How Evil Nettles Swallowed My Best Friend

One day, when I was 9 years old, I hopped on my bike with my friend Simon.

We cycled down the road, then took a shortcut through a gap in the fence.

This took us on a winding trail on the edge of an old industrial area that had been reclaimed by nature.

The path was hugely overgrown on either side, so we had to be careful of nettles and thorns.

At one point, I remember stopping on my bike and turning back to Simon to remark on something (I forget what!)

For some reason, he took that as a sign to stop, too.

But as he tried to put his feet down on either side of the bike to balance himself, there was a problem.

One of his shoelaces had got wrapped up in the pedal, so he couldn’t move his left foot.

I remember the surprised expression on his face as – in comedic slow motion – he tilted sideways and toppled into a load of nettles.

Instantly, he vanished. All I could see was this mass of shaking green nettles, and one of his shoes sticking upwards.

In panic, he struggled and twisted within the mass of stinging plants.

By the time I grabbed his hand and pulled him from the verge, he was screaming and crying.

I’ve never seen anyone so completely and utterly stung in so many places!

He had to go home and get smothered in creams and lotions by his distressed mum – and I got the sensation she thought I was to blame.

So, for a long time, I thought nettles were evil.

This was exacerbated by hearing my father muttering about nettles in the garden, and constantly spraying them with weedkillers.

Yet now I see things differently.

When councils indiscriminately spray verges and central reservation with toxic weedkillers, I despair.

Particularly in the case of nettles, which are so important to the ecosystem – and nobody is walking on, or using these verges that get obsessively hacked, sprayed and mowed.

And I’m not the only one who thinks like this…
Why We Should Be Nicer to Nettles

You might not realise it, but tomorrow is the last day of ‘Be Nice to Nettles Week’.

It’s an annual event from May 14th to May 25th that highlights the importance or nettles.

These plants are unfairly demonised. Yet they are so important ecologically.

Nettles are a critical food source for caterpillars and butterflies, and important for maintaining biodiversity.

As the folk at ‘Be Nice to Nettles Week’ say: “Nettles are not just pesky weeds but vital components of a healthy environment, supporting various forms of wildlife and offering numerous benefits to humans.”

As I’ve reported numerous times in this newsletter, nettles are used in herbal medicine for wide range of ailments:-

  • Allergies – Nettles are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and can help alleviate symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. They may reduce histamine production, which is responsible for allergic reactions.
  • Arthritis and Joint Pain – they contain compounds with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. They can help reduce symptoms of arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other joint pain conditions.
  • Urinary Problems – Nettles can support urinary health and are often used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder infections, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men. They have diuretic properties that help flush out toxins from the urinary system.
  • Anaemia – they are rich in iron, which can help combat anaemia. They also contain vitamin C, which enhances iron absorption.
  • Skin Conditions – Nettles can treat skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Their anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties can reduce inflammation and irritation.
  • Digestion – they can relieve gastrointestinal issues like constipation, bloating, and indigestion.
  • Blood Sugar – Nettles may help regulate blood sugar levels and are sometimes used as a complementary treatment for diabetes.
  • Blood Pressure and Heart Health – they support cardiovascular health by helping to lower blood pressure. They contain compounds that relax blood vessels, improve circulation, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Respiratory Health – Nettles can be beneficial for respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Their anti-inflammatory properties help reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract, making breathing easier.
  • Immune System Support – they are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as several B vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These nutrients help support the immune system and overall health.
  • Hair Health – Nettles can promote healthy hair and scalp. They are used in shampoos and hair treatments to combat dandruff, hair loss, and to stimulate hair growth.
  • Menstrual Issues – they can help alleviate symptoms of PMS and regulate menstrual cycles.
  • Premature Ageing – The antioxidants in nettles help combat free radicals in the body, which reduce the signs of aging and promote healthy skin.
  • Bone Health – Nettles are also a good source of calcium and other minerals essential for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.

So rather than spraying them with weedkiller, why not use them for your health?
How to Use Nettles for Natural Health

Nettle tea is the simplest way to enjoy them.

Harvest some young nettle leaves (wear gloves to avoid being stung), then rinse thoroughly. Then pour boiling water over a handful of nettle leaves and let them steep for 5-10 minutes before straining.

Or make nettle soup by frying onions and garlic until they are soft. Add chopped potatoes or other vegetables of your choice.

Next pour in vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Add the nettle leaves, simmer for 15-20 minutes, then blend until smooth.

Making your own nettle pesto is another delicious option. Simply blanch nettle leaves for a minute to remove the sting, then drain and cool.

In a food processor, combine the leaves with garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, then blend (adding salt and pepper to taste.)

So, nettles aren’t evil – they’re the good guys when it comes to better health – and they’re freely growing in a place near you!