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Stinging Nettle Bane or Balm

| 5/6/2015 3:46:00 PM

Karrie SteelyI enjoy foraging and finding uses for weeds and plants that pop up everywhere this time of year. Recently I discovered that one of the local plants that's usually avoided like the plague is full of nutrients and pharmaceutical benefits. You might wonder why I’d even think of handling something as vexatious as stinging nettle. It just goes against my stingy nature to go to the grocery store and spend money on food and medicine that's growing right under my nose. Besides, I kind of like the challenge – the slight element of danger. Hey, I’ll take any excitement I can get!

nettle field

I first encountered stinging nettle walking through a wooded area in Nebraska, and since then I’ve learned to keep a close eye on the vegetation when I’m walking there. (Not to mention performing other necessary functions that one does in the woods.) I’d rate the discomfort from the sting somewhere between pain and extreme irritation, but the sensation goes away after a few minutes. The plants are covered with tiny little hollow needles that inject several chemicals into anything unfortunate enough to brush against them. Not pleasant.

nettle plant

One of the issues I deal with on a daily basis is lower back pain. I can’t take ibuprofen or other NSAID drugs because of stomach issues. I’m constantly looking for ways to mitigate the pain so I can go about daily life and chores. When I was researching nettles, I found there has been a lot of scientific research done on their ability to treat joint pain. The clincher is that you can’t just make a tincture or neutralize the venom first. You have to apply the stinging needles directly to your skin so they can inject the chemicals. “The hairs, or spines, of the stinging nettle are normally very painful to the touch. When they come into contact with a painful area of the body, however, they can actually decrease the original pain. Scientists think nettle does this by reducing levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body, and by interfering with the way the body transmits pain signals.”  (Source: University of Maryland Medical Center)

picking nettles

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