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Evolution of Nettle

Charles Darwin

12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882 

Today is the anniversary of the death of Charles Darwin, English naturalist, geologist and biologist. Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution by natural selection became the foundation of modern evolutionary studies.  A pleasant country gentleman, Darwin at first shocked religious Victorian society by suggesting that animals and humans shared a common ancestry.  His theory contradicted the Book of Genesis. He realised that species adapt to their environments.

By the stinging hairs, nettle protects itself from grazing animals. Scientists discovered the changed morphological characteristics of the Japanese nettle (Urtica thunbergiana), due to heavy browsing by sika deer. In Nara Park, Japan, where a large population of sika deer has been maintained for more than 1,200 years, wild nettles exhibited smaller leaf area, 11–223 times more stinging hairs per leaf, and 58–630-times higher stinging hair densities than those of other areas where there was no evidence of sika deer browsing. 

Nettle adapts to the environment and grazing damage by growing more stinging weapons as a protection. It just takes a “little” time.

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Sting the Microbes with Nettle!

Have you ever experienced side effects of a synthetic drug? Sometimes the result of taking drugs causes more problems in our body than we had in the first place. Unfortunately, it can happen that our system becomes resistant to the active ingredient of a widely appreciated drug. 

Nowadays increasing attention is being paid to herbs. One of the reasons is to avoid the undesirable side effects of synthetic drugs. This is the reason why the analysis of the antimicrobial activities of medicinal plants are increasingly in the focus of scientific experiments as well. 

One of the best-known medicinal plants is nettle (Urtica dioica). It is most commonly utilised for medical purposes, with a focus on its leaves and roots. Nettle tea consumption is widespread in folk medicine for treating diabetes, allergies, abdominal pain, benign prostatic hyperplasia, rheumatoid arthritis and treatment of infections.

Nettle has several constituents which play a major role in antibacterial effects such as neophytadiene, carboxylic acids, esters, alkaloids, phenols,  flavonoids,  tannins  and  saponins.

Several research results are available about the antimicrobial impact of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). The papers documented a positive effect of nettle for more than 30 Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterias, yeasts and fungis.

Nettle root, leaf and stem analyses showed that water extracts have a greater antibacterial effect compared to ethanol extract. Stem extracts proved to be the least active. The ethanol extract of nettle seed has the greatest effect against Gram-positive bacteria; leaf extract against Gram-negative bacteria; plant oil against fungi while the water extract practically had an antimicrobial activity against all bacteria except for Pseudomonas.

Many infectious diseases have been known to be treated with herbal remedies throughout the history of mankind. Researchers are increasingly turning their attention to folk medicine, looking for new leads to develop better drugs against microbial infections. Nettle is predicted to have a promising future against bacterial and fungal diseases.

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7th April – World Health Day

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” ~ WHO

World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April, under the auspices of the WHO (World Health Organization). The WHO supports traditional healing to keep the population healthy. Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023 was developed. The strategy aims to support Member States in developing proactive policies and implementing action plans that will strengthen the role traditional medicine plays.

The basics of traditional medicine all around the world are herbs. Today, let’s pay attention to nature’s healing products! Medicinal plants are used throughout history, but somehow we forgot about them and replaced natural remedies with synthetic, human-made medicines that do not always show the expected results. Modern studies are rediscovering these forgotten plants and analysing their useful components that support our health.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of the most widely applicable plants in the materia medica. It appears in Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as in Ayurveda and traditional European folk medicines. Nettle has been used as food, medicine, clothing, and in ceremonial practice by Native Americans. The herb strengthens and supports the whole body. Nettle is used as a spring tonic and general detoxifying remedy. 

There are many beneficial compounds in nettle. The leaf is a great source of chlorophyll, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K and other nutrients. The seed contains a component of lecithin vital to liver function and the developing baby’s brain, called choline. Nettle root contains sterols (β-sitosterol), lignans, secoisolariciresinols and polysaccharide-proteins which makes this herb efficient against prostate problems. Nettle has several constituents which play a major role in antibacterial effects such as neophytadiene, carboxylic acids, esters, alkaloids, phenols,  flavonoids,  tannins  and  saponins. 

Modern science has proved that nettle deserves special attention in our lives in restoring and maintaining health.

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Dye your Easter Egg with Nettle :)

Easter is upon us, so it’s time to prepare the eggs. The practise of decorating eggshells is quite ancient and appears in many nations’ traditions somehow. In Europe we colour chicken eggs and the latest finds show that ostrich eggs have a long history of being used as art in South Africa. People were carving symbolic patterns into these eggs as early as 60,000 years ago.

There are a lot of traditions of using eggs as a decoration, a nice gift or a game you can play with your kids. Boiled eggs or empty egg shells, it’s up to you which one you prefer to decorate.

Making anything yourself is always more fun than buying it in a supermarket. This year, go wild (literally) and make Easter natural dyes with foraged plants that you find in the wild or in your garden. The coloured eggs you’ll get won’t be as bright as when you use chemical dyes but the colouring part is a great kitchen science experiment. Forget the chemical tablets, use onion, dandelion, tree bark, beetroot, red cabbage or nettle to achieve lovely natural results with plants.

