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All About Nettles

Nettles is a plant you can find around the US as a weed. It has “stingers” on it so don’t pick it without gloves (and proper identification of course)! I live in Arizona where we don’t have nettles as weed so I use it dried. You can get dried nettles from places like Mountain Rose Herbs, Fronteir Co-op, Starwest Botanicals, or even better your local herb shop. Just ensure they’re organic! Nettles are rich in iron, calcium, potassium, silicon, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and chromium[1].

Nettles can help a myriad of things. I love to use nettles to reduce allergy symptoms, increase low iron, support adrenals, to help with milk supply, support body during menstrual cycle. It is supportive of the liver and kidneys and has been said to strengthen chi[2]. It has even been used to help children with their growing pains!

Susun Weed says, in her book “Healing Wise”[2], “[nettles is] gentle enough for an every day nourishing brew and powerful enough to heal damaged tissue.”

Nettles helps reduce allergy symptoms because it contains anti inflammatory and histamine properties. Making a strong tea, freeze dried capsules, or taking a tincture of nettles can reduce symptoms of hay fever at onset or taking prior to allergy season as a tonic [2]. I use it in a nourishing infusion for myself but for my son and husband I give it in tincture form. We always see a quick reduction in allergy symptoms (for me itching eyes and for my son post nasal drip!) My son tends to get more of a hay fever type response and nettles always reduces it markedly.

Nettles is also a galactagogue meaning it increases breastmilk supply. With it being so nourishing, and drinking a tea of it bringing extra hydration, it is certainly worth a try if you’re feeling that your breastmilk supply has tanked. Especially if you find that every time you have your period your breastmilk supply decreases. Nettles could be very helpful in that instance with the richness of magnesium and calcium.

I like taking nettles during my cycle because it contains magnesium, calcium, and iron[1]. Many symptoms of PMS are from depletion of those minerals. Our soil simply doesn’t have adequate amounts of magnesium for us to get it only from our food. Nettles are used as a reproductive tonic, meaning they strengthen your body’s natural hormonal cycle without altering it. Nettles is also a gentle diuretic and laxative[2] which helps the body rid itself of excess (and used up) estrogen through our waste pathways. Excess estrogen can be another reason for PMS and other cycle complaints.

Nettles can also help support your adrenals by supplying the nutrients they need to make cortisol. Nettles can be a fantastic way to support your body with energy that isn’t cortisol depleting (like caffeine). They are rich in chlorophyll that naturally lifts your body’s energy giving you a boost! It is also a tonic for your nervous system, helping your body to be more resilient to stress.

Many people would benefit from adding nettles to their lives! If you’re having period problems or really bad allergies you should give it a try! The only caveat is nettles can be drying. So if you are already a “dry” person (meaning dry skin, brittle nails, prone to constipation) nettles may agitate that for you. If you still want to try nettles, try it with a moistening herb like marshmallow root!

Okay so you’re probably wondering how you can use it! The easiest way to take nettles is in an infusion (aka a strong tea). Take ¼ cup nettles to 2 cups of nearly boiling water. Let steep, covered, for anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours. The longer it steeps the more minerals and vitamins are able to get into the water but you should also note the more bitter and astringent it’s going to be! Start low and work your way up. Drink it daily and see if it makes an improvement for you*.

Ways you can make the infusion more palatable if you don’t enjoy the taste: sweeteners like honey, lemon juice, over ice, or treat it like a broth and add salt!

You can also take nettles in tincture form for quick access and higher potency. I like to keep a small bottle of tincture in my hiking backpack. It can be super helpful if you’re prone to allergies on trail!

I hope you give nettles a try and see how it can improve your well-being!

*please consult with your medical provider before starting a herbal regimen. This article is for education purposes only.

[1] Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal: a Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality. Storey Books, 2001.

[2]Weed, Susun S. Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise. Ash Tree Pub., 1989.

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