The noble nettle is perhaps the most generous plant around but the seeds pack the biggest medicinal punch of all.
The leaves, stems and roots of the nettle provide medicine, food, cordage (string/rope), cloth, paper, dye, fertiliser, compost activator, insect food and habitat and act as a soil fertility indicator (they like soil rich in nitrogen and phosphates).
Not many know however that the seeds are a useful medicine, are packed with nutrients and are plentiful at this time of year. They have been recently used by some pioneering herbalists to restore function and energy to the kidneys which are very tricky organs to regenerate on the whole. Nettle seed was prescribed to two patients with failing kidney function and both showed a marked improvement with the nettle seed treatment. It seems possible that nettle seeds are trophorestorative to the kidneys which is very exciting stuff! Nettle seed has even been known to help people both avoid and come off kidney dialysis. A herb that can stave off kidney failure is a very big deal.
These beautiful little seeds are also proving pretty successful as ‘adaptogens’ (helping the body cope with the effects of stress) and for fortifying the adrenal glands. When stress is starting to leave you with real adrenal burnout (when most of your energy comes from adrenaline release and not your food!), then time to reach for the nettle seeds.
Pick them when green or ripe (not when the strands are black though) as they can be used when fresh and green or when dried. They are more or less ready to pick when the strands hang down with the weight of the seeds but don’t be too worried about this. I cut the nettle stalks and gather whole bunches of seed rich stalks to dry. You could waste hours trying to gather seeds individually. Hang them to dry and place a tray or paper underneath as the seeds drop readily as they dry. When the leaves are crispy dry, rub gently onto some paper then sieve to get the seeds out and leave the debris behind. Store in an airtight jar in a cool dark place.
Green seeds are said to be more directly stimulating whilst dried seeds more grounding and supporting.
Here are some great articles on harvesting and using nettle seeds from Henriette’s Herbal and also a lovely ode to nettle seed by Kiva Rose , a link to a PDF containing Jim McDonalds musings about nettle seeds.
Here is the inspiring story of how the power of nettle seed was discovered/re-discovered by Herbalist David Winston……..”About 12 or 13 years ago I had a patient with degenerative kidney disease, who had about 16% kidney function. Within 6 months she’d be on dialysis. It’s in August, I’m sitting out by my barn near a big Nettles patch and I’m thinking about this person, thinking, ‘this is a shame, because once you’re on dialysis you’re life gets pretty miserable.’ And all of a sudden the Nettle plant starts moving. Now in our tradition, when a plant starts shaking, it’s a sign that the plant’s trying to communicate with you, but first of course, I’m looking at it thinking, ‘is there a bird in there?’ And I’m looking around – nothing else is moving, so it’s not the wind, there’s no bird, there’s no squirrel; so I’m looking over at the plant, and the plant says to me, ‘I can help that lady’. I know Nettles very well and I said ‘I’ve already tried using Nettle leaf, and it wasn’t helpful’, and the plant says ‘No not my leaf, my seeds’. Now I’ve never heard of using Nettle seeds anywhere. I’d never read about it, I’ve never heard of the use of Nettle seed, and I thought, ‘Well, I know the seeds aren’t poisonous, I have nothing to lose, and really this lady has nothing to lose’. So I gathered some of the Nettle seed, made a tincture out of it, and gave it to her. Within two weeks, her kidney function starts improving, and her creatine excretion starts improving, and I thought “this is really interesting’, because what I used to be able to do, using Chinese medicine, I could plateau people; I could get somebody at 18% and keep them there for a while, maybe a year, 18 months, and then they’d start losing function again, but that was the best that you’d see. Well, after 6 months she’s up to 28% kidney function. That doesn’t happen, so I thought, ‘This is incredible’. But the problem was, at that point, I didn’t know whether what happened was actually just for her or whether it would have a more universal effect. So six months after that, an Indian woman called me up saying she’s basically dying of kidney failure. Was there anything I could do? I said, ‘Well, I had this herb that worked for someone else, do you want to try it’, and she says, ‘sure’. So I give it to her and it works for her too. After about 5 or 6 years I had 30 case histories; 28 out of 30 respond, which is vastly better than anything I could have expected. So this is a case where I learnt about it from the plant, and at this point I’ve been teaching about it for 10 years; other herbalists are using it, (Christopher Hobbs said he got someone off dialysis using it) and the results are phenomenal. I didn’t discover it, the plant told me, so is that journeying? No it’s communicating with the plant, and the plant telling me how it can be used for medicine.”
Powerful stuff eh?
If you know of anyone who has poor kidney function or is constantly dealing with the effects of stress, take them some dried nettle seeds and get them to take a teaspoon daily for several weeks to see what happens. They can be eaten and chewed well or powdered and added to drinks etc or soaked in water overnight (like sprouting) perhaps.
Experiment with them and share any stories with us so we can all learn more on the wonders of the humble but noble nettle seed.