Tuesday, September 1, 2009

september blog party: herbs don't read books

It is September 1, and I am attempting the blog party last minute! This month's blog party is hosted by Henriette Kress, lots of useful information on her wonderful site! Check it out, and to see the many wonderful blog party posts as well. Our topic: Herbs don't read books.

I have known Nettle (Urtica Dioica) to be revered in the herbalist and wild food communities for it's nutrient density and powerful actions since I first started reading about herbs. It never was a plant (or entry in the beginning) I paid much attention to, or devoted any time to learning it's actions first hand. I feel like each season has a 'new' teacher to offer.... a new plant that stands out to us, everywhere we go, demanding our attention. In the past years, Nettle has not been one of them.
I love walking outside and relishing that I am surrounded by so many nutritious and medicinal plants. It is my goal to plant as many useful, native plants on my little farm as I can muster the right conditions for. Each year I try to get one or two good patches of medicinal natives established, this year I thought I would try nettle. We have a mucky wet spot in the wooded area along a cow field. It is right at the bottom of a hill and stays wet with spring rains flowing down the hill. Already there was a nice patch of Jewel weed established. I thought Nettle would love it there. Unfortunately, the plants stayed tiny and then were stunted by insect damage. Only a few plants remained by summer's end.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered a couple of plants under the cherry tree, on top of the hill. It is not particularly moist there. I hadn't noticed them while tending the cherry tree, picking the greens near there, or watching the Comfrey grow?? Nettle got my attention. Then, a day or so later, I lean on the railing of my porch and look down (something I will do often) and I see SEVEN big, healthy plants, spreading nicely already, just THERE. 'Well', I said to Nettle, 'I guess you and I will be friends'. So, I am paying attention.
I have watched it grow, branch out and flower. I have watched the flower turn to seeds, and the seeds in all of their various stages of change. I am excited to experience this plant first hand in all it's many uses. I cannot wait to see it emerge from it's 'chosen' spots as one of the first spring greens.
With that said, this summer my husband came down with that odd summer flu (summer flu? was it swine?). It started off with vomiting and high fever, chills. I had given him peppermint after it seemed the vomiting and nausea wouldn't stop. The peppermint was wonderful, it stopped the vomiting almost immediately. However, then it progressed to diarrhea. A lot of diarrhea. During the illness he had many teas and a few tinctures, staying with in the realm of a few specific herbs, but the diarrhea wouldn't cease. I ran to the herb cabinet after the third day and made a dedoction of nettle root (I had purchased from mountain rose two years ago, man, that stuff was old). I hadn't even tried it yet, and couldn't remember why I had it around. I figured it would be nutrient heavy for his depleted system if anything, and I hoped, would help his system flush excess waste from the war going on inside. I had read it has astringent properties, usually called for in bleeding...I gave it a try. Much to my husband's surprise and relief, it worked. He could drink and eat, and rest.

I have tinctures that have been macerating for over a year. I have used with success old herb in support and relief of conditions. I have planted 'by the book' with sad results. With herbs, by the book isn't always the case, herbs don't read books. Herbs speak to you, and in magical ways, offer their help and support... even when that is contraindicated in texts. Herbs require your full attention, it has something to teach you, something the book won't offer.


  1. Great tale, lovely farm. I'd always thought nettle liked tons of sun, like mint.

  2. thanks CJ.
    nettle grows most anywhere, but mostly likes a little shade and moist soil- definately spreads like mint- I"m happy about that!