This morning I harvested nettles to try as an herbal remedy for seasonal allergies. I discovered this property while researching an article for the spring 2014 issue of Edible Toronto: Nettles, better a bite than a sting, now available online.
They were already one of my favourite wild spring greens. Stinging nettles are delicious and nutritious, a good substitute for spinach or chard in practically any recipe, and easy for foraging if you handle them with gloves. Once steamed or dried they lose most of their stinging potential.
For the article, local herbalist Scott Reid outlined a variety of traditional medicinal applications. Urtica dioica has been used to treat asthma, he said, and natural antihistamines make the plant useful against seasonal allergies. My investigation turned up a 2009 study that supports benefits in treating allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as stuffy nose and post-nasal drip.
My worst allergy is to house dust. It hits hard in fall and early winter. The previous two years I had to resort to medicated spray to prevent the congestion from moving into my chest and causing worse problems. Nasal rinse also helped. This year I plan to try a herbal tea containing nettles and see if I can reduce my reliance on pharmaceutical drugs.
Today I harvested a few stems from a clump by the path at the entrance to our neighbourhood park. Passing cyclists might appreciate me pruning the stinging scourge. I plucked the leaves to dry in the dehydrator on lowest temperature setting.
I also added some fresh nettles and honey to my morning pot of green tea. It’s quite pleasant; no sign of the appalling bitterness we encountered in the hot, dry spring of 2012. Maybe I’ll go back and collect some for a vegetarian lasagna later this week.