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How to heal yourself with herbs
April 2012

with Wendy Budd Bsc (Hons)
Medical Herbalist

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This months’ topic is focused on the native herb, stinging nettle (Urtica dioeca) that, traditionally would be collected at this time of the year to aid detoxification.
An old adage about the stinging nettle remains true today:
“Tender handed, grasp the nettle and it stings you for your pains. Grasp it like a man of metal and soft as silk it remains.”

*Culpeper states that stinging nettles are under the dominion of the planet Mars:
“You know Mars is hot and dry, and you know as well winter is cold and moist; then you may know the reason why nettle-tops, eaten in the spring, consumeth the phlegmatic superfluities in the body of man, that coldness and moistness of winter hath left behind.”
(By the term “Phlegmatic superfluities”, *Culpeper means, watery phlegm and mucous.)

After the long winter months’, the cold and moistness of winter, accompanied by comfort foods, junk foods and lack of exercise, tend to clog the system, leaving us lethargic. An internal spring clean can aid the removal of toxins and kick-start the metabolism, helping to clear the skin, help the lymphatic system, flush the kidneys, and even aid weight loss. Clearing the mind and body alike.

The Stinging Nettle has many plant chemical or phyto-chemical constituents including, very high amounts of chlorophyll. It also contains histamine, serotonin and acetylcholine. Also Vitamin C and Minerals including, silica, iron and calcium.

The medicinal actions of nettles are many and varied. It is a blood tonic/detoxifier. Making it a wonderful herb to clear various red itching skin complaints, such as eczema, acne and dermatitis. The tea is of most benefit here.

The young nettle tops collected in spring are best taken fresh. However, the dried herb if correctly dried will be almost as effective, and has the benefit of a long shelf life. Nettle has anti-histamine properties, and when drunk from
spring throughout the summer seasonal allergies are diminished.

Nettle also has a reputation of stopping bleeding both internally and externally.
A traditional remedy for nose bleeds was to sniff dried nettle powder up the affected nostril, to cease the bleeding. The same remedy was also used for nasal polyps - “The seed or leaves bruised, and put into the nostrils, it "stayeth the bleeding of them, and taketh away the flesh growing in them called polypus.” ~ *Culpeper

Nettle has a cutting and heating nature it may be used in cases of cough where thick viscous mucous is produced. It is a tonic for the body giving many vitamins and minerals in a way, which is easily absorbed, by the body.

This is the perfect time of year to collect nettles’, they are best when young and below 1 meter in height. (Remember to collect your nettles away from busy roads or other areas, which, may be polluted by dogs etc.) Always soak your nettles before use to rid them of any insects and dirt. The traditional dosage would be 2oz of fresh herb to 1 pint of water. The fresh herb should be infused in boiled water for at least ten minutes before being drunk. Take 1-3 wine glassfuls a day for maximum benefit.

Interesting fact: The Romans when they came to England were not used to our cold and moist climate and found them-selves suffering with rheumatic pains and arthritic joints. They found a novel remedy for this, which, is still used today by some brave people. It is called flagellation. Nettles would be whipped across the affected joints, which, would be stung profusely by the nettle. The stinging when settled would bring great relief to the pains in the joints.
(I would not recommend you try this, however, as severe nettle stings can cause anaphylactic shock!).

Wendy Budd Bsc (Hons) Medical Herbalist
- member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (MNIMH), has been practising as a full time herbalist since qualifying with a degree in Herbal Medicine in 2006.
She is passionate about the healing properties of herbs and spreads the word through lectures, short courses, exhibitions, herbal walks and practical demonstrations. Wendy worked in a pharmacy setting for the last 5 years.
She now runs her own Herbal Apothecary in Southsea, Portsmouth, UK.
Wendy also has her own website:
Budd's Medical Herbalist And Apothecary

*Nicholas Culpeper (1616 – 1654) was an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer. His published books include The English Physician (1652) and the Complete Herbal (1653), which contain a rich store of pharmaceutical and herbal knowledge.

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