Signs of new life start to slowly emerge in early spring. It’s a tentative, tender time. Beings at rest start to awaken and dance on the edges between the seasons, it's a time where the earth warms in fits and starts. Now the earliest plants begin to return, peeking up from beneath the ground to remind us of the gifts of rebirth that follow the darker times.
One of the earliest spring greens, nettles, signal this turning. An ancient ally throughout cultures and time, their verdant tips offer great value for plant gatherers and herbalists, as all parts of the nettle are used as food, fiber, or medicine. Rich with vitamins and minerals, nettles are building to the blood and a staple nourishing food of spring. For thousands of years, human beings have gathered nettles to the sound of crunching leaves underfoot, scraping back the matted foliage to reveal the green gems underneath.
But for all the gifts that nettles offer, their tiny silica-filled hairs offer you a surprising sting if you move amongst them too fast without intention. Slapping yourself with the stingy plant increases the flow of blood and anti-inflammatory agents to the site and can be helpful for Carpal tunnel or chronic inflammation in the joints.
The buzzing sting of nettles also mirrors the energy of springtime where in all our excitement, we may feel compelled to rush out into the world with vigor to quickly shake off the winter slumber. Yet this time instead offers an invitation to slowly shed what was built up over the cold months and gently expand the stored energy beneath at a sustainable pace. If we heed this seasonal request, we are able to expand into summer at our peak vitality.
We gather nettles in a few places on the land and revisit these patches throughout the year at every stage of the plant’s growth. Leaves, seed, and root are all used for medicine at Raven Crest, either dried to go into our earthy Nourish and Sunrise tea, or tinctured fresh to capture their energy at peak vibrancy for our Detox Formula.
Each part of the plant has their special talents. Both nettle leaves and seeds help us to strengthen our vitality. An effective medicine for bringing balance to the kidneys, nettles help them to move waste and excess water from the body more effectively. The seeds are especially helpful as an adrenal and energy tonic. Try a cup of nettle seed milk in the evening to restore the spent energy of the day. To balance the drying nature of nettles, add moistening herbs to the tea, such as marshmallow root, especially if your body tends to be on the dry side.
Another way nettles can support us is by tending to our allergies. We include nettle leaf in our Allergy Relief Formula, which supports a wide range of responses ranging from pet and dust allergies to seasonal allergies. Ideally taken a couple of weeks before the start of spring, nettles help to regulate our immune system’s response, reduce histamine production and calm inflammation.
As a testament to their vigorous nature, many cultures have a yearly tradition where people carry around bundles of nettles in early May, playfully whipping each other to awaken the senses and agility coming out of winter. Yet they are also revered for their protective energy, as nettles are woven into many myths and charms that speak to their powerful resilience and willingness to impart these lessons to humankind. If one continues to trace back the threads of nettle’s influence, they will soon find that this ancient herb has companioned us beyond the limits of our memory, yet still has much to teach.
Make friends with nettles this spring 🌱 !