nettle lessons: wildcrafting self-care

Do you ever wonder why sometimes the thing that could benefit you the most remains right in front of you, invisible, while you continue searching for a solution or answer elsewhere?

My relationship with nettles — a.k.a Urtica dioica, stinging nettle, “annoying weed” — has evolved into a beauty-full mentorship over the 25 years I’ve lived on Whidbey Island. She continues to teach me about presence, slowing down, deep nourishment, intentional receiving, and connection to place.

Anyone who has roamed off the beaten path in the Pacific Northwest (wearing sandals and shorts like I did when I first arrived) is familiar, sometimes painfully, with her “wake-up” sting! Those hollow hairs (trichomes) can give a sharp dose of histamine and acetylcholine when we’re moving too quickly and snap us back into the present moment. I’ve learned that my mindlessness, or rather my runaway train of “stories” circling past or future events, robs me of the peaceful, expansive presence of being, and I am grateful for nettle’s sometimes not-so-gentle reminder.

“Nettle’s sharp energy cuts loose old patterns and reweaves connections.”

Susun Weed

Nettle is also one of the most nutrient-dense herbs on the planet, more potent than even blue-green algae or the newest cutting-edge supplement, offering wonderful support to the kidneys, lungs, skin, intestines and liver. She offers energy-packed nourishment to every cell in the body, alkalizing the blood and delivering essential trace minerals, such as immune-boosting sulphur, memory-enhancing zinc, bone-building boron, sugar-balancing chromium, as well as vitamins C and B complex, iron, amino acids, magnesium, calcium, and chlorophyll to keep us healthy, inside and out.

As an ideal ally for anyone who is depleted by the stress of daily living, she revitalizes the energetic, immune, circulatory, endocrine and urinary systems as well as beautifies the skin, nails and hair. It’s ironic that we search far and wide for the newest trending ingredients for optimum health when one of nature’s greatest superfoods can be as close as our backyard!

I enjoy fresh and dried nettle in food, teas and infusions, both at home and in the bodycare products I create for Sweet Sisters, and I so appreciate the whole process… from the harvesting to the nourishment she offers. When we label a plant a “weed,” we imply that it is obtrusive and useless; how beautiful it is to learn that weeds are among the most nourishing and safest plants for our health and well-being. And how comforting it is to realize that the earth has provided us with a plentiful, healing neighbor to nourish our lives on so many levels… sometimes the best remedy is the one closest to us, calling to be seen!

I love to harvest nettles in early spring, delighting in the vivid, bright green shoots, covered in shimmering, magical hairs, beaming their radiance out of the decomposing matter of winter. It roots me to this place I call home. Gently snipping above the 3rd set of leaves, ensuring that the plants will continue to grow and share with me another harvest in a few weeks, is a beautiful way to slow down, practice presence and remember my nettle lessons!

nettle hair rinse
Steep 1 tablespoon dried nettle leaves (or a handful fresh) in 1 cup boiling water, allow to cool and strain. Add 2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar. After washing and conditioning your hair, pour the nettle rinse over your scalp and hair and allow to remain for a minute or two. Quickly rinse hair with water, gently press your hair into a towel, and allow to dry. Enjoy your shiny, beautiful hair!

french press nettle tea and infusion
For the tea, fill your french press with 1-2 handfuls of freshly picked nettles. (You might want to reserve one press just for herbs to avoid coffee-flavored tea:) Fill with just-boiled pure water and let steep for several hours or overnight before pressing. For the infusion, fill with 1/2 ounce dried nettle, add boiling water and steep overnight. Press and fill your favorite glass with the radiant green elixir and connect with the presence that you share with this amazing plant! (Refrigerate any leftovers and use within a day.)

Share your preparations by tagging us on Instagram (@sweetsistersbodycare)!

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