For allergy sufferers, the pollen that accompanies the springtime flowers, grasses, and blooming trees can cast a cloud over the season. It turns out Mother Nature planned ahead, and just before allergy season peaks, the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) plant pops up, ready to quell even the most severe allergy symptoms.
Alleviate Your Allergies with Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle, a perennial flowering plant, has been used medicinally since at least the era of the Ancient Greek empire. The plant originated in the colder regions of Europe and Asia, but can be found around the world today. Stinging nettle has heart-shaped leaves and either yellow or pink blossoms, which appear from June through September.
Most stinging nettle treatments are made from the plant’s stem and leaves, but its roots also have powerful pharmacological traits. Traditionally the stem and leaves have been used to treat allergies and other respiratory problems, and the roots for urinary disorders and prostate conditions. Stinging nettle has potent anti-inflammatory properties, which change the way key receptors and enzymes respond to allergens. Testing reveals that stinging nettle can actually prevent allergy symptoms such as congestion…sneezing…itching…and more.
According to a global randomized, double-blind study carried out by the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, participants preferred stinging nettle to the placebo. Additional research shows that stinging nettle can equal, if not outperform, top over-the-counter allergy medications. Better still, it comes with none of the frustrating side effects, like drowsiness. An especially interesting finding from investigations into stinging nettle is that it may actually desensitize your body’s allergen response over time.
How to Harvest Your Own Stinging Nettle
Experts agree that stinging nettle is a very safe herb, making it a good choice for wildcrafting. If you’re interested in harvesting your own, be sure to wear thick gardening gloves to protect your skin! Stinging nettle got its name for a reason: the plant contains chemicals in fine hairs
that coat the stem and leaves, when the fragile tips of the hairs break off, the remaining hair becomes a tiny needle that delivers the chemicals directly into your skin, where they can cause pain, redness, swelling, itching, and numbness.
Stinging nettles can be found growing in moist stretches of soil at the edges of forests, streams, marshes, and even pastures. They’re one of the first plants to come up in spring, and it’s best to harvest them when they’re young as they become more bitter with age. The plants have a distinctive appearance, and with a good identification guide (and advice from experienced local foragers) you’ll likely be able to gather your own throughout the spring.
Tips on Stinging Nettle Dosages
If you’d prefer that your stinging nettle come to you in capsule…tablet…tincture…juice…or tea form, you can likely find an array of products at your local health food or apothecary. Bear in mind that stinging nettle can cause some initial intestinal discomfort, so it’s best to begin with a very low dose. Because stinging nettle products come in so many varieties, all of which contain varying amounts of active ingredients, there are no standard recommendations on dosage. The best course of action would be to consult with a trusted practitioner to determine the type and quantity of stinging nettle best suited to your individual needs.