In biodynamics we know Stinging nettle as compost preparation 504. This preparation is made by burying stinging nettle plants in rich soil for a year. This preparation helps enliven the soil to develop an intelligence to accommodate the particular plants which are growing in it. It also helps proper decomposition of organic matter, aids chlorophyll formation and stimulates iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur activity in the soil.
Until biodynamics and my recent growing interest in herbal medicine my experience of stinging nettle was like most people’s – stay out of its way! Growing up on a farm I have always been aware of the stinging nettle plant which grew well on our farm and I learnt at a young age to keep my distance as the sting was not fun! When I was a first year Rural Science student at UNE in the late 80’s I remember one very naive student who had decided to study agriculture at Uni and hailed from the city. On a farm visit one afternoon he became excited by the patch of what he thought were marijuana plants and decided to pick some to take home!!! The rest of us who hailed from farming backgrounds just smiled and laughed as we witnessed his memorable initiation to the stinging nettle plant.
Instead of keeping my distance from this plant, this weekend I created a patch in our garden and transplanted some of the stinging nettle plants growing in our paddocks. My aim is to nurture this amazing plant in our garden to make its use in teas, soups and for our livestock more accessible. From a permaculture perspective, out in the paddocks it is in zone 4 or 5 and bringing it into zone 1 will make it easy to use and assimilate into our diet.
I plan to celebrate the nutritional and medicinal properties of the stinging nettle plant by using it to make herbal teas, eating it as cooked greens and drying it for stock feed. Apparently animals love dried cut nettle and it helps promote egg production in laying hens. Stinging nettle has also been used for its green dye and its fibre used to make paper, fishing nets, ropes and fabric. Apparently if you pick the plant firmly it won’t sting, many claim it is more likely to sting when you are not paying attention and brush past it slowly. I have yet to attempt picking it without gardening gloves on….
From my reading here is a quick summary of why we should all be eating and drinking our stinging nettles:
- Stinging nettle is one of the richest edible sources of chlorophyll.
- Herbalists believe it is one of the best blood cleansing and blood building herbs known, drunk as a tea and eaten as greens it is like taking an internal bath, washing away toxins and purifying the system. It will strengthen and support the immune system
- Nettle assists the body in taking oxygen to vital organs, major blood vessels and to every cell.
- Nettle is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- References contain long list of therapeutic uses for Stinging nettle for many common ailments
How can I use herbs in my daily life, Isabell Shipard
Healing Wise, Susun S Weed.