Dead Nettle: A Powerhouse Weed

This Easter season, we roasted up a whole leg of lamb, and foraged dead nettles growing everywhere in our flower beds next to the house, as a side dish. They pair well with lamb and mint sauce. Dead nettles are in the mint family, although they taste nothing like mint: they are fairly bland, with a slightly sweet taste, and soak up whatever flavor you cook them with.

Don’t be scared by their name. “Dead” nettles are aptly labeled, because they don’t “sting” as their cousins, the stinging nettle (which are also edible and beneficial). Dead nettles cover the ground in early spring, preventing other weeds from taking over, while bulbous perennials underneath, grow up and above the dead nettles later in the summer.

Identification:

  • – Soft, fuzzy, nettle-shaped leaves
  • – Square, hollow stems
  • – Small purple/pink flowers
  • – Leaves are stacked closely together in alternate opposites, and get smaller and closer together toward the top

Nutritional/Medicinal Benefits:

  • Anti-Inflammatory: many diseases related to chronic inflammation can be controlled by consumption of dead nettle, either making a tea with the dried plant or eating it as a replacement “green” in your diet.
  • Antioxidant: helps boost the immune system and fights infection
  • Antibacterial: fights against harmful bacteria. Crush the plant to release the juices, and press the whole mess onto an open wound and cover. Dead nettle is a great healer of wounds!
  • Anti-fungal: helps prevent fungal infections throughout the body, without the side effects of anti-fungal medication
  • Diuretic: replace those “water pills” with this natural remedy! Drinking tea derived from the dead nettle will reduce swelling in legs and ankles, and any other edema-related problems. (It’s most potent remedy is for the kidneys, so you can understand why dead nettle is such a powerful diuretic.)
  • Astringent: it tones the digestive tract, and can tone the skin as well! Gargling with dead nettle can help with sore throats and laryngitis.
  • Diaphoretic: helps the body fight fever and chills. It induces sweating, releasing toxins from the body.
  • Helps treat vaginal discharge and odors
  • High in iron, other essential vitamins and fiber

Cautions:

  • – Because dead nettle is such a boon for the kidneys, you’ll have to urinate a lot, if consuming it on a regular basis.
  • – If you’re in a dehydrated condition, avoid dead nettle. Because it acts as a diuretic and diaphoretic, it can drain your body of necessary fluids if you’re dehydrated.
  • – Avoid if you are pregnant or lactating. In my research, I could not find a specific reason to avoid dead nettle while pregnant or breastfeeding, but most articles I read warned about this. I’m assuming it’s because of its ability to drain body fluids; you needs lots of that while pregnant and/or breastfeeding. However, I am interested in finding out if it can help with pregnant women who are battling pre-eclampsia. I’m not a doctor nor a certified herbologist, so if anyone has an answer, please post a comment to let us know.

How To Prepare Dead Nettle For Consumption:

  • – Dehydrate the plant to use in steeped teas
  • – Boil the freshly-cut plant and steep for 10 minutes for medicinal tea
  • – Replace as a green vegetable. It is highly absorbent, so lots of liquid should be used with cooking. It breaks down just like spinach when sautéed or cooked in some other manner.
  • – Use in smoothies
  • – Can be chopped and added to soups, not only for color and nutrition, but to help thicken a watery soup. It will soak up some of the broth in a soup that is too watery.
  • – Use your imagination!

Conclusion:

Our first attempt at cooking dead nettle, we had it plain, sautéed in a pan with lots of butter. We had to add more and more liquids. This stuff is like a sponge! Because of its mild flavor and absorption abilities, it ends up tasting like whatever you cook with it. My husband loved it… the first few bites. Then he said it ended up tasting like dirt! LOL So in the future, we will use this powerhouse “weed” in other concoctions, like soup, smoothies, or as a tea, instead of eating it plain. Lesson learned.

There are so many wonderful wild edibles that are simply thrown away as backyard weeds, we’re just getting started! You’d be amazed at the plethora of natural pharmaceuticals growing right under your noses! We hope you enjoyed this blog, and learned something new! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to let us know!

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