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Eco-Textile Made Of Nettle

In some parts of the world you can sleep between nettle sheets, eat off a nettle tablecloth, dine in nettle-enriched steaks and eggs ordered from a nettle-paper menu, in an emergency fish with a nettle line, and in the springtime especially revel with delectable nettle dishes washed down with nettle beer. In fact, this is only a portion of this wild edible’s capabilities”. ~ Angier

Nettle is among those plants – beside bamboo, eucalyptus, cedar and Indian lotus – in the world that has several areas of use. It is not only a common herb that you can make tea of, but nettle kept generations alive and healthy by providing food, drink, paper, clothes and other equipment for surviving in the wild (e.g. fishing net).

Prehistoric textiles were made of nettle, started to spread in the Bronze Age and were popular again during the World Wars, mostly because it was the only available material for clothes. It was widely presumed that production of plant fiber textiles in ancient Europe, especially woven textiles for clothing, was closely linked to the development of agriculture. Researchers discovered that ancient people were conscious users of wild plants too, they not only used cultivated flax and hemp to make clothes. They even trade nettle textiles in the continent. The nettle cloth found in Denmark – tells a surprising story about long-distance Bronze Age trade connections around 800 BC – was made in Austria.

The royals favoured the finest nettle in their clothes and home textiles, the use of which was forbidden from the rest of the citizens! The nettle fibres were a highly respected fibres among the people.

Today, the world population is on increase, but land doesn’t. The demand for sustainable textiles is increasing, which is great news. By converting nettle stalks into a linen-like fabric, some companies have started to create an eco-fabric out of natural rather than synthetic materials and employ thousands of artisans across the globe. Their project has benefits beyond the current generation. With the success in nettle eco-fiber production, they will reduce the need for conventional fiber and in turn the amount of greenhouse gases produced during conventional fiber production.

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World Nature Conservation Day

World Nature Conservation Day is observed on July 28 across the world to raise awareness about protecting the natural resources. Nature is facing huge problems like deforestation, illegal wildlife trade, conventional intensive farming, loss of biodiversity, pollution, etc. Everyone must promote environment-friendly activities in their daily life to lead a Green Lifestyle. Together, we can make an effective change for a cleaner, greener future where we help nature and nature helps us.

“Nature doesn’t need people – people need nature; nature would survive the extinction of the human being and go on just fine, but human culture, human beings, cannot survive without nature.” ~ Harrison Ford

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a very popular herbal ingredient in natural cosmetics. It contains a lot of minerals and vitamins (A and E) that are essential in the health of the skin, hair and nails. You can find nettle soap, nettle shampoo, nettle face mask, and even nettle nail oil in the natural cosmetic market. The internet is filled with homemade nettle product recipes if you want to make your own beauty care products. You can reduce your ecological footprint if you reduce your artificial, unhealthy chemicals that would harm the environment. With this, you lower your plastic waste too!

There is a complicated connection net between species – an ecological interdependence. Nettle supports over 100 species of insects, including butterflies and moths as a food source. Sir David Attenborough has called on gardeners to plant a wild flower meadow and cultivate a nettle patch to help butterflies struggling to survive the wet summer in the UK.

Nettle is among the major sources of green plant material consumed in the field by the snails. They all know that nettle is tasty and full of nutrients. The presence of stinging fibers on nettle acts as a defense against many grazing animals, creating a comfortable habitat for our beneficial friends, some of whom are pollinators. The community of organisms depending on nettle is very large. Just think of all the predatory insects, spiders, amphibians and birds which take advantage of this feast.

Let’s plant nettle in our gardens to help nature!

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Picking and preserving nettle

We are fortunate to be gifted every spring with an abundance of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). While it’s sting can be unpleasant, it teaches us to pay attention to our surroundings and that’s a good thing.  It also offers food, medicine and fiber if one knows how to properly harvest it.

Don’t kill all the nettles out of your garden, because you might benefit from this weed-like herb! Not to mention, it is the perfect habitat for a lot of pollinator and predatory insects that will keep your other plants healthy.

If you would like to use nettle for food or drink (tea, beer, wine, kombucha), then harvest them before they flower. Picking the tender tops (usually 4-6 leaves) is the best for food. For fiber, harvest the entire stem, clip it near the ground. If you want to use the seeds, harvest them when they are still green and use them fresh or dry them for later use.

When harvesting nettle, use scissors and wear long sleeves, long pants and work gloves. When looking at your nettle, you can see little hairs on the stem and leaves. These hairs are hollow and when they get under your skin, the tips break off and allow the acidic juice under your skin. Even the lightest touch will get you stung, so don’t forget your gloves.

