To the wild food and herb forager who has learned to respect its sting and recognize its attributes, stinging nettle is a true delight. From ancient Greece to the present, nettle (both leaf and root) has been used for treating a wide range of ailments. Stinging nettle leaf has anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. Stinging nettle has been used to treat urinary tract infections and as an aid in increasing milk production in nursing mothers. When used as a health treatment, stinging nettle helps to reduce the inflammation of allergies, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and lupus, eczema, hemorrhage (nosebleed, excessive uterine bleeding) and chronic diarrhea.
Stinging nettle is a very valuable plant, used for food, medicine and fiber. Nettle contains iron, vitamin C and chlorophyll - all of which aid in the treatment of iron-deficiency anemia. I've been told that nettle has more iron than spinach. Nettle provides the iron necessary for the production of red blood cells. Stinging nettle roots also help keep testerone in an active form in both men and women.
I'll write here about how we harvested and dried the nettle and how I've been making an extract for him to use here.
Harvesting & DryingIt has been a cool and wet spring. Right now it's not even 60* outside. Things aren't growing very well so far this year so it has taken us longer than we had hoped to be able to harvest stinging nettle. A few weeks ago we decided that one patch of nettle was big enough to harvest so Shalom cut several stocks down and I tied them in bunches to dry in the attic. We were sure that Shalom left some stalks in place so they could reproduce for next season by dropping their seeds. Herbs should be dried quickly and a dark dry place is preferred. Beside our attic having plenty of room to hang herbs from the beams and trusses, it is the only place that is dark and dry that gets hot. After a few days the nettle was dry and I crushed them into a jar for storage while I searched for how to make an extract.
Brewing Nettle Tea/Infusion
- Weigh out 1 ounce of nettle and place into a coffee press with the nettle below the screen.
- Bring to boil 1 pint of water, pour into measuring cup to allow to cool a little for 30 seconds, then pour over nettle.
- Allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Drink between 1 and 4 cups a day, depending on what you're most comfortable with. In peak seasons, more tea during the day can be cumbersome so an extract might be easier to manage.
Making the Extract
- Weigh out 2 ounces of nettle in a large mason jar.
- Pour 2 cups of a mixture of 60% water and 40% vegetable glycerin over the nettle in the jar.
- Shake well and let stand for two weeks. Be sure to store your herbs in a cool place and in a dark colored glass jar and/or in a dark cupboard.
- After two weeks, place cheesecloth inside strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of the mason jar into the cheesecloth. Wrap the nettle in the cheesecloth and squeeze the extract juice out of the nettle and into the bowl. The cheesecloth prevents any stems or leaf pieces from making it's way into your extract as well as providing an easy way to press the extract out.
- After you've pressed as much out as you can, the nettle leaves can be put in your compost bin. Pour your extract into colored glass jars with lids. I'm using small dropper bottles that I found at the local co-op. Again, be sure to use dark colored glass. And be sure to label your bottle! On your label include what it is and when you pressed it. It can last in the fridge for up to 9 months.
Extract DosageDosages are between 1/2 and 2 teaspoons, up to three times a day. During allergy season the dosage will be higher and more often than in the "off season". My husband will be starting with on teaspoon once a day until we know it won't have any adverse affects for him. Then we'll increase his dosage to where he feels most comfortable.
I'll write about how the nettle treatment is going after he's had a few weeks to give it a try. I'd love to hear from any others who have used nettle as an alternative treatment for their allergies, or for any other issue for that matter.
--- For further reading ---
Making Herbal Tinctures is a related blog entry of mine
Stinging Nettle @ The People's Pharmacy
Stinging Nettle from University of Maryland Medical Center
Stinging Nettle from The Eclectic Physician