Here is an example how to dye boiled eggs with nettle:

Making the botanical pattern
  1. Use a bunch of freshly picked nettle (chopped) or a cup of dried nettle, place them in a pot.
  2. Double the amount of water to plant material.
  3. Bring to a boil covered, then lower the heat and simmer covered for about 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and let it cool, still covered.
  5. Strain.
  6. If you’d like to make botanical patterns on your eggs, pick small leaves (clover, yarrow leaves, tiny ferns), flowers (chickweed), or herbs (cilantro, parsley) in your garden. Use nylon stockings that should be wrapped around the egg to keep the plants in place. Tie a string around the base to secure the stocking.
  7. Cook the eggs directly in the nettle tea (white eggs will be easier to colour but it’s your choice).
  8. Strain and let them dry.
Nettle green Easter eggs

Dying with stinging nettle guarantees vibrant green eggs.

When the eggs are dry, remove the nylon stockings. You can make these shiny by putting oil on a paper towel and rubbing the eggs with it.

Egg-cellent green eggs!

Bright blue egg colored with red cabbage
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An Underrated Superfood: Nettle Seed

Most people have tried nettle soup – a foraging classic – and nettle leaf tea is widely available. However, the use of nettle seed is still fairly uncommon, though it is the king of superfoods!

As the days lengthen, the female nettle produces little flowers quickly followed by green seeds, from the upper third of the plant. Over the summer the seeds ripen and thicken. They are harvested when still green before they start to dry out and turn brown. Nettle seed is crunchy and full of oil high in polyunsaturated fatty acids – linolenic, palmitic, oleic and stearic acids. Our bodies use linoleic and linolenic acids to make the important essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6.

A component of lecithin vital to liver function is found in nettle seed called choline. Choline is sometimes used to treat liver cirrhosis and hepatitis. Studies have also shown that it is indeed anti-inflammatory and will soothe colitis (inflammation of the colon).

Nettle seed tastes delicious. You can substitute poppy seed in crackers, oatcakes, bread with nettle seeds or you can sprinkle them with chopped nuts into salads. Mixing them into yoghurt, a smoothie or adding them to overnight oats is also worth trying. Don’t put nettle seeds into juices because they float and are hard to drink. Instead, mix with honey and make into protein snack bars. This is another delicious way of eating nettle seeds. Try seasoning your soup with nettle seeds by adding them on the top. 

Crush the seeds in a pestle and mortar, then infuse them in sunflower or olive oil at room temperature for a week. This green oil makes a nice healthy salad oil or can be used with essential oils as an anti-inflammatory liniment for arthritic joints.

They will give you an energy boost and help to put you in a cheerful mood. Nettle seeds also raise dopamine levels, which is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward system and pleasure center. Dopamine facilitates learning, motivation and movement. 

For stimulating health benefits, take 1 to 2 spoons of fresh green or dried nettle seed a day (a standard heaped tablespoon is about 5 grams). Great help for invigoration of the body!

You can learn more about nettle seed here.

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Here Comes The Spring Sun

In 2021, the Spring Equinox occurs on Saturday, March 20. Astronomically speaking, this is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and it announces fall’s arrival in the Southern Hemisphere. The word “equinox” comes from the Latin words for “equal night” – “aequus” and “nox”. On the equinox, the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world.

As spring booms in, the dormant nature of our winter lifestyle wakes our body up to meet the business of a new season. The increased demand of energy of longer spring days, however, can exceed our body’s capacity to handle this change.

Spring has sprung, but not everyone feels energetic. For some, it is a season of heavy limbs and constant yawning. While the world is waking up, they want to go to sleep. How do you feel today?

The average recommendation is that a person get eight hours of sleep per night. The sleep that happens between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. is the most restorative, as the hormone melatonin is at its peak. Melatonin has been found to stimulate the immune system, prevent tumor growth, and prevent changes that lead to hypertension and heart attack. It is also discovered that darkness is a key factor in the production of melatonin. So, tonight try to turn off the lights at 10:00 p.m. for a deep healing sleep that will provide abundant energy for tomorrow.

Frequent yoga/tai chi and breathing breaks at work can help combat the midday slump. Many established companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, HBO, Nike, Apple, Google, etc., use yoga at work to help employees combat poor posture, neck tension, back pain, eye strain, and headaches. All these ailments can lead to fatigue.

Nature literally bathes us in life-force energy. Only a 30-minute walk in the woods, a park, or by a river has the ability to uplift our energy. It’s spring! Go outside and enjoy nature! That’s what weekends meant to use for.

Green foods, green herbs and vegetables give us the most energy. Try nourishing greens like peas, kale, spinach and nettle for abundant energy this spring. 

Throughout Europe, nettle tea is used as a spring tonic and as a general detoxifying remedy. To make an infusion of nettles, pour a cup of boiling water onto two teaspoons of the dried herb and leave covered to infuse for 10–15 minutes. Strain and drink. One to three cups of nettle tea taken daily for four to six weeks can nourish even the most depleted nervous and immune systems due to its high content of calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C.

Enjoy the increasing sunlight hours, with earlier dawns and later sunsets!

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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.