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Nettle for Women’s Health

8th March International Women’s Day

Today, International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

Women have been the keepers of healing ways and secrets of plant medicines. It is a part of their lineage and a “birthright”. I encourage everyone, especially ladies to learn as much as you can about how to care for yourself and your loved ones using gentle and effective means of treatment with herbs. In women’s health, there are a number of herbs that are essential: raspberry leaf, lady’s mantle, sage, yarrow and most importantly, nettle.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) has traditionally been combined with raspberry leaf in a tea. Nettle leaf is a great source of iron, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K and other nutrients. Nettle was particularly prized by women who wanted to restore and replenish themselves after giving birth. These traditional applications are still resonant among women today.

Numerous studies have found vitamin B6 to be effective for treating symptoms associated with PMS, and B6 has also been shown to help relieve morning sickness during pregnancy. Menstruating women need a constant supply of iron to counter the monthly loss from menstruation, and pregnant women need even more. Iron demands go up in pregnancy—a pregnant woman needs 27 mg per day versus 18 mg for a menstruating, non-pregnant female.

Not the leaf is the only part of nettle that is elementary for women’s health, but nettle seed and root also play an important role. Nettle seeds contain a vital lecithin component called choline, that is important for the developing baby’s brain health, particularly the parts of the brain that affect learning ability.

For women, the health benefits of nettle root and its actions on the body are similar to those of men: optimizing and regulating the endocrine (hormone) system. The active compound ß-sitosterol in the root is assisting the body in finding an optimized, healthy harmony.

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Nettle for Normal Weight

4th March 2021 World Obesity Day

On the occasion of world obesity day WHO (World Health Organization) encourages practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, undertake proper treatment, and reverse the obesity crisis.

Obesity is now a global crisis that affects 650 million people worldwide, but is poorly understood. It is a major risk factor for various noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and various forms of cancer.

People with obesity are constantly shamed and blamed for their disease. This is because many people – including doctors, policymakers, and others – do not understand that obesity is a chronic disease. They see it as a simple lack of willpower, laziness, or a refusal to “eat less and move more“. But like all chronic diseases, the root causes of obesity run much deeper. They can be genetic, psychological, sociocultural, economic and environmental. It is time we break the cycle of shame and blame and revaluate our approach for addressing this complex chronic disease.

The first step would be providing better access to affordable, healthy food and restricting the marketing of food and drinks high in fats, sugar and salt. Taxing unhealthy drinks and food would be another part of the solution. In our cities and towns, we need to make space for safe walking, cycling, and recreation. We must teach our children healthy habits from early on.

Herbs, with the beneficial power of nature, can help in weight loss. Nettle (Urtica dioica) clears the body of toxins. It contains a lot of iron, which protects the body and affects more hemoglobin in the blood. Hence, causes better circulation and better physical fitness, so you can burn more calories and thus lose more weight. Nettle lowers blood sugar, which also speeds up weight loss. In addition, nettle accelerates digestion.

It is relatively cheap, you can buy nettle based herbal teas or you can find it in the wild (basic herbal knowledge needed!). There are hundreds of nettle based food recipes available to cook healthy food for your family and loved ones. It is full of beneficial components to keep you healthy. Use the gift of nature!

Together, we can change the narrative around obesity.

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The Nutritious Stinging Weed

Nowadays, thanks to the recognized nutritional qualities of nettle (Urtica dioica), it is gradually becoming integrated into our diet. Who would have thought that nettle is richer in vitamin C than an orange? But it is! 

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food ~ Hippocrates

Nettle is also an important source of iron, calcium, magnesium and protein, much more than soybeans, making it an interesting addition to diets containing little or no meat at all and/or dairy products, such as vegetarian and vegan diets.

Stinging nettle can supply higher concentrations of essential amino acids than brussels sprouts and has a better amino acid profile than most other leafy vegetables. Although similar to spinach in terms of total amino acid content, nettle contains higher levels of all essential amino acids except leucine and lysine. 

Fortunately, nettle retains significant amounts of minerals, vitamins, and other functional values after blanching or cooking. Scientific results show that processed nettle can supply 90–100% of vitamin A (including vitamin A as 𝛽-carotene). Fresh or processed nettle is recommended as a high-protein, low-calorie source of essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins particularly in vegetarian, diabetic, or other specialized diets.

They eat nettle as a leafy vegetable or a curry, sour soup, a potherb or spinach alternative and vegetable complement in a dish in many cultures. In the Basque region of Spain, young shoots are eaten raw or included in omelets. In Georgia, a meal of boiled stinging nettle seasoned with walnut is common. Romanians use sour soup made from fermented wheat bran vegetables and green nettle leaves harvested from young plants.

If you would like to know more about the nutritional properties of nettle, read this or this article.

Suggested food labeling information for raw and processed stinging nettle

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Detoxic Nettle

17th February 2021 Lent

Preparing for Easter is a good occasion to go on a diet or cleanse your system. Beginning today, on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities. Roman Catholic, Anglican, and some other churches hold special services today.

