I’ve been wanting to start a spirituality/herbal medicine/life blog for a few months now. Fortunately for me a lovely friend offered for me to write on his wordpress account for free. It’s been over a month since he gave me the account and I am finally just going for it. The first one. The “just fucking do it” one.
I figure warrior is a great concept to start with. Warrior energy is hair on fire, soul cast to the wind, fueled by the lightning of love and pain to take action towards a greater good. Despite all odds we take action. A fire is lit within us and it burns through our fear. Our fear that weighs us down to a place of inaction and apathy.
In these uncertain political times many of us live with the knowledge that we are existing within a broken system. Via social media we are bombarded with the knowledge of all the personal and planetary destruction that is happening. Each new piece of knowledge hurts and it cuts like slicing open a freshly healed wound. A wound that is layers of scar tissue from being opened and closed so many times. I talk with my mom about these things and she says to me that it was so different when she was my age. There was no internet and the people lived in a sort of blissful ignorance just due to the sheer fact of there being less accessible media. She told me she feels empathy for our generation being raised with such a global consciousness.
The Zen Buddhists speak about the duality of life. That for every light there is a dark attached to it and vice versa. I believe this quantum friction is the very glue that holds existence in to form. If we apply that principle to the millennial psyche it is beautiful because we truly do have so much more information. Anyone at anytime can access information about whatever they want. There is so much freedom in that for us. It is also very painful to see and know about so much about the struggles happening in the world today. So much of it feels out of our control. We see it, we feel it, but we don’t know what we can do to help make it better. Somehow buying eco-clean dish soap just doesn’t seem to cut it. At least not in my world anyways.
There is a duality between apathy and warrior energy. There is so much information on the internet. I personally feel a calling to educate about herbal medicine. That is the warrior seed inside my belly. It wasn’t that long ago that people knew all the plants that grew around them. They knew if they were food or medicine or if eating them would kill them. It is my belief that the destruction of our planet to feed the consumptive Western lifestyle is deeply tied to a disconnection from the earth. We buy our food instead of growing it ourselves. We take pills instead of using plants. In my mind, if our disconnection from the earth is destroying the planet then we need to re-connect to the earth to help save it.
The voices in my head tell me “There is already so much information out there. There is no point in you writing a blog about herbal medicine. You are not going to make a difference”. Oh the tendrils of apathy, how they taunt me so. But you know what? I’m finally pissed off enough to not care about failing. I am furious about the polluted oceans, the clear cut forests, the dead Great Barrier Reef and all the endangered and extinct species. I am also enraged about all of the sick people. I am enraged about the sickness inside of myself. I have done enough research about the economic and political history of the current global structure to know it was designed and developed to make a few people rich based on the suffering of people, the animals and the environment. So I’m pissed and I am grateful that I am finally at the point of doing something, taking some sort of action in an attempt to make a difference. Oh the delicious fire of warrior energy, how I love thee!
So on the subject of an initial blog about herbal medicine and warrior energy I want to talk about Stinging Nettle or Urtica Dioica. Years ago, when I was first struggling with depression following a car accident I took some weekend herbal workshops. The instructor told me to get barefoot on the earth and consume as much stinging nettle as possible. “Nettles, Nettles, Nettles!”, she would say in her sing-song voice. She told me that nettles contain warrioress energy and they would help me.
When we are looking at the healing that plants provide us we can look at it from a variety of perspectives. There is the energetic plane, the spiritual plane and the scientific or physical plane. There are some herbalists that believe in the spirit of the plant as what causes healing. Others are more focused on the plant’s energetics (hot, cold, stimulating, calming etc). Yet others are more clinical and focused on the biochemistry of this molecular compound or that molecular compound found in the physical plant interacting with the human biochemistry. Myself and others use a synthesis of all three. That same herbalist who sang warrioress energy towards me also taught me about the complete biochemistry of how nettles work in the body.
“Nettles, Nettles, Nettles!”. Stinging Nettle is a plant that seriously has the science to back up the claim of warrior energy. Physically, it is so choc-o-block full of nutrition you could survive on it. It even contains protein! Stinging Nettle has more iron in it than spinach. Iron is a mineral. Some holistic healers and medical people have theories that mineral deficiency is a huge cause of disease in Western Society. Although we have unlimited food at our fingertips, a lot of that food is deficient in nutrition due to processing and huge scale industrial farming techniques. It’s a thing. You can google it. Nettles are rich in calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc and chromium (all minerals) and Vitamins A, C, E and K.
