Often when I talk to people about one of the best herbs to take regularly, I suggest Nettles. Nettles has a long history of being used to strengthen and fortify the system, help with allergies, respiratory problems, anemia, fatigue, depression and exhaustion. I find this herb particularly useful for those who are suffering from chronic fatigue, adrenal burnout and symptoms of despair and deep sadness.
Walking through the woods here in the Northwest in Springtime, it’s easy to find a patch of Nettles. You’ll find them clustered in the shade, standing tall and strong, sometimes in grand swaths of hundreds of plants. Picking nettles is a delicate business and you will need gloves if you pick them. Also known as “stinging nettles”, this herb has fine fibrous hairs that easily cause a painful rash on the skin, so be careful when you gather them. Once they have been dried or steamed the hairs no longer are irritating. Around here the best time to pick Nettles is in the middle of spring around May 1st when they are at their freshest, but they can be gathered throughout the summer.
Nettles are a super tonic because they are extremely nourishing and tonifying to the whole system. Nettles is particularly rich in iron and is helpful for anemia, and general lack of strength and vigor. Besides iron, nettles is also rich in calcium, magnesium, manganese, silica, potassium and phosphorus as well as vitamin C and B vitamins. Nettles has long been seen as helpful for health complaints such as bronchitis, asthma, and respiratory illnesses. Nettles also has a diuretic effect that makes them helpful for kidney and bladder conditions.
As a holistic mental health therapist, I find Nettles to be incredibly helpful. Anxiety and Depression are symptoms of a body in deep distress. Trauma and unhealthy habits combine over time to hamper and debilitate the nervous system. Eventually, the body has had too much and physical and emotional complaints such as depression and anxiety develop. Nettles is deeply restorative and can speed recovery when combined with other therapies such as counseling and acupuncture.
One of the ways of understanding how an herb helps is by examining what it looks like and where it grows. Traditionally, this way of understanding herbs was known as the “doctrine of signatures”, or the ability to understand a plants medicinal value by its look and where it grows.
Nettles is a tall, erect formidable plant with invisible bristly hairs. These hairs literally helps guard against unwanted visitors. For those who feel unprotected, easily permeable to outside influences and feeling constitutionally weak, nettles is very helpful. Because Nettles grows in dark, moist, shady patches, it is also helpful for overcoming a feeling of being stuck and “bogged down”.
There are numerous ways to take nettles but my favorite way is to drink it as an infusion over the course of the day. To prepare this herb in this way, take a cup of dried nettles (about an ounce) and place it in a quart jar. Then boil water and pour it in the quart jar. Then let the herb infuse in the water for at least 4 hours (overnight is great). You will find that the water turns deep blackish green. Strain out the herb and you will be left with about 3 glasses of a high powered tonic that you can drink throughout the day.
You can also take nettles as freeze dried capsules, in tincture form or as a condiment to sprinkle over your meals. I find that nettles is particularly effective as an infusion that can be drunk for many weeks at a time. Though subtle in effect, you should stay to notice an increase in energy and vitality. Coupled with good eating habits and proper rest, nettles can be an extremely valuable herb for healing from deep depression and nervous system disorders.