Stinging-nettle is one of the funniest plants alive. It’s hairs are a deterrent to many creatures (including humans). However, when you get to know and respect this nutritious plant, you’ll be eager and ready to harvest stinging-nettle. Watch my video from today to see this plant from my perspective.
A great resource to learn more about local plants in northeast North America, is GoBotany! Here is some ways that the organization describes stinging-nettle:
Latin name: Uritca dioica – stinging nettle
Facts: “Stinging nettle occurs in New England as two subspecies, one (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis) is native, while the other (U. dioica ssp. dioica) is introduced. The native species can be recognized in that male and female flowers appear on a single plant (monoecious), and the plant has only sparse stinging hairs, especially on the stem. The native stinging nettle was considered an important medicinal plant by Native Americans.”
What’s a subspecies?
Do you remember the article I wrote on violets? Well, there I talked about how scientists classify life, and especially with regards to this article, plants. As GoBotany noted, in eastern North America, we have two species of Urtica dioica. The two cannot reproduce with each-other. Collectively, the family of Urticaceae, in which stinging-nettle belongs, contains about 2,625 different species!
Habitat: “Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), floodplain (river or stream floodplains), forest edges, forests, shores of rivers or lakes”
Leaf type: the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaf arrangement: opposite: there are two leaves per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges: the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Cuisine: There are many ways to enjoy this plant. They include drying the plant for tea, blanching the plant and eating it like spinach (drink the water!), making pesto, powdering the leaf and making capsules, and finally using the root (technically a rhizome) to make a tincture. There are of course more ways of using this plants (including making clothing), but today i’m focusing on brining it into your kitchen.
Do you remember the Ertebølle culture that I wrote about in my article on garlic-mustard? Well, this Mesolithic culture is coming back up again in an article from 1999 called, “The plant food component of the diet at the late Mesolithic (Ertebolle) settlement at Tybrind Vig, Denmark”. Apparently between 5,300 B.C.E. — 3,950 B.C.E., the indigneous in Denmark were using stinging-nettle in their cooking!
In North America, the indigenous groups like the Haudenosaunee used the native nettle Laportea candensis or Canada wood-nettle as a food.
According to Wikipedia, as “Old English stiðe, nettle is one of the nine plants invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm, recorded in 10th century. Nettle was believed to be a galactagogue – a substance that promotes lactation.
Urtication, or flogging with nettles is the process of deliberately applying stinging nettles to the skin to provoke inflammation and can treat rheumatism.”
About a month ago, I wrote about my travels to the Amazon, Well, on my way to the rainforest, Twigs and I experienced an “Urtication” in one local market. Man, was that a fun experience. Seriously it was.
The International Journal of Unani and Integrative Medicine in 2018 published an article called, “Stinging Nettle: A herb with tremendous pharmacological potential” by Fatima et. al.
The abstract reads, “Urtica dioica L. commonly known as ‘stinging nettle’ is a perennial herb which belongs to the family Urticaceae. The plant is called Stinging Nettle because its leaves and stems contain hairs (trichomes) filled with a fluid that give severe sting when it comes in contact with the body. This herb is found in
many South Asian Countries, Indian subcontinent and has been known in the world as a medicinal herb for a long time.”
It goes on to say, “The species has been a subject of recent scientific interest and product development all over due to its traditional usage as food, fibre and medicine. U. dioica is widely used by the traditional medicinal practitioners for curing various diseases such as nephritis, haematuria, jaundice, menorrhagia, arthritis and rheumatism. Phytochemical studies revealed the presence of many valuable chemical compounds like phytosterols, saponins, flavanoids, tannins, proteins, minerals and amino acids.”
Finally, the abstract reads, “U. dioica has been reported to have various pharmacological activities like antibacterial, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, anti-colitis and anticancer effects. This paper aims to review and interpret up-to-date and comprehensive information regarding nutrition and health benefits, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of stinging nettle.”
In conclusion, this is one of my go-to plants throughout the year. In the Spring, I harvest the leaves for tea and as a vegetable. In the Fall, I harvest the root, for making medicine. You won’t be able to over harvest this plant, so it lends itself to be called a staple food. Please forage responsibly, honorably, and sovereignly.
If you have any more questions about this plant, please reach out. Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in buying stinging-nettle root as a tincture, email me at email@example.com, and will send you a bottle.