you want to get a patch growing, the easiest way is to obtain a few cuttings and plant them in a shady area with plenty of compost and lots of room for them to spread.
Nettle leaves are a dull green color, serrated hairy, oval shaped, and grow opposite each other. Spring is the best time to gather the young leaves for eating, tincturing, or for drying for tea.
Take a pair of gloves and garden clippers, I cut the top three to four inches off the early spring plants. I am amused by the small greenish yellow flowers that hang down from the stems in early summer. The female and male flowers grow on separate plants or branches. The seeds can be collected in early fall when they turn brown.
To dry the leaves, pick them in the spring before the flowers form and before the plants reach three feet high. Carefully lay them onto nylon screens. Once dry, the hairs may feel prickly if you handle the leaves with your bare hands, but the formic acid is gone. Store the leaves in glass jars in a dark place.
Nettles are high in iron and safe enough to drink as a daily tea or several times a week. Nettle tincture, taken internally over several weeks, supports the kidneys and adrenal glands, nourishes the liver, and improves the elasticity of the veins.
The most effective way I know of extracting the various minerals nettle contains is by placing the dried or fresh leaves in a glass pot of cool water and letting it sit overnight. The tea water will be brownish in the morning. Sometimes I drink this tea cool, or I warm it up slowly and then let it steep for five to fifteen minutes.
Another delicious way to eat nettles is to use them in place of spinach in lasagna, stir-fry, quiche or create an old Italian favorite, Malfatti.
Nettles and our Pets:
Powdered nettle leaves combined with powdered alfalfa, rosemary and kelp are an excellent dietary supplement for dogs, cats, horses, goats, llamas, chickens, cows and sheep. The skin, hair and bones of any animal will look vastly improved with the addition of these herbal supplements to their diet.