Thursday, 6 October 2016
About those nettle seeds ..
(Yeah, I know I said I was kinda done with this blog. Then came all that talk of nettle seeds and a bunch of emails full of questions on how and why and where to find them.. and here I am again .. )
First, let me say that maybe nettle 'seed' is a misnomer. I catch those little beauties when they're still green on the plant, before they would be viable for growing. So I suppose, really, they're the fruits. I guess. Nettle seed for growing would be brown. Can you eat the brown ones? I'll go out on a limb and say yes, especially as I know of other nettle enthusiasts who specifically wait until they are brown before harvesting. But they drop off the plant so soon after ripening, you gotta be quick.
Nowadays, we're using them as a trophorestorative for the adrenals and kidneys. What's a trophorestorative, you may well ask? Here's Kiva Rose:
It is a tonic in the deepest sense of the word, in that it provides substance for the building up of strength and function. It order to be a true trophorestorative it must not bring harm or have undue side effects and be able to be used over a long period of time safely. Also, while many herbs are nutritives, trophorestoratives are unique in that they can restore actual physical function to a debilitated organ or tissue, as is the case with Nettle Seed (kidneys), Avena (nervous system) and Ashwagandha (endocrine system). (full, excellent article here )
Here, and here, are two pieces about nettle seed by Kiva Rose, they're worth taking the time. Although many of today's herbal practitioners mention the use of nettle seeds for the adrenals, it is her articles that are the most comprehensive.
As for my own experience with nettle seeds, well .. I have found them invaluable for symptoms of burn-out. Not having been 'officially' diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, I was nevertheless well and truly spent from years of cleaning rich people's McMansions and a long (long) commute. I quit (good first step), ate well (also good) but still dragged my keester around for weeks, then months, then nigh on a year afterward. I wasn't sleeping well and startled and panicked easily. I was working on other issues at the time as well; menopausal crazies and something akin to fibromyalgic pain, which meant I was also working other herbs, acupuncture and physiotherapy. Obviously, that means I can't say that nettle seed alone was a magic bullet. I can say that chewing on a tiny amount in the morning gave me good stable energy all day and I began to sleep better.
I wish I could recall for you how long I used them but it was a long time ago and I don't keep records. (I should, eh?) I do still reach for them from time to time when I know I've been burning the candle at both ends and they never fail me. Good, sustained energy and really sound sleep. Yet because nettle seeds are only one part of what I do for my health on any given day, I can't say they will work for you in the same manner.
What I like about them is that they're quick acting when you need it and give longer term support when you need that. Most people who have used nettle seeds will tell you that they need a smaller amount as time goes on, and then one day they realize they haven't taken them for a while because they no longer need them. That's the great thing about medicine plants, used appropriately - they actually heal rather than just manage symptoms.
In a quick read of some of the articles out there on the interwebz, I've seen it recommended that the seeds be ground before using; I don't see how that is necessary if you have teeth. I just chew them.
The dosages recommended also seem awfully high to me but that's a common enough occurrence, dosage recommendations are generally far higher than is really necessary. Dosage is a tricky thing - if we're talking drugs, it is usually gauged by body weight or severity of symptoms. When we work with plants we look at these things a little differently. It's more about the metabolism, diet, and most of all the sensitivity of the individual in question, assuming the herbs used are good quality (taking more of a poor quality herb won't help, just find a better source). As I said above, I took, and still take nettle seed in tiny amounts. The amount that would cover the head of two or three pins would be more accurate than to measure in teaspoons, in fact.
Of course, I gather my own. I grow my own nettles and gather them from the wild when I come across them. But then, I'm a stickler that way; I can't think of the last time I bought a medicine plant. I'd encourage you, if you want to try them, to try to find your own in some wild place. If that's not an option right now, start asking around - independent health food stores or farmers markets would be the most likely places to find a wildcrafter near you who will have some on hand or would pick them for you by special request.
Nettle seeds definitely have their place in a program of rebuilding one's health.
Stinging nettle seeds being difficult to come by (commercially), shouldn't stop anyone from trying nettles in other ways, in fact I would recommend trying nettle leaf first.
Most good herbal companies sell dried stinging nettle leaf in bulk. Anyone feeling drained, low in energy, with sluggish digestion, poor sleep, lousy hair and nails, stubborn weight issues (too thin OR too heavy), bad skin, gout, allergies, arthritis, low libido, crapped out thyroid, recurrent yeast infections or bladder issues, hot flashes, heavy sweating .. or even just general ugh, would do themselves a favour if they would just drink nettle infusion once or twice a week. It is a standing not-quite-joke among herbal clinicians that after offering a meticulously planned regime of several carefully chosen herbs to a client it is wise to tell them "or, you could just try nettles".
Nettles are deeply nourishing but a regular tea doesn't cut it, it takes time for all those wonderful nutrients to be released so they can be used by our bodies. An infusion is a long steeped tea, generally a good handful of herb in a large jar, topped with boiling water, covered tightly and allowed to steep overnight, to be drunk throughout the next day. It can be reheated or taken cold.
Nettles combine well with oats, either in the form of oatstraw (the stems of oat plants, picked green) or milky oats (the tops, ditto). Oats (Avena) are very soothing to the nervous system, a trophorestorative in their own right. Sometimes the tops are included with the straw, sometimes they are made into a tincture. Like nettles, oatstraw is most often used as an infusion, and alternating between the two can offer the war-weary and stressed out types the solid nutritional footing they need.
You see, while adrenals certainly do crap out sometimes, they never do so alone, and in most cases we did it to them, not vice versa. Nothing happens in isolation in the human body, everything is connected. So while nettle seeds are excellent, the whole has to be taken care of, not just the one part. Nettle seed can be abused, I have no doubt of it, so I must warn my readers that if you keep doing what burned out your adrenals in the first place, nettle seeds won't prop you up forever. Most of all, the burned-out person needs rest and nourishment. They need to look honestly at the painful reality their life has become, and change it.
Nettles, oats and you. by jim mcdonald.
Nettles and me, a love story by me.