If you would like to dry your nettle for tea, there are many options. The simplest way is to make a bouquet of nettles and hang it to a dry place with a string and let the blowing air do the job. Once it’s dry, it’s much safer to handle since it loses the ability to sting. However, the hairs are still there and can be irritating to the skin or give you a sliver if you’re not careful. You can tell they are ready to store in a glass jar when the stems snap. Make sure not to dry the nettle to the point where it loses its green colour and turn brown or black. It’s just fine to use fresh plant material to make tea, but a lot of people prefer the taste of dried nettle.

Freezing your nettle for use throughout the year is also possible. Just toss them into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Then, put them into freezer-safe containers and store until you need them. The mechanical action of the food processor will break the hollow hairs so they are unable to sting you. Some people recommend blanching the nettles (adding them to boiling water, plunging into ice water, then using). Many of the nutrients are lost to the water and thrown out when blanching. Experiment and you will find a way that works best for you and your family.

Stinging nettle can substitute for spinach in any cooked recipe (they lose their sting when cooked). You can add them to lasagna, make pasta with them, throw them in soups or stews, etc. Online recipes abound.

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Nettle in Ayurveda

21 June International Day of Yoga

International Day of Yoga is celebrated annually on 21st June. It is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This 5000-year practise was introduced to the West in the late 1800s, and has gained popularity over the last decade. Today, over 300 million people practice yoga across the globe, although studies show that 50% of all yoga practitioners are of Indian origin.

Yoga brings numerous mental and physical health benefits and promotes mindfulness. It is a holistic approach to health and well-being, it helps create harmony between man and nature. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice.

Yoga and Ayurveda are two interrelated branches of the same great tree of Vedic knowledge, a yogic system of medicine not simply in terms of asana or physical therapy, but also in regards to internal medicine or diet, herbs, and drugs. This holistic yogic system of medicine not simply for treating the physical body but also for treating the mind, emotions, and psychological disorders.

Ancient nettle knowledge

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is used in Ayurvedic treatment to cure various ailments. Nowadays, nettle has drawn a lot of attention, and plenty of research is being done on it. Due to its immense health potential, the popularity of stinging nettle is rising.

In Ayurvedic herbalism, nettle is considered cooling and pungent with an astringent taste. It is best aligned with Pitta energy, helping to gently cool and clear overheated conditions. From an Ayurvedic perspective, nettle is an excellent nourishing tonic and rejuvenative, particularly for the kidneys and adrenals. They increase ojas (the subtle essence of all vital fluids in your body), and are particularly good when run down from stress or illness or needing extra nourishment. 

Nettle tops have been used throughout history in food and drinks as a nourishing and detoxifying spring tonic. Nettle stimulates the action of the liver and the kidneys, thereby helping to clear aama (undigested food or other unmetabolized waste) from the body via the bowels and the urinary tract. According to Ayurveda, aama blocks the body’s channels and organs, preventing the body from absorbing essential nutrients. That’s why detoxification is so important to our health!

Milarepa is one of the most famous saints of Tibetan Buddhism. He is generally considered one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and poets. Traditionally depicted wearing white cotton, his skin was a said to be a slight greenish hue from a constant diet of nettle soup.

Mild astringency and general nourishing action of nettle, tightens and strengthens blood vessels, helps maintain arterial elasticity and improves venous resilience. By reducing excess Pitta in the blood, nettle helps clear inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. The herb also helps keep Kapha levels in check, improving overall vitality. Its carminative properties relieve intestinal gas, and its capacity to promote peristalsis is helpful for some common Vata-related intestinal problems. But taken in high doses can cause excess Vata. Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend taking nettle to stop diarrhea.

But the short and long for it is, yoga and nettle can help us find balance in our body, mind and soul.

Namaste!

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Nettle for Biodiversity

22 May International Day for Biological Diversity

Every single creature on our planet is connected to another one. Or more. It’s a complicated connection net between species, as an ecological interdependence. Nettle supports over 100 species of insects, including butterflies and moths as a food source (see the list here).   Sir David Attenborough has called on gardeners to plant a wild flower meadow and cultivate a nettle patch to help butterflies struggling to survive the wet summer in the UK.

Nettle is among the major sources of green plant material consumed in the field by the snails. They all know that nettle is tasty and full of nutrients. The presence of stinging fibers on nettle act as a defense against many grazing animals, creating a comfortable habitat for our beneficial friends, some of whom are pollinators. The community of organisms depending on nettle is very large. Just think of all the predatory insects, spiders, amphibians and birds which take advantage of this feast. Luckily, thanks to our predators, there are no notable pest problems on nettle – neither in the wild nor in cultivated nettle. Everyone does their job in the right way. That’s biodiversity.

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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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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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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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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!