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HERBS: STINGING NETTLE

Urtica dioica, U. urens
Action: Alterative, haemostatic, diuretic, astringent, galactagogue.
Systems Affected: Lungs, liver, kidneys, bladder, blood.
Preparation and Dosage (thrice daily): Dried flowering plant, dose 2-5 grams by infusion.

The term Stinging Nettle is often used of three distinct species: the Greater Nettle (Urtica dioica), the Lesser or Smaller Nettle (U. urens) and the Roman Nettle (U. pilulifera). The former is a tall perennial whereas the latter two are shorter annuals, but all have similar properties.
These species of Nettle are native to Eurasia but have been introduced and naturalized elsewhere, especially on moist fertile wasteland. The botanist J. H. Willis states that U. urens is common in Australia but U. dioica is rare or non-existent as a naturalized plant (examples of the plant supplied for botanical identification usually turn out to be U. urens, more vigorous in growth because of the warmer climate).
Nettle is valued for its haemostatic properties, regular doses of the infusion being used as a treatment for frequent nose bleeds and for haemorrhaging from the nose, lungs, stomach, uterus and haemorrhoids. To stop nose bleeds the dried powdered leaf is used as a snuff or a piece of cotton wool soaked with the expressed juice of the plant is inserted in the nostril.
Rich in chlorophyll, containing vitamins A and C, mineral salts such as calcium, potassium, silicon, iron, manganese and sulphur, plus other substances, Nettle is sometimes used in anaemia and for its alterative or tonic effects on the blood and, especially when combined with Burdock, is of great benefit in skin eruptions and eczema, being specific for eczema of nervous origin.
Nettle is considered of some benefit as an anti-asthmatic: the juice of the plant, mixed with honey or sugar, is used to relieve bronchial and asthmatic troubles and the dried leaves are smoked as a cigarette to the same effect.
The plant is sometimes used to treat rheumatism and gout, internally as a tonic and externally as an application where the affected parts are beaten with the fresh plant! (This painful form of treatment, used by the ancient Romans and by many others since, is regarded by those who employ it as being highly effective in relieving chronic rheumatism.)
Nettle is used for its galactagogue properties and as a treatment for bedwetting in children. It is reported to have hypoglycaemic properties (i.e. to lower the blood sugar level). The infusion provides a soothing and healing lotion for burns.
It is a highly-esteemed tonic for the hair and scalp. To stimulate hair growth, rendering it soft and glossy, and to prevent falling hair and eliminate dandruff, a strong decoction of the plant is used every other day as a shampoo or Nettle juice is combed through the hair daily.
Nettle has been variously used in cloth and paper manufacture, as a food, a medicine, a dyestuff and livestock feed. Nettle fibre, similar to flax, was used at different times, particularly in northern Europe, to make sheets, tablecloths and linen, sailcloth, sacking, ropes and nets. (The fine cloth resembles silky linen in feel and appearance.)
Cut and dried, Nettle is given as a supplementary feed to livestock: it increases milk production in cows and egg production in poultry, and imparts condition and sleek coats to run-down horses.
A decoction of the plant yields a permanent green dye and the roots, boiled with salt or alum, produce a beautiful yellow colour.
The young plants, 15 to 20 centimeters high, are eaten as a cooked vegetable in many cultures. A strong decoction of the plant can be used as a substitute for rennet. Strained, cooled and added to warm milk, it will curdle it without imparting any strong flavour.
Flies have a distaste for the plant and a fresh bunch of Stinging Nettles helps to keep a kitchen or pantry free of them.
The whole plant is downy and covered with stinging hairs that cause severe pain on even slight contact. The carbonic and formic acids that cause the stinging are broken down into harmless compounds within a few days when the plant is cut and dried, and are immediately rendered inactive when exposed to heat. Thus the dried herb may be safely handled and consumed, and the fresh plant is readily used when cooked or boiled. The expressed juice is made by bruising the leaves and subjecting them to low heat for thirty minutes, then wringing them out in a cloth.

Cautionary Notes: Gloves should always be worn when handling the fresh plant. The recommended antidote to Nettle rash is fresh Aloe Vera, Yellow Dock or Plantain leaves bruised and rubbed on the affected area. Rosemary, Mint or Sage leaves, and the juice of the Nettle itself, will also provide relief.

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HERBAL

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