It was a family encounter with a German gentleman on a beach one fine Saturday morning that introduced me to the wonders of nettle. We initially just talked — rather animatedly — about Sauerkraut when our chat spontaneously deviated towards healthy living in general. Apparently excited by how a Filipina (me) taught a kindly old German a traditional German recipe — he sort of paid me back and gave me a pot of herb which he said is as valuable to Germany as moringa is to the Philippines. I was surprised to find that the herb he was referring to is what we Filipinos consider as an inedible weed growing wild along out-of-the-way grasslands — the stinging nettle.
If you’ve been to off-the-beaten farmlands in the Philippines before, you would have frequently seen the stinging nettle as a common fixture. What waste that we have relegated this herb to the class of annoying weeds when it really is a superb nutritional powerhouse.
Nettle grows so abundantly across the US and Europe — and even here in the Philippines. I find it so amazing that God has made widely available all these kinds of herbs and weeds that have so many prophylactic and therapeutic properties. I think that if we spend more time foraging for these herbs, we wouldn’t have to spend much on expensive health and food supplements.
I hope the photo above of the stinging nettle that my German friend graciously gave me, would give you visual clues on how to spot nettle yourself. For better guidance, here are the characteristics of stinging nettle:
- Single-stemmed plant
- The leaves are heart-shaped and the surface has a coarse and rough texture because of minute sharp bristles. The leaves literally sting the skin upon contact so be wary. To relieve itching, squeeze the juice out of fresh nettle leaves and apply on affected area. Amazing, eh?
- The stems are thick, squarish and hairy as well.
Consider these multitudinous health benefits of the lowly stinging nettle:
- Stops external bleeding
- Stops internal bleeding
- Purifies the blood
- Softens the hair
- Nettle is rich in iron and is thus helpful for anemia.
- Nettle regulates female hormones and may help with hormonal reproductive problems such as fibroids, PMS and menopause.
- Nettle tea relieves mucus congestion, diarrhea, skin irritations and water retention.
- Nettle tea also increases breast milk production and stimulates the enzymes of vital organs.
- Nettle tea is also excellent for mouth and throat infections and can be used as gargle.
- Nettle tea applied topically cures acne and burns.
- Nettle tea is also a hair-grower and tonic.
- Relieves rheumatism
- Stinging nettle leaves are — strangely — homeopathic treatments for all kinds of allergies.
- Induces chickens to lay more eggs
- Nettle hay fed to cows induces more milk production
- Nettle hay makes good gardening mulch because of its high nitrogen content.
- A bunch of fresh nettle leaves hung from the roof is even said to repel flies.
- Boil a handful of stinging nettle leaves in a stainless steel pot for two hours and then strain. Store in a glass bottle and you’ll have an all-around potion for most any skin, digestive and inflammatory condition.
- Add nettle leaves to soup. (I haven’t done this yet as my pot of nettle has too sparse leaves as yet.)
- Boil nettle leaves in brine for 10 minutes, strain and use to curdle milk in cheese-making.
- Drink a cup of boiled nettle leaves a day to relieve symptoms of gout, arthritis and rheumatism. Nettle has a diuretic and alkalizing action which releases uric acid deposits from painful joints.
I know this makes nettle sound like a panacea (and there is no such thing in my opinion) but I hope you get the idea that nettle does have many health benefits and for this reason (plus its low cost and wide availability), I think it’s high time we incorporate this herb for internal and external applicatons.