Orthodox Christians are supposed to eat vegetarian food during this season and among their most common dishes are some based on nettle (Urtica dioica). When it comes to fasting, it doesn’t mean we have to give up good food. Exactly the opposite! We have to be more aware of what we eat and how we prepare it.

Lent is an old English word meaning “lengthen”. Lent is observed in spring, when the days begin to get longer. Spring is the time for cleaning the house of your body, mind and spirit.

The baby leaves at the top of the plant have been used throughout history in food and drinks to nourish and detoxify the body in the spring. Used as a general tonic, nettle detoxifies the blood because of its diuretic properties. It can relieve fluid retention, bladder infections, stones and gravel. Nettle gently stimulates the lymphatic system, seeming to enhance the excretion of wastes through the kidneys. Leaves promote the elimination of uric acid from joints with a gentle, alkalising diuretic activity. Thus its use is indicated in most types of joint diseases and doubly so in degenerative conditions.

Detoxification can be on any level – a relationship that no longer serves you, negative thinking, addictive habits – anything that doesn’t support your health. A cup of nettle tea can help you clear out toxic influences that cloud your way.

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Nettle in Traditional Chinese Medicine

12th February 2021 Chinese New Year

The Chinese calendar follows lunar and solar cycles, meaning the New Year begins with the first new moon, after the Earth has made a full revolution around the Sun. This year, the first new moon appears on February 12th 2021, marking the end of the year of the Rat and the beginning of the year of the Ox, which is the second of all zodiac animals. In Chinese culture, the Ox is a valued animal. Because of its role in agriculture, positive characteristics, such as being hardworking and honest, are attributed to it.

Based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, among the 8,300 wild medicinal plant species native in China, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses nettle.  Known as Xun Ma in TCM, nettle is included in formulas that help open and dry the Lung, Liver, and Kidney meridians. Nettle helps to treat arthritic and rheumatic conditions with pain, stiffness and numbness of the bones, joints and muscles. Nettle has been long known for its capacity to treat skin eczema as well.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) leaves are “cold” in nature. This means that stinging nettle leaves typically help people who have too much “heat” in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM.

Stinging nettle leaves taste Bitter and Pungent. The so-called “five elements” theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and body fluids.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such stinging nettle leaves are thought to target the Liver. Nettle is known for its ability to tonify blood. Knowing that the liver is a detoxification organ, you might think doing a liver cleanse with nettle could help your body.

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Did you know that nettle is the most studied medicinal plant worldwide?

The 4th February is World Cancer Day, that’s meant to raise awareness on the prevention and cure of the disease. Cancer is a group of diseases in which normal cells grow uncontrollably and abnormally, invade and spread to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, it is the second most frequent cause of death worldwide (after cardiac diseases).  Currently, a variety of treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery, as well as newer nanotechnology and gene silencing therapy, are used in the treatment of cancer, but cause many serious side effects and often may prolong life for only a few years.

In recent years, many researchers have analysed natural products for cancer cure and prevent cancer development.  Plants are a precious source of anti-cancer agents. 

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is  a commonly used edible plant since ancient times. Did you know that nettle is the most studied medicinal plant worldwide?

Stinging Nettle has anti-cancer properties

Various studies have recently demonstrated the cytotoxic and anti-cancer properties of nettle, in particular against colon, gastric, lung, prostate and breast cancers.  The anti-cancer ability of nettle extracts provide a promising chance for the use of nettle as a nutraceutical food for the prevention and treatment of several cancers. Nettle extracts reduced adverse effects and ameliorated the efficacy of cancer chemotherapies. Stinging nettle may exert biological anti-cancer activities through various mechanisms of actions, including antioxidant and anti-mutagenic properties, induction or inhibition of key processes in cellular metabolism and ability to activate the apoptotic pathways. Beneficial compounds from nettle are used in the production of different modern anti-cancer drugs.

Don’t forget to drink a cup of nettle tea every day. “A cup of nettle a day keeps the doctor away.”

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Did you know that nettle is ideal for colouring?

Every green plant contains chlorophyll, that is a pigment which helps plants create their own food through photosynthesis. Although microscopic in size, it plays a big role in the health of the planet. Just remember that most life on Earth depends on photosynthesis!

Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρός, khloros “pale green” and φύλλον, phyllon “leaf”. As a natural green pigment, chlorophyll is a great natural colorant for use in natural products. Chlorophyll molecules are not water-soluble and in plant cells they are bound with proteins. 

Nettle is a commercial source of chlorophyll and chlorophyllin used as colorants in foods, cosmetics and medicines. It is important to use edible herb species from organic growth to avoid risk of poisoning by toxic plants or pollutants.

The highest chlorophyll content parts of nettle is the fully developed leaves from the middle section of the plant, at the very beginning of flowering. Nettle plants that are two years old or more contain higher levels of chlorophyll and carotenoids than younger plants. Plants grown in semi-shade contain more chlorophyll than the ones grown in full sun. 

