A Shot of Nettles

By Joyce

It’s that time of year.  Yep, time to get off coffee.  A half a cup a day was fine, desirable even, during the cold winter months but now that the days are lengthening and warming, the uprising Qi in the earth and in my own body, wants to burst out.  Sorta, but, not really.  I can’t quite manage any amount of burst, never mind an energetic spurt, because the heavy, sluggish feeling I’m walking around with is stagnant Liver Qi.  Coffee temporarily gives me a lift but it also generates heat and stagnation, ultimately creating more drag in my system.

In this season, there are many ways for me to activate Liver Qi like getting acupuncture, increasing exercise, eating more sour and vinegary foods, and eating lots of greens. During early spring when the garden isn’t yet producing greens there are a few common plants like dandelions and stinging nettles that pop out of the soil just in the nick of time to assist me with my Liver activating Spring regimen.

Most people are aware of nettle’s intense sting but few appreciate nettle’s nutrient values, making it a fierce physiologic ally.  In fertile soils, the purple hue on the top surface of its green leaves looks almost iridescent, shimmering with potency.  That’s why I consider stinging nettles to be one of the best shots in the arm, a rich injection of minerals, and most importantly, a choice replacement for my AM coffee which, incidently, will help get rid of the bags under my eyes.

In Chinese medicine, nettles are categorized as a blood builder, cleanser and kidney tonic. Stinging nettles are known to be high in calcium, magnesium,manganese, iron, chlorophyll, vitamin C, and contain more protein (10%)than another other vegetable. As a blood builder, greater vitality, lustrous hair and stronger nails will result. As an antidote to seasonal allergies, it is thought to reduce the amount of histamines the body produces in response to free floating allergens if one drinks an infusion three weeks before pollens are released into the air. As a kidney tonic, it purifies the blood by eliminating toxins and metabolic wastes through its diuretic properties.

Whether it is used as a food or a tonic, I have little doubt that its deep dark green constituents are worth the effort to go foraging for them.  If you go collecting, don’t handle this plant without long sleeves and pants, high boots and leather gloves on.

Nettles are commonly used in soups. It can also be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for spinach. Here are the two ways I prepare nettles as spring tonics:

Raw Nettle Juice

Blend one cup raw nettle leaves (packed) with one cup water in high-speed blender.  I blend the juice for an extra long time to make sure to mash up the stingers on the leaves.  Strain (if necessary) and drink.

Nettle Infusion

In quart mason jar add:

I cup raw leaves or one ounce dried nettles

2 cups boiling water

Let mason jar sit on kitchen counter for at least 4
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