Here’s a plant that refuses to be ignored, despite its commonplace presence. Urtica dioica, or as you probably first encountered it, the stinging nettle plant you unknowingly brushed up against on your early adventures off the path in the woods. The top growth of the plant is very commonly used in Western herbalist traditions, and is also widely known in Ayurveda (called Vrsciya in Sanskrit).
You don’t have to go far off path, since nettles like disturbed edges. It’s one of the things that contributes to it be super dense with minerals and nutrients.
Here’s what you need to know before using Nettle:
You don’t have any contraindications, like kidney disease, HBP, heart disease, etc. or if you’re taking diuretics, anticoagulants, antihypertensives, etc.
Now, if you know what you need to balance in this moment, while at the same time avoid aggravating your constitution, then you can look at a plant’s qualities and see whether it is the right time for you to be taking that plant.
Here’s what you need to know to use Nettle Ayurvedically:
Qualities of nettle: light, dry and penetrating
Taste: Astringent, bitter, sweet and even salty
Its virya or effect on metabolism is cooling
After the plant is digested, the effect transforms to heating
Action on the doshas: reduces PK, increases V
Dhatu: plasma, blood, bone marrow
Among its main effects, you should remember its effects to give nutrients, to purify, and to reduce inflammation. Special areas of action include kidneys & adrenals, and women’s reproductive system.
Let’s look first at its nutritive effects. It has a high density of minerals, and that is seen in its traditional uses of taking during pregnancy to promote excellent development of the fetus as well as post-partum to replenish the deficiencies that can arise during and after pregnancy in the mother.
Contradictory qualities are sometimes the best
It holds a special place of being extremely nutritive, yet also cleansing. (Usually cleansing herbs have a depleting effect to the body’s tissues.) I’m keen to put alert you here – uncap your mental highlighter whenever you see seemingly contradictory qualities or actions in the same plant, because it will often lead you to its special use. We see above that nettle has a cooling effect on metabolism but a heating post-digestive effect. Also in this case, the combined nutritive and cleansing qualities make nettle one of the safest and mildest blood purifiers out there.
So you can use a nettles Cold Infusion, with just a little guidance. Even if you miss the mark on how to use it Ayurvedically for your prakruti & vikruti, it’s a really safe option to try.
It gets the lymph moving, and then also helps the kidneys excrete the resulting extra waste. Same idea behind clearing gout or rheuma -like symptoms; it has a capacity to help draw out the uric acid from the joints and blood and excrete it. Think about Nettles also as a helpful plant with chronic metabolic disorders, where the person needs nourishment, but at the same time the system is overloaded and needs help cleaning house.
Now because Nettle reduces PK and has an affinity to the blood, it is beneficial in women’s reproductive imbalances that have high PK stagnation, like painful periods, heavy bleeding & fibroids. Likewise in men, it can reduce the pelvic stagnation that in men contributes to benign prostatic hyperplasia. Meanwhile, it helps the liver break down proteins and make the resulting amino acids available to be use by skin, nails and hair.
Even though it is PK reducing, Nettles are still balya & brmhana, or strengthening & anabolic, so although it can be drying you’re not going to get wasting of the tissues if there’s already blood, muscle, bone or marrow reduction.
Making Nettles a Norm in your Kitchen
You can really treat nettles like a leafy green like spinach. Saute fresh nettles or chop and add to soups. Dry and sprinkle into sauces, add to herbal salts. Use the fresh or dried in the Nettle Infusion immersion like I do a couple times a year, and be sure never to miss the window early spring.