The Sting of it All

Mother Nature must be PMSing. The tornadoes throughout the Midwest and the Southeast in the last month have been devastating. Living in the mountains, I don’t normally worry about such bad weather (the hills usually break up wind rotation) but we got hit big time yesterday … with hail. I’ve seen hailstorms before but nothing like this. Most of it was marble-sized but there were pieces sized somewhere between a golf and tennis ball.

I love listening to rain on our metal roof. Hail, however, is another matter. My office is right under the roof and I had to go to a lower level to preserve my eardrums. There was so much that the house literally vibrated with the hits. The poor cats were wide-eyed & trembling, even under the bed.

This morning I took a walk around to look at the damage. My garden looks really sad. The Chamomile I had planned on harvesting this morning is flattened. There’s not a blossom to be found. The rose is OK … anything that was open was knocked off but one bud did open this morning. I think (hope) the rest of them will perk up with time.

A few plants didn’t seem fazed by the onslaught: the Nettle … of course.

Nettle (or Stinging Nettle), whose Latin binomial is Urtica dioica, grows rampant around here and most other places around the world. It really does sting – the whole plant is covered with little hairs that, if you brush up against them, feel like bee stings. So, if you’ve a mind to pull some from your yard, be sure to wear good gloves and long sleeves (personal experience speaking). If you do get stung by it, look around for either Dock or Plantain. Both plants usually grow close to it – Mother Nature’s version of companion planting. Crushing then rubbing a fresh leaf of either on the sting will make it feel better immediately. Or, if you want to brave the plant again, the juice inside the stem of the Nettle will also help. Harvest it in late Spring, before it flowers. If you don’t get to it before it flowers, compost it. Nettle manufactures microscopic crystals as it ages which negate its medicinal effect.

Nettle has a long history of varied use. Before flax & hemp were introduced into the north of Britain, Nettle was used to make cloth. Even as late as WWI, Germany and Austria used Nettle for cloth-making when they ran out of cotton. It has also been used to make paper.

Medicinally, it has also been used for centuries, especially in the Spring. Nettle has a reputation as a blood purifier (or tonic) and it has been made into teas, puddings, beer (!), and the young leaves are used in salads to Spring clean the body. By ingesting Nettle a couple of times per day, it helps clean out all the allergens, thus helping those nasty Spring allergies. Overall, it’ll help rid you of all the toxins you accumulated during the Winter months. It’s also a folk remedy for rheumatism & gout. A caution: if you are on any anticoagulant drugs, don’t take Nettle internally. It could interfere with the drug’s actions.

Another really good use for Nettle is to staunch bleeding. A few drops of the juice on a small piece of cotton stuffed up the nostril will stop a nosebleed very quickly. To get the juice out of the stem, put on your gloves, cut the stem lengthwise and then squeeze it like half of an orange into a jar or bottle. (It won’t just squeeze out like the gel inside an aloe vera leaf.) Refrigerate to keep it fresh for up to a month.

It is also good on your skin – Nettle tea will soothe a burn. Cosmetically, either the juice or tea used as a final rinse will make your hair very strong and shiny. It’s also said to stimulate hair growth so if you have thinning hair, give it a try!

Here’s another ‘noxious’ (and strong) weed that has some very good uses!