stinging nettles tea elixir
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Spring has truly arrived!
In the fickle-weathered Pacific Northwest the Camelia and daffodils are blooming. And they’re not alone. Hope shines through people’s eyes as they begin to extend out from their winter retreat, heading out to spot the wildflowers or harvest some seasonal mushrooms.
Maybe it’s the promise of gathering goodies from the land that brings that twinkle of promise. In my small bubble of a Portland community there’s a definite buzz this time of year. It’s a buzz that includes a deep affection for stinging nettles.
Stinging nettles grow wild throughout the United States and Europe. They’re the first edible green to appear in the spring. Traditionally, when obtaining greens through winter was not as simple as it is today, the first crops of nettles were harvested and made into restorative spring tonic soups.
Our ancestors were wise. They didn’t need to analyze the nutritional benefits of a wild food. They instinctively knew its value, and consumed its many blessings of strength and vitality.
Yet the worth of the young nettle plant is not only in its health profile, but also in its taste. It satisfies the soul, as you’ll see in one of my favorite tea infusions that I share below—a perfect curative for the capricious season.
Why Eat Nettles?
The health benefits of nettles are plentiful. Nettles are a kidney tonic with diuretic properties that allow for the release of water soluble toxins. They provide relief from the allergies that plague many in the spring, by improving our resistance to pollens and molds. Nettles enrich the blood and ameliorate high blood pressure levels as well.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, nettles build overall chi—or energy flow in the body. And nettles are an adrenal tonic, boosting our ability to handle the stress that life presents with more vigor and equanimity. (I like that!)
The formic acid that’s contained in the nettles’ stingers also has several beneficial effects. If pricked with these little stingers, they will increase circulation; help with arthritic pain; and relieve sciatica. In some cultures nettles are used specifically to alleviate muscle pain and reduce varicose veins.
I received an intentional nettle “whacking” on my neck and shoulders one summer many years back, and have to admit that the pain was minor and the aftermath brought great relief! This is likely because nettles contain a chemical compound called caffeic malic acid. This compound inhibits inflammation by stopping a series of steps that induce the release of histamine.
Nettle tea encourages the growth of intestinal villi, making it a great tonic for those healing from digestive problems involving the small intestines such as leaky gut or IBS. This is because it contains all the vitamins that make it a potent anti-inflammatory—vitamins C, E, & K, as well as the flavonoid quercetin. It also contains B vitamins and a host of minerals including calcium, iron, chromium, and silica.
How to Eat Nettles
Nettles can be used much like spinach or any other mild tasting green. However the sting of the stinging nettles must be disabled before the nettles are consumed. This can be done through cooking, pureeing, juicing, or blending. The stinger is also deactivated when the nettle leaves are dried or powdered.
How to Harvest Nettles
Nettles are only good to eat when they are young and tender, before they flower. When gathering, unless you are well trained at avoiding the stingers, wear long pants, long sleeves, and rubber gloves. You can use scissors to cut them and carry them home in a paper bag or a basket.
Many health food stores carry bags of fresh nettles at this time of year. And herb shops typically have the dried version readily available.
Once in the kitchen, if handling fresh nettles, use gloves or tongs to avoid the stingers.
NETTLE MINT GOJI TEA
Here at FxNA, we adore creating healing and interesting tea elixirs for ourselves and our programs like in the upcoming Spring Cleanse. Even if fresh nettles aren’t available in your area, you can enjoy this healing tea elixir all year long with dried nettles.
- 1/4-1/2 cup dried nettles
- 1/2 bunch fresh mint
- 1/4-1/2 cup goji berries
- 8-10 cups filtered water
Boil water, add all other ingredients. Simmer on low for 20-30 minutes, strain out herbs and enjoy!
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