Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been used as a medicinal plant for hundreds of years. The list of ailments it aids is ongoing. Year after year we find new ways to use medicinal plants for new healthcare issues.

As I've told many people, we walk past a medicine cabinet in our ditch on a daily basis, unfortunately nobody educates you on this early in life. My kids are lucky in that regard. While I don't believe a pure plant based diet is the key due to our ancestors having a strongly protein based diet for much of the year, I do believe the greens should outweigh the proteins.

Here are some of the many ailments these wonderful plants can help out with:

Eczema

Arthritis

Gout

Anemia

Urinary tract infection

Benign prostatic hyperplasia

Sore muscles

Hay fever

Hair loss

Diabetes

High blood pressure

Stinging nettle is often looked at as a plant you don't want lurking around. We have thousands of them on our property and I embrace their abundance. For instance it is the host plant for the Red Admiral butterfly. They come along and lay eggs on the leaves for the next generation to begin. 

Other than some short lived irritation (less than 30 minutes) from the fine hairs on the leaves, there really is no reason I can think of not to have this plant around. It has been said that if you come in contact with the hairs enough times in life, you'll not have to worry about arthritis pain ever. Which i'm sure a few people are thinking hard about that right now. I've had my share so I'll let you know how that pans out for me.

You can find an abundant amount of recipes for stinging nettle online. The main thing you need to know is that the leaves need to be picked in the spring when the plants are young. Mature leaves have been documented to cause kidney and urinary tract damage. So as with anything, make sure you know what you're doing and that you can properly ID the plant. If you're not comfortable with foraging for the plant material, stinging nettle leaves are readily available to buy online or your local natural food store. I would recommend Indigo Iris Natural Food Store in our area.

Here is a link to an amazing group that has many recipes for these wonderful plants.

 http://www.wolfcollege.com/stinging-nettle-harvesting-processing-and-recipes/ 

I hope this information makes you think a little more about the potential healing gifts that nature has. 

Written by: Matthew Swank, Owner, Ecologist, Biologist, Lupine Gardens, LLC