Extraction of pure chlorophyll is only possible in the laboratory by organic solvents and a series of other chemicals. Organic solvents are used to break the chlorophyll-protein bond and dissolve chlorophyll. Later, the chlorophyll solution is treated by other chemicals for purification, extraction and stabilization, and the solvents are removed. Often, chlorophyll extract is combined with a carrier like maltodextrin to create flowable, water-soluble powder which is used as cosmetic ingredients (soap, shampoo). 

Chlorophyll is a food additive – E140 – approved by the European Union, commercially extracted from nettles, grass and alfalfa. This green coloring is water-soluble, though its intensity may fade with time.

Chlorophyll structure is similar to human hemoglobin and for this reason it is also known as “vegetal blood“. Like hemoglobin, chlorophyll is made up of a set of molecules grouped around a single metal atom: in hemoglobin this atom is iron (Fe), in chlorophyll it is Magnesium (Mg). Magnesium is essential for over 300 biological body functions.

Modern research on chlorophyll indicates that it has some detoxifying, anti-carcinogenic properties and may ameliorate the side effects of some drugs.

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Nettle Pie Recipe

A non-ordinary ingredient in a pie recipe is stinging nettle. Fortunately, a creative cook can make a pie from everything that is found in the backyard. Let’s see how to make a Nettle Pie!

Ingredients

Pie dough:

  •     500 g flour
  •     300 ml warm water
  •     25 g fresh yeast or 7 g dry yeast
  •     1 tsp. sugar
  •     1 tsp. salt

Filling:

  •     2 bunches of fresh stinging nettle leaves or 2 cups of dried nettle soaked in water for a few hours then strained
  •     3 spring onions
  •     1 bunch of fresh thyme or 2 tbsp. dried herb
  •     2 tbsp. olive oil
  •     1 cup plain yogurt
  •     Zest of one lemon
  •     Butter for topping
  •     Salt as needed

Preparation

Step 1

In a small mixing boil add the warm water, sugar and dissolve the yeast. Let it rest for about 5 minutes.

Step 2

Sift the flour and make a well in the center. Add the salt and then pour over the yeast mixture. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, then cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it proof until doubled in size.

Step 3

In a large pan, drizzle with olive oil and fry the onions and thyme until softened. Add the nettles, cover and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and add the yogurt. Mix well and set aside to cool.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 250ºC. Divide the dough in 2 parts and roll it thin at the size of a large round baking tray. Grease the tray and place one of the rolled dough. Pour over the filling and grate the lemon zest on top. Cover with the remaining dough and fold the sides. 

Step 5

Chop some butter on top and bake it for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the pie with some water and cover it with a tablecloth for some minutes.

Serve the pie with plain yogurt and a nice salad. Enjoy!

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Why Does the Nettle Bite?

Most people label nettle as an unfriendly plant that grows everywhere and bites you like an “electric weed”. As the English says “stinging nettle stings”.

Common nettle or stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) belongs to the genus Urtica. The latin name derived from “uro” or “urere”, to burn, referring to the burning properties of the fluid it contains. The ability to sting is due to the fine hair-like structures covering the stems and leaves of the plant. Nettle is well armed by these hollow hairs and their swollen base contain a cocktail of chemicals, such as serotonin, histamine, folic acid, acetylcholine, moroidin, leukotrienes and formic acid. These hairs are very brittle and break easily. It’s an important adaptation for the plant to deter nibbling predators and humans also. Without these painful stings, everyone would eat poor nettle.

Painful as are the consequences of touching a common nettle, they are far exceeded by the effects of handling some of the East Indian species. The pain extends and continues for many hours or even days. In case of the Indonesian Urtica urentissima, the burning pain lasts for a year, they call it the “devil’s leaf”. Fortunately, we grow the much kinder and well behaved nettle in Europe.

Because nettle will lose its irritant powers during cooking, the young shoots may be used for culinary purposes. Luckily, dried nettle is perfectly stinging-free too.

So, don’t let the stinging hairs scare you away from this incredible herb!

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The Anatomy of Nettle – A Little Botany

A detailed description of this familiar plant is hardly necessary. Its heart-shaped, finely toothed leaves tapering to a point, and its green flowers in long, branched clusters springing from the axils of the leaves are known to everyone. The soft, green leaves are 3 to 15 cm long and are borne oppositely on an erect, wiry, green stem.

Common nettle or stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) belongs to the genus Urtica. The latin name derived from the word “urere”, ‘to burn’, referring to the burning properties of the fluid it contains. The specific name of the plant, “dioica”, means ‘two houses’, referring to being a dioecious plant. The flowers are incomplete: the male flowers have stamens only, and the female flowers have only pistil or seed-producing organs. Usually a plant will bear either male or female flowers.

The flowers are adapted for wind-pollination. The nettle flowers from June to September. The plant reaches a height of 1 to 2 meters, dying down to the ground in winter. Its perennial yellow roots – rhizomes and runners – are creeping, so it multiplies quickly, making it difficult to get rid of.

The whole plant is covered with stinging hairs. Each sting is a very sharp, polished spine, which contains the venom, that causes irritation for a touch. The burning property of the juice is dissipated by heat, enabling the young shoots of the nettle, when boiled, to be eaten.