Stinging Nettles: Creating My Own Herbal Medicine
Stinging Nettles are my first attempt at doing something I've always wanted to do, but lacked time and opportunity -- making my own herbal teas, foods, and medicines. I've used herbs for improving my health for a long time, but never had opportunity to make my own. That has changed in the last year as my time has freed up and I have a son with a farm that grows a wide variety of plants that grow wild. Every week finds me eagerly searching the property for plants that are approaching time for harvest. Below is a sample of my recent handiwork.
Nettles grow in thickets near stream banks, disturbed and rich soils. All parts of the plant are useable. Leaves can be harvested in the spring and early summer; roots in the early spring and late autumn, seeds as they mature. When harvesting nettles, be sure to wear gloves as the hairs on the plant contain formic acid which is where the plant gets the name "stinging" from! If you do get stung, chew up some horsetail, plantain, or dock and apply to the stings or make a paste out of baking soda.
This is the beginning of the picturesque activity known as "garbling": the preparation of herbs for processing.
Here I have separated the leaves from the stems.
After the leaves have been stripped from the biggest of the stems, they are placed on trays for drying.
This is my old workhorse of a dehydrator. It's ancient but it still works well. Unfortumately, you can't buy this model any more.
In this jar, I crammed in freshly washed nettle leaves and then filled the bottle with rum to make a tincture. This is then stored in my cupboard and shaken once a day for the next month or two. When finished, I'll strain it and squeeze out the leaves. Tinctures will last for years whereas dried leaves will only be potent for a year.
The dehydrated product. At this point I can either crumble it or powder it in my blender. I've done both using it as a tea and the powder gets added to smoothies.
The finished product: a pleasant tasting tea that benefits the liver, kidneys, and bladder, balances hormones and provides an excellent source of absorbable calcium, magnesium, chlorophyll, iron, vitamins A, C, and D, zinc, potassium, chromium, cobalt, niacin, phosphorus, manganese, and silica. Turkeys, chickens and other poultry thrive on nettles. Adding ground dried nettles to their feed will increase their egg prouction. Growing it in your garden will also increase the oil content of herbs like valerian root, sage, marjoram, mint, and angelica.
Like I said: All parts of the plant are useable. Nettles are high in nitrogen and they will help activate decomposition in the compost pile. You can also use the stems and waste bits in compost tea for watering and fertilizing your vegetables.