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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.