The Beauty of Nettles, Cleavers, and Burdock Root in the Healing Process
1st picture: Stinging Nettle Leaves 2nd picture: Stinging Nettle Stem (see stingers) 3rd picture: Cleavers 4th picture: Fresh Cleavers Tincture in 80 proof vodka
5th picture: Blanched Nettles for Freezer 6th picture: Nettle Leaves dehydrating 7th picture: Nettle tea infusion 8th picture: burdock root
9th picture: Liver and Lymph Burdock Ferment Recipe 10th picture: Nutritive Nettle Potato Soup Simmering 11th picture: Nutritive Nettle Potato Soup
Stinging Nettles and Cleavers are 2 very useful and important herbs in healing our bodies. Both of these herbs are blooming right now in the springtime. You can sometimes find both of them growing close together in wild places.
Let’s start with learning a little more about Stinging Nettles first. This is one of my favorite herbs…I have many favorites but seriously, Nettles is one of those special herbs that has so many uses and powerful properties.
Stinging Nettles -Latin name: Urtica Dioica
I could honestly write a book about the benefits of nettles but to keep this short and sweet, I’ll just give you some highlights of this remarkable plant.
If you’ve ever come in contact with this plant and handled it too quickly, you might have gotten stung by its stinging leaves and stems. I have experienced this sting and it feels like a prickly sharp sting that has a lingering and tingling effect well after the sting.
Nettles stingers are small, hollow tubes called trichomes that are visible with the naked eye. These stingers are found on the leaves and stems of the plant. When you touch them with your fingertips or any other body part, their fragile silica tip breaks-off which releases an interesting number of chemical constituents upon contact.
Interestingly enough, this stinging discomfort can be alleviated by making a poultice out of freshly bruised leaves of the plantain or the yellow dock plant…which both of these herbs are usually growing nearby out in the wild.
An interesting way to treat arthritic pains can be alleviated by deliberately stinging oneself with a freshly picked nettle plant. This is called urtication. .
The complete chemistry and mechanism of action of the stingers is not fully understood, but they are known to contain small amounts of formic acid, tartaric acid, oxalic acid. They also contain the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, histamine, and serotonin, and likely many other chemical compounds we are still unaware of yet. Even the sting from the stinging nettles has medicinal value.
Nettles have so many healing properties. They have alterative, astringent, tonic, nutritive, hemostatic, and diuretic properties. Nettles help to strengthen and support the entire body because if it’s rich, full spectrum of vitamins, minerals (especially iron), and calcium. If it is consumed over a long period, it will benefit the entire body, especially the lungs, stomach, and urinary tract.
It is also a wonderful tonic for the liver and reproductive system for men and women. It is a wonderful herb to help with menopausal and any type of hormonal issues.
It is an excellent remedy for kidney trouble and helps to expel gravel from the bladder and also helps to increase urine flow. Nettles is a very important herb to be using in those dealing with anemia because of its rich mineral count and nutritive properties.
It is a wonderful hair tonic, helping to bring back the health
and natural hair color by making an infusion with the herb and applying it to
the scalp. This plant is so beneficial for the skin, hair, teeth, bones, and nails!
Always only use the young Nettles (tops only) in the springtime for your infusions, medicinals, and for cooking. Do not use once the plant has gone to seed or flower.
You can cook the
leaves as you would spinach and use it in place of spinach in recipes (only
cooked recipes). To use as a spinach or cooked green alternative, blanch the nettle
tops in boiling water for 1 minute, when wilted and still bright green, remove
with tongs, and place in ice water for another minute. Squeeze out liquid and place
in glass mason jars or Ziploc bags and freeze for up to 6 months. Thankfully, the blanching process removes the sting from the leaves and stem.
This is what I did today with 2 lbs of fresh nettles…dried half of the nettles in my dehydrator at 95 degrees F to use in a Nourishing Nettles Infusion and blanched the rest and froze in glass jars to be used as in soups, stews, quiche, lasagna, or any other recipe calling for spinach or other cooked greens.
It makes a wonderful nourishing and restorable tea for the body as well.
Healing Tea Infusion: Place 4 TBSP of dried nettle leaves in a quart mason jar and pour boiling water over the leaves. Steep for 4-8 hour or overnight and cover it with a towel to insulate it during steeping time. Strain and drink throughout the day.
Cleavers-Latin name: Galium aparine
Cleavers cling to you, hence the name cleavers. It is a climbing herb, with whorled leaves and leggy stalks that are covered with hooked bristles. This type of structure enables it to attach to objects, animals, and people which assists in the spread and seed dispersal of this plant.
The entire plant is used in herbalism, harvested just before it blooms in early summer.
The young green tops can be juiced and used as a cleansing spring tonic, which provides rich nutrients and chlorophyll after a long winter. Cleavers can also be used like spinach in recipes.
Cleavers are one of my favorite herbs for lymph drainage, assisting the drainage process of enlarged lymph glands and lymph stagnation.
It is also a very effective blood purifier, liver strengthener, diuretic, alterative, tonic, and refrigerant to the body. Making a facial wash out of cleavers tea has also been used for acne and skin eruptions.
You can tincture this herb and take it to stimulate the lymph system. You can also dry the herb and encapsulate it, but the fresh herbal tincture, tea infusion, or nutritive tonic form is much more effective.
