Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 1: Nourishment

Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Part 1: Nourishment

Real, whole food, whole herb nourishment during pregnancy is not hard to come by once you familiarize yourself with herbs like nettle and oatstraw herbal infusions, which represent some of the highest sources on earth of trace minerals and nutrients and are even rich in protein. The benefits of herbal vinegars include their ability to balance out the pH of the body, their helpfulness with digestive difficulties, and their friendliness to the health of the gut. 

Allergy Alert: Support in Season

We all know it’s coming – some of us may already be in the thick of it. The congestion, the bleary eyes, the runny nose, the headaches, the pains, the stuff. Allergy season is in prime time at the moment, and it happens to fall right at the time of year when the dogwoods are exploding into blossom, the birdsong is melodious, and all we want to do is be outside. “What a cruel joke nature plays!” we may think to ourselves while sniffling and gazing longingly out the window. We’ve heard of all the natural remedies: local honey, bee pollen, and locking yourself indoors until summer…but have you met the nettles?

Know Your Nettle

NettlesStinging nettles, Urtica dioica (and also wood nettles or Laportea canadensis, which can be used fairly interchangeably), are an incredible green ally for those with persistent allergies and seasonal symptoms. On top of using locally produced bee by-products like honey, royal jelly and pollen to combat allergies, incorporating nettles as a superfood and super-infusion can give springtime allergies a kick in the pollinated pants. Mineral rich, incredibly high in iron and chlorophyll, and densely nutritious, nettles are a food-herb and can be consumed in abundance with absolute safety. Mid-late spring is the optimal time to harvest nettles, when their formic acid content is lower and they are more tender and less fibrous than their summer or autumn selves.

In her book Healing Wise: The Wise Woman Herbal, Susun Weed advises that “Nettle is an ally which – combined with the Wise Woman ways – can help the gradual healing of a person with a condition such as hay fever, allergies etc… Try a cup/250 ml of nettle infusion, or a half cup/125 ml cooked fresh greens and pot liquor, or a teaspoonful of the juice every nice spring day for at least a month.”

Nettles are best used as a tonic herb for chronic allergy sufferers. Expect to use nettles regularly for one week to one month before realizing significant improvement and relief. See Susun Weed’s website for more on this juicy food and medicine. Need nettles?

Rusty on the exact process of making a full-strength medicinal herbal infusion? Lucky for you, it takes less than the time it takes to brush your teeth, and we’ll remind you how simple it is in this article in one of our earlier newsletters. Check out our archived newsletter for a recipe for a rich Russian Nettle Tonic to get even more nettles into your life.

Osha: An Ocean of Possibilities

Osha Root

While nettles is one of our best green allies for allergies over the long-term, a wise woman surrounds herself with not one but many friends. Sweet, spicy osha (Ligusticum spp.) is another one of these allies that are useful in soothing the redness and inflammation of the allergy season. But unlike nettles, osha is fast-acting to support at the scene of the issue.

In the form of a potent low-dose botanical, the aromatic osha root assists in allergic reactions and anaphylactic situations until one can seek medical treatment should an acute situation arise. On an allergy that manifests itself through redness, irritation and inflammation on the skin such as hives and rashes, osha tincture can be used both topically and internally in tandem to support the body’s extreme histamine response. Got an itchy throat from allergies? Osha is helpful for soothing the esophageal passages.

If you or someone you know has an allergy – whether bee sting or nut butters – it’s a wise investment to have a bottle of osha tincture on hand for those unexpected reactions. As a bonus, osha is also excellent for use on any painful, swollen insect or animal bites or stings that you might experience. Don’t be caught without this powerful root medicine, and may the osha and the nettles help you to enjoy an allergy-less spring singing with the birds!

April 29, 2015 — Heather Wood Buzzard
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) Nourishing Herbal Infusion

Love of Nettles

by Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women

My early love affair with herbs – which led to my life’s work- started with nettles. I’ve heard similar stories from other herbalists: one special plant reaches out and speaks to us. Not usually in words, but through the body, helping us heal something….

Stinging Nettles as Food and Medicine

In my case I was suffering from a collection of mysterious symptoms, which I know now to be adrenal exhaustion, manifesting as lower back pain, lack of energy, decreased libido, amenorrhea (infrequent menstruation), and a pervasive tendency towards feeling chilled. I was studying biology in college in the Northwest, at Evergreen. Far from home and studying hard, I valued good nutrition and self care but was very thin and too over-concerned about body image to nourish myself the way my body really needed.

On my bike route from home to school lived a magical nettles patch under a glorious grandmother oak. I had been taking botany classes and doing independent study in herbs and was delighted to discover the nettles. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), otherwise known as barn nettle or English nettle, is plentiful in the Northwest. Our area of Western North Carolina, which shares the propensity for abundant rainfall, is also home to barn nettle, as well as her cousin, wood nettle (Laportea canadensis). Barn nettle resembles a large mint, with serrated, blue-green, opposite leaves. Wood nettle has alternate leaves and prefers to settle around forest streams.

Curious about wild foods, I decided to try incorporating nettles into my diet, as I had read about her veritable cornucopia of nutrients: calcium, magnesium, iron, B complex vitamins, C complex Vitamins A, D and K as well as protein, cobalt, trace minerals, potassium, zinc, copper and sulfur. Nettles are especially rich in chlorophyll, which is only one molecule removed from hemoglobin, so they feed the blood.

Harvesting and Cooking Nettles 

Soon enough, I stopped buying vegetables from the store. I ate nettles almost every day. In the spring and summer before it went to flower, I would simmer it and then stir in sweet white miso, incorporate it into recipes from soups to stir frys in place of spinach, and blend it up in dishes such as pesto. When it grew tall, I would harvest it and string it in my bedroom to dry for herbal infusions for the rest of the year. I thank goodness that either my intuition was strongly intact or the nettles spoke loudly, or both, because in short order I just couldn’t get enough of the stuff! My body was craving it and I indulged.

The Bioavailable Benefits of Nettles as Optimal Herbal Nutrition

Shortly after this powerful introduction, I went to study with Susun Weed, renowned herbalist, author and voice of the Wise Woman Tradition. I realized how the plant was helping me heal and regain my strength. come to find out, nettle has long been revered for its benefits to the kidneys and adrenals. And it was only then that I fully realized that the collection of symptoms I’d been experