Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, common nettles
For years, I've heard about this herbaceous perennial, read about them and even seen them on the shelf in the health food store in capsules and teas. They can even be found in the bulk spice bin. But I have never found 'the real thing'. So, you can imagine my delight when I was out on a walk to check out the elderberry bushes (another post!) and found a stand of these!
Now, don't be too afraid of the sting. While they do have a tiny barb or hair (called a trichome) that acts like a needle upon touch, sending antihistamines into whatever touches it that can deliver some irritation, taking a few precautions can eliminate the risk of getting 'stung'. Gloves, long sleeves and pants, even communicating with the plant, are said be invaluable. Cooking/simmering the plant neutralizes the sting.
If you have seasonal allergies, nettles can be a wonderful ally (anti-histamines, and no sleepy effects!!!) and they are chock full of wonderful nutrients. Cooked, one cup delivers 297mg of potassium, 6 g of fiber, 35% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A, 8% of your Iron, 12% of magnesium, 5% of B-6 and a whopping 42% of calcium. All for about 39 calories. Hel-lo!!! They even offer a bit of protein. Of course, those totals may vary a bit given soils and growing conditions, but you get the idea here!
Utilizing all this plant has to offer is super easy!
Dry the leaves for tea, to be stored and used all year long. All that 's required are a dehydrator or a warm oven, set at 200 degrees. If using an oven, turn it off when it's up to temp and allow the leaves, placed on a cooling rack or cookie sheet, to dry for a few hours. The actual time will vary depending on your temp of the day and humidity. I'd allow at least 4-6 hours...overnight even!
Tincure it. I prefer a water decoction, as well as using alcohol to utilize the benefits of both processes.