Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Nettles

Summer has arrived.
We've had a most unusual June, here in Los Alamos, with much more rain than usual, and some very chilly days. June is generally the hottest, driest month, so all this moisture and cool temps have been quite a surprise. The plants and trees must be soaking up every ounce of the water. Nettles that were a mere few inches off the ground a couple weeks ago, are nearly towering over my head! The grasses too have completely taken off. My native grass front yard looks greener than it ever has, and all grasses must be flowering profusely as I've been more allergized in recent days than I can remember...back to those nettles!

Nettles can be useful for allergy relief and they boast significant amounts of chlorophyll, protein, ascorbic acid, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin K1, potassium and zinc. These nutrients are considered to promote healthy skin, bones and joints and encourage a healthy immune and respiratory system. Nettle leaf contains flavonoids such as quercitin, kaempferol, and rutin that help to maintain healthy levels of histamine in the body. Histamine release is associated with allergic reactions, where tissues become damaged and inflamed. Further, nettle leaf extract promotes the healthy modulation of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and cytokines- which are components associated with normal immune function.

I am a sucker for stinging nettles. When I see a patch I get all giggley in my tummy and feel like jumping up and down and shouting for joy. Los Alamos Canyon is ripe with nettles right now, and during a run up the canyon yesterday I simply couldn't help myself and had to stop and commune with one of the large patches growing up alongside the stream bed. I plucked a lovely leaf, folded it upon itself and chewed it up as my friend Susan had taught me a decade and a half ago. The flavor was pure green, with hints of minerals and vitamins. My thumb and forefinger were numb for the rest of the run, and every time I felt the numbness my heart swelled with joy for this lovely soul-sister plant. Now, if I can just convince my daughters to come watch me harvest this bounty!

The natives of the Olympic Peninsula used nettles for medicine, charms, and rituals. In order to stay awake through the night, the Quileute would rub nettles over the body prior to heading out on seal hunts. The Makah would use nettles to purify their bodies and to toughen their skin before heading out on whale hunts. I've always found those uses intriguing. My husband once thrashed himself with Nettles prior to driving 18 hours straight, and said it worked quite well for staying awake through the night.

Nettles are also a delicious green that can be cooked like spinach. Sautee the fresh leaves with garlic and butter and dash of soy for a nutritious green...Bon Appetit!

Gunther, E. and J. Janish. Ethnobotany of Western Washington. 1973; 78.

Klingelhoefer S, et al. Antirheumatic effect of IDS 23, a stinging nettle leaf extract, on in vitro expression of T helper cytokines. J. Rheumatol. 1999; 26(12): 2517-2522.

Mittman P. Randomized, double-blind study of freeze dried urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Medica. 1990;56:44-47.

Image copyright David Beaulieu

No comments: