Thursday, June 6, 2013

FOOD FOREST MEDICINE Monograph #1: Nettles

Stinging Nettle

LATIN NAME: Urtica dioica, Urtica urens

Generally regarded as a weed in modern times, Nettle has been used extensively throughout history.  The stalks contain fibres that have been used to make rope and cloth of very fine quality.  In fact, ancient burial sites in China and northern Europe have also yielded cloth, rope and netting made from nettle fibre (5,8).  The leaves were also used to feed livestock and the oil from the seed was used as a burning oil in Egypt (8). 
Of the variety of plants in the Food Forest, Nettle likely contains the highest amount of protein of any native plant (5).  It also contains high amounts of mineral salts (mainly calcium and calcium salts), iron, fat and chlorophyll (5,6,8).
It makes a wonderful spinach substitute and can be used to make soups, omelettes and teas that are not only therapeutic, but also delicious.
Nettle infusions (strong teas) are one of the best ways to help maintain health.   Traditionally, Nettle infusions have been used as a “blood builder” because of its ability to increase iron levels in people with anemia (5). 
Studies have shown that Stinging Nettle root can take the sting out of prostate issues in men.  One of the main areas of scientific study is the use of Nettle in the treatment of enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy- BPH).  Combinations including nettle have shown promising results with respect to alleviating the symptoms of BPH.
Nettle root has also shown promise in the treatment of seasonal allergies, although the mechanism is unclear (6).  It is thought to have an anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effect (6). 
Nettle is also a wonderful diuretic and kidney remedy.  It can help to flush the system of toxins, such as uric acid, while supplying the body with minerals that are essential for good acid-base balance in the body.


PARTS USED:  leaf, root

ACTIONS:  nutritive, tonic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory
INDICATIONS:  health maintenance, BPH, allergies, arthritis, hair loss,  iron deficiency anemia


PREPARATIONS:  Infusion (strong tea), decoction (root), powdered (root, leaf), omelette!,  steamed and drizzled in olive oil
TRADITIONAL USES: material fibre, blood builder, food, arthritis (topical), migraines, asthma, kidney tonic.
SAFETY/CAUTIONS/INTERACTIONS:  contact skin irritation (careful during plant harvest), diuretic drugs

  *note that this monograph does not include ALL potential interactions or safety concerns.  Please consult your healthcare professional before using plant substances.

1.     5) Wood, Matthew.  The Book of Herbal Wisdom
2.     7) Mitchell, William.  Plant Medicine in Practice Using the Teachings of John Bastyr.  Elsvier    Science: Seattle, 2003.

3.     6)Mittman, P.  Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis.  Planta Med. 1990 Feb;56(1):44-7.
4.    8) Bones Kerry & Mills, Simon.  Priniciples and Practice of Phytotherapy.  Churchill Livingstone: Toronto, 2000.


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