Nutritive Nettle Potato Soup Recipe
This soup is so rich in minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. It is also slightly cleansing to the liver, lymph, and colon. This is a fantastic soup to eat anytime but especially in the springtime when our bodies are craving more greens and minerals after the winter months. In this recipe, I decided to leave the skins of the potatoes on because the skins of the potatoes have so many minerals, and cooking them in water leaches their rich nutrient profile directly into the broth during the process. You will be using the blender to puree this soup so you won't even notice the skins. I used Yukon Gold potatoes which tend to have a thinner skin and add a creamier texture to the soup...delicious!
If you do not have access to Stinging Nettles, use spinach or another green leafy vegetable in its place. You can also use chickweed instead, which I have done and the results are wonderful as well.
The taste of this soup is mild and delicious and it the thick texture is so soothing and healing to your tissues and mucous membranes. This is one of my favorite soups to eat this time of year! I hope you enjoy it :)
16 cups of fresh spring young Nettle tops or 2 cups packed blanched Nettles (blanched-see above for instructions)
*8 cups of fresh nettles will yield about 1 cup of blanched lightly squeezed nettles
3 cups washed and cut Yukon Gold potatoes (leave skins intact)
3 TBSP ghee, butter, or avocado oil
1 onion (chopped well)
5 cloves of garlic (minced or chopped)
6 cups of bone broth, vegetable broth, herbal broth, or water
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste
Saute garlic and onions in ghee until lightly golden but not browned. Add liquid and potatoes, along with pepper and turmeric. Simmer until potatoes are tender, then add in nettles or greens of your choice and simmer until they are wilted and bright green (if using fresh) or until the blanched greens are totally incorporated into mixture. Then add lemon juice. Add contents of soup (cup by cup) to blender or may use immersion blender. Blend until soup is smooth and pureed. Add salt to taste and enjoy!
Store in fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Liver and Lymph Burdock Ferment Recipe
Burdock Root (Arctium Lappa)
Burdock, also known as Gobo root is a power packed root that has many nutritive and potent medicinal properties. The optimum time to harvest burdock root for food or medicine is in the late winter of its first year. Burdock has a very deep tap root, which extend a foot or more into the earth below. Some roots are thin and some are much thicker.
When identifying burdock, look for the purple thistle-like flowers in the summer that develop into brown burrs in the fall. They stick to you like velcro as well.
Known as one of the best blood, lymph, and liver purifiers, burdock
cleanses and eliminates impurities rapidly from the body. It is also excellent
for skin conditions and diseases of all kinds. Burdock root is one of the healing herbs in the Essiac tea formula, that is well known for it's immune supportive and anti-cancerous properties.
it has mucilaginous, alterative, tonic, diuretic, and diaphoretic properties. It enhances the body’s elimination process so that the toxins and waste products can be removed efficiently. This process gradually helps to restore proper function to the body, moving the body to a state of integration and health.
Burdock is also abundant and rich in minerals.
You can use burdock root in many medicinal preparations but I thought it would be interesting and delicious in a food preparation, such as in a fermented product. Burdock root has a mild flavor and adds a nice crunch and tasty addition to this recipe.
Remember, eating a wide array of wild foods and/or wide array of fruits and vegetables helps to inoculate our digestive system with billions of friendly flora, which supports our immune system and aids in our overall health. Eating a wide array of these foods gives us a plethora of different healthy flora (prebiotics and probiotics) and creates a stronger and more diverse microbiome.
Incorporating burdock and other edible wild foods and herbs in our diet can help us achieve a microbiome that has a wide population of diverse friendly bacteria, especially when used in lacto fermented/ cultured foods.
Lacto fermented foods have been made for centuries all over the country. Fermented foods are a wonderful way to incorporate healthy flora into your digestive system. Eating a small amount of these fermented foods at mealtimes aids digestion and promotes bowel regularity. One serving of a lacto fermented food can have more flora than an entire bottle of probiotics.
1 cup of fresh, well washed, and chopped burdock root ( I use my food processor to chop the root)
2 carrots (washed and chopped into very thin discs)
5 cloves fresh garlic cloves (minced)
¼ cup freshly grated ginger root
½ cup well washed and chopped leeks
1 TBSP brown mustard seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 ½ -2 TBSP of Himilayan salt, Celtic, or Real Salt, or another type of unrefined salt
Juice of 1 lemon
First place chopped burdock root in a glass bowl and macerate it with the lemon juice. Then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt. Mix veggies together and then add the salt and massage all the ingredients well together, working all the ingredients with your hands to create a brine.
Place in a quart size wide mouth glass mason jar and press down firmly with a wooden hammer or wooden spoon until the juices come to the top of the veggies. There should be some juice at the top of the vegetables at all times, even when fermenting for the 3-4 days on the counter. If the vegetables are not fully covered, then mold can form on the top. If mold forms, the batch needs to be discarded.
*Placing a cabbage leaf on the top of the vegetables while fermenting helps to submerge veggies into the brine while fermenting. This also helps to keep the top from drying out. If you need to, you may open the jar during the fermenting phase to push down the veggies into the juices.
The top of the vegetables should be at least 1-2 inches away from the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for 3-4 days before transferring to the refrigerator. You can eat after this time but the flavor improves with age.
*Start with a golf ball size amount at meals, may slowly increase as tolerated