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How I use herbs: Nettles

This is another herb in my garden that I'm not entirely sure about.  I know its a nettle, because it stung me.  Fortunately it was only small at the time and it didn't hurt much, but it did make me stop and look at this new plant in my garden, growing in amongst the chickweed.  I can't remember if I had some nettle seeds, I think a friend did give me some, and if I "planted" any (by planted I mean threw seeds around at some stage), but I can't think where else they would have come from.  Unfortunately, I therefore don't know which nettle I have!  There are three suspects:
  • Urtica dioica - Greater Nettle - this one grows to 1-1.8 m, so far the plants are small, but the leaves don't look quite right for this one
  • Urtica urens - Lesser Nettle - this one is smaller and grows in QLD in the cooler months
  • Urtica incisa - Scrub Nettle - native to Australia and hardy, it looks like the right leaf shape




It doesn't matter too much, because the uses are common to all three species.  I just need to decide now what to do with the nettle patch, I'm not sure I really want it to stay in the middle of my garden, especially if it happens to be the Greater Nettle, which spreads like mint!

How to grow nettle
For the Greater Nettle, you can propagate by root division, but the others are propagated by seeds (and I haven't seen mine flower yet).  Apparently it is very hardy, so it will be interesting to see how it survives our summer, or a harsh winter (we only had a mild winter this year).  I would ideally plant it in a patch where its safe to spread, or in a container.  The small sting that I received was not painful, but apparently it can be awful, so I wouldn't want to be accidentally walking past it regularly.  This is a great post about harvesting and preparing nettle leaves, I will be working with gloves and tongs because I'm a wuss.  I intend to remove all the nettle plants and move some of them to a more suitable area, and dry the rest of them to be used for tea and possibly some of the other suggestions below.




How to use nettle
You know its a special herb when it has six full pages in Isobel Shippard's "How can I use herbs in my daily life?"!  Here's a summary of some of the less bizarre uses listed in that and other herb books, there really are far too many to repeat here:
  • Pain relief - this sounds crazy, but nettle stings stimulate blood flow and many people have found relief from pain (a less extreme option is to put nettle leaves in your bath), and they are used to increase circulation.
  • Eaten or taken as a tea, nettles have anti-inflammatory, detoxification and antioxidant properties.  It is also rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Nettle stops bleeding - either the leaf or tea applied to a wound or nose bleed
  • Used to treat allergies, including hayfever and eczema (it can be made into a salve by infusing in oil) 
  • For enlarged prostate - nettle roots can inhibit overgrowth of the prostate
  • Green dye and fibre for ropes etc
  • The leaves or the roots can be used in shampoo to stimulate circulation in the scalp - for dandruff and hair loss.
  • Nettle leaves can be eaten like any green leafy vege - steamed, added to soups, smoothies - the leaves don't sting when they are heated, blended or dried.  Older leaves are high in calcium oxalate (like spinach and silverbeet).
  • Dried nettle can be fed to animals (the usually don't like being stung by fresh leaves)
  • Nettle fertiliser tea can be made in the same way that comfrey is used, and nettle spray can be used to deter bugs in the garden
Nettles are a really useful herb, but one that needs to be controlled carefully in the garden.  Do you grow and use nettles?  Any tips?


eight acres: how I use herbs - nettles

How I use herbs - Mint, Peppermint and Spearmint

How I use herbs - Aloe Vera

How I use herbs - Basil

How I use herbs - Ginger, galangal and turmeric

How I use herbs - Marigold, calendula and winter taragon

How I use herbs - Lemon balm

How I use herbs - Soapwort

How I use herbs - Comfrey

How I use herbs - Nasturtium

How I use herbs - Parsley

How I use herbs - Borage

How I use herbs - Herb Robert

How I use herbs - Purslane

How I use herbs - Chickweed

How I use herbs - Neem oil

How I use herbs - Rue, tansy and wormwood

How I use herbs - Brahmi

How I use herbs - Yarrow

How I use herbs - Arrowroot

How I use herbs - Lucerne (afalfa)

How I use herbs - Lavender

How I use herbs - Rosemary and Thyme

How I use herbs - Oregano or Marjoram

How I use herbs - Sweet Violet

How I use herbs - Gotu Kola

How I use herbs - Lemongrass

How I use herbs - Coriander (or cilantro)

How I use herbs - Dill


Comments

  1. Liz, I wear really thick gloves to harvest the nettle and also protective clothing as they can really sting badly. I have dried then infused some of mine in olive oil and used that in soap along with nettle tea which I added the lye to. It came out really green but did fade a little over the weeks it took to cure. It was a nice soap though.

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  2. Nettles go mental in my garden. I do make soup from them (for us) as well as a compost tea for the garden. I've also made cordage in the past on bushcraft weekends that I've done.a good plant but one I could do with a whole lot less of!

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  3. We don't have any in our garden, but they grow in the bush where my kids have riding therapy. I've contemplated harvesting them before, but they already think we're crazy lol my main experience with nettles was drinking buckets of the tea in latter pregnancy with raspberry leaf. Raspberry leaf as a uterine tonic and the nettle as its really high in vitamin K which was beneficial for me in terms of blood clotting. I had "retained" placentas with all three ( retained by the fact it took a while and one they thought needed removal...but had already detached....was just in no rush to come out ) and my blood loss was minimal. I'd love to try nettle soup one day!

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  4. Hi from Canada, I use the nettles to make a compost tea, also dry leaves for tea throughout the winter.
    I recommend you transplant it ASAP and put it into a planter where you can control it.
    Good luck.
    Regards Janine at Becalmed Cottage

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm so glad that people are catching onto the value of nettles. We use them in so many ways. Fresh in juices and smooothies, would you believe some people think they're going to sting as we drink them..lol Also dry lots of them every year, to make tea, mixed with mint, is very palatable. also use the dried leaves mixed into the cow's chaff feed while milking. We make nettle ferment for feeding the plants, foliar spray to promote growth, plus into the soil. An old saying, where nettles grow the soil is good.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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