‘Tis the season for the dreaded stinging nettle. My azaleas occasion a riot of color under clouds of dogwood. Pink phlox carpet roadsides, meshing blooming seasons as never before in my memory. Nettles, too, have reared their sweet heads.
“Sweet?” you ask. Back in my novice camping days, I thought so, until I naively tried to pick some for the picnic table. Ouch! Walking through the yard this morning, dodging the prickly pest, I decided to find out what purpose, other than beauty, these 500 some species serve. I theorized: a food source for some butterfly or moth (correct), or maybe a tortoise or small mammal (wrong).
How about large mammals, say, humans? I was stunned to learn that teas, soups and juices made from the fuzzy single-stemmed perennial are not only consumed by humans, but are used in healing! Apparently, the leaves contain antihistamines or hydrocortisone. Healers as far back as 2,000 years used the plant to stop internal and external bleeding.
Nettle teas cure mucus congestion, water retention and diarrhea. Gargling the tea helps mouth and throat infections and application to skin clears up acne and eczema. External application also promotes healing of burns. Teas help stimulate digestive glands and help new moms produce more milk. No surprise there, as it is used as fodder for cows, to stimulate milk production.
Juices made from the stinging nettle purportedly ease the rash caused from its own leaves! Really? Of course, some preparation is required. Soaking in hot water removes stinging chemicals, allowing the leaves to be handled and eaten without harm.
I’ll take the word of the experts. But if you’d like to know how to serve this ubiquitous little pest as a veggie, get the recipe or directions for soups, teas, and juices, check out Mother Earth News. For me, a close encounter with the little terror is best remedied with an immediate scrubbing of Lava Soap from the workshop.
Such encounters, too, remind me of the scriptural admonition that even the least of these creations have value. Please let me know if you do try any of these folk remedies so I can reevaluate my opinion of you. Of course, I’ll be upgrading you to brave.