I really do love that science is proving the stuff that people just knew years ago. I like that these plants were used safely for thousands and thousands of years, long before science and the microscope came in to existence. Old-time herbalists recommended nettles for healthy and beautiful hair. It was also common knowledge for pregnant women to drink nettle tea. It makes sense that nettles are so full of nutrition they would cause hair and babies to grow healthy. They were given to people who were weak and pale and tired to make them strong. This could be that these people were actually anemic and nettle is so rich in iron it cured the anemia. Today they still cure anemia too, by the way.
Medically Urtica Dioica has compounds that tone and heal the adrenal system. The adrenal system basically refers to our kidneys, our adrenal glands (which sit on top of our kidneys) and our pituitary gland in our brain. This body system is what causes the fight-flight-or freeze response in our brains. Nettles are great for people who have been stressed out for a long time and are totally burned out. Nettles also will make you pee. In medical land, this is called having diuretic properties. Nettles can be used to treat gout and arthritis because of this action. Nettles offer up healing for the reproductive system too. Nettle root is a tonic for the male prostate and can be helpful in relieving the symptoms of PMS, menopause and other menstrual problems like excessive flow and very painful menstrual cramps.
Stinging Nettle is called Stinging Nettle for a reason. The plant itself is covered in tiny stinging hairs. Almost like armor for the plant. In legends and myths warriors and warrioresses wear armor. Sometimes when we are connected to our warrior or warrioress selves we have to get a little sting-ey to stay focused and get shit done. If we are too soft and squishy and passive nettles can help us to have a bit more edge, a bit more piss and vinegar and fortitude to stand in our own truth.
Medically those little stingers also have power too. They act as an anti-histamine and it is known by medical and folk herbalists alike that nettles are great for sufferers of seasonal allergies. Old time herbalists taught about hitting the skin of painful and swollen areas on the body with nettles. The stingers cause blood flow to come in to the area and break up the swelling and inflammation.
Nettles also have a cleansing action on the liver. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the liver is considered the organ associated with anger. Maybe there is an association there with warrior energy and the liver. I do believe that it’s all connected, whether or not we have the capacity to see all the connections is a completely different story.
Pretty amazing little plant hey? One of the most amazing things is that they grow so abundantly in wild and domestic areas. Such powerful medicine is all around us in abundance. Nettles like to grow near water. They can often be found near creeks and wetland areas. Like I said earlier, some plants can kill you. For safety, make sure if you are harvesting a wild plant you absolutely know that it is the plant you are after. You can definitely purchase them from a herbalist or wildcrafter in your area. Sometimes you can find it at the farmer’s market too.
It just baffles me how we have come to be an entire society that generally, as a whole, knows jack shit about the natural world growing around us. The return of this knowledge is important. It just makes sense to me on a deep intuitive level.
Mostly the way I use nettles is in the form of tea or herbal infusion. You can also use young nettles in place of anywhere you would use cooked spinach. I have made nettle spanakopita, nettle lasagne, even nettle cabbage rolls. I am pleased to report that all were delightfully delicious.
Some plants are more medicinal, some are more used for nutrition. Other than eating nettles, we can make nourishing herbal infusions to get the power packed nutrition from them. To make a nourishing herbal infusion fill a jar 3/4 full of dried or fresh (chopped) nettles. Pour cold or hot water over the nettles to fill the jar. Stir and cover with a sealed lid. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Strain and drink. It tastes purely like green plant water but it’s worth enduring for the health benefits. You can add mint to make it more palatable. I give credit for this technique to Susun Weed, an amazing herbalist.
To make nettle tea, I use about a tsp of nettles for each cup of water and I definitely add mint to boost the flavor. Place the herbs in your teapot, pour hot water over and let steep for 10 minutes.
There is a lot going on with existence today. It is mighty complicated and some days the world is mega overwhelming. So many of us feel a deep pain for the earth. The revolution may or may not happen with riots in the streets. The revolution will happen by everyday people getting informed and consciously making choices in their lives to no longer buy in to the lifestyle choices that are destroying the planet. If you start using herbal medicine as a part of your personal revolution not only will you be helping to save the earth you will feel healthier, stronger, and more vibrant while you do it. So go forth and be your warrior self, whatever that looks like for you. Feel the fire and just go for it.
Coursenotes- Wild Roots Herbal Learning Center
Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: Rosemary Gladstar
Healing the Wise Woman Way: Susun Weed
Check out these awesome youtube channels:
Susun Weed and Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary