By Chef Centehua
My journey toward optimum health has led me to healing naturally through food and herbs. I view food as medicine. As a naturalist and an aspiring herbalist, I trust that the earth has everything I need to restore vitality in my body and maintain every system working properly. I am a proponent of local wild foraging: it’s a great way to connect to the environment in a sustainable manner. I realize there is a lack of medicine in our food, that we are consuming mostly domesticated foods, and that, while they may have a diverse array of phytonutrients, they lack medicinal qualities. We need nutrient rich foods to maintain our health, and superfoods and super herbs to insure our immunity against environmental pollutants. Our medicine is found in plants, many which are underestimated and vital for overall balance.
I recently discovered the nettle plant, which grows wild all over the U.S. and all around the world. It is a gentle lymph cleanser, kidney purifier and a diuretic. Stinging nettle is incredibly helpful for women’s health, for it regulates menstrual cycles and supports the hormonal system. Pregnant women benefit from nettle, as it protects from bleeding, strengthens the fetus and promotes milk production. Stinging nettle has anti-inflammatory properties especially beneficial for men’s prostates, and is highly beneficial for bladder and urinary tract function in both sexes. Nettle also relieves digestive issues such as excess gas, nausea, acid reflux and colitis. Basically, this incredible multifunctional plant is a remedy for everything that ails us. From treating arthritis to neurological disorders, this prickly plant is truly an ally.
During my moon cycle, I usually make nettle leaf infusions for its iron content, which purifies and helps build blood. Not only does it protect my body fromdegenerative disease, but nettle also helps the earth’s body as well. Nettle is a great fertilizer, too. I make a mixture of leaf and water, and let it sit for about three weeks. When the water becomes tea, I add the tea and plant material to my garden as a compost.
Nettle can be used as a spring tonic, a highly medicinal herbal infusion, or dried and infused into alcohol such as a high quality organic vodka. The alcohol allows for a quicker and stronger dose because the medicine accesses the blood stream quickly, thus the medicinal qualities are absorbed in a more concentrated form. This is especially beneficial when treating and dissolving kidney stones or dealing with an enlarged prostate. When used topically, it relieves joint pain and is stimulating to the scalp, regenerating hair growth.
Who knew that the answer to many conditions were right under my nose in those prickly plants I used to think of as annoying weeds? I am so grateful that I can pick nettle while hiking, and can prepare a nutrient rich, medicinal tonic to maintain my health and vitality — all for free! Nettle is wild, growing freely, and available for those who recognize and appreciate its benefits. I recommend harvesting nettle from places that are far from freeways. Here in California, I see nettle everywhere; however, I harvest only from mountains and valleys far from environmental pollutants, basically outside the cities. Next time you’re out on a country hike, look around for this beautiful, green, powerful plant; and make sure you know exactly what you are harvesting, for many plants look alike. Stinging nettle just may be the best and most affordable, sustainable remedy around.