Nettles grow just about everywhere and have been an extremely important part of our history for millennia. Each different part of the plant is used to different effect. The sting on the underside of the nettle leaf is designed to protect it. Tiny hairs laced with formic acid and other chemicals sink into the skin leaving raised bumps. The plant has been used to make dye, rope, linen and paper in Britain.
Nettle leaf is the most used for wellbeing as it supports the body to detoxify and it is believed to clear excess uric acid out of the joints. It is the uric acid which causes the pain and inflammation associated with gout. As one of the very first edible greens to be seen in the spring, it is often incorporated into traditional spring dishes after a long winter of stodgy food.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The sting disappears when the leaves are boiled which is probably why they are most commonly consumed in the form of tea. If that's not your cuppa, nettle soup is also "earthy, slightly tangy, outrageously healthy".
- An old cure for arthritis is to rub fresh stinging nettle all over the affected joints - painful according to records but it seems to work!
- Nettles are chic. The fibre inside the plants can be spun into string and used to make fabric for clothing, cushion covers, and even paper. The German army used nettle fabric to make army uniforms during World War I.
- Whole plants for medicinal use are cut as flowering begins in summer and dried for use in infusions, liquid extracts, ointments, powders and tinctures.
NETTLE & ME
- Nettle soup is a great way to dip your toe into the world of foraging. Only pick the top two sets of leaves, blanche in boiling water to disable the sting and then into cold. Once you have stripped the leaves from the stem, sauté some onions in butter, add the nettle leaves and some water and leave to simmer. Add cream just before serving.
- Nettle infusion is traditionally used as a hair rinse to bring vibrancy to darker tones.
- Nettles are processed commercially for extraction of chlorophyll which is used as a colouring agent in foods and medicines.
If you are pregnant/breastfeeding or on drug medication, be sure to consult with a professional before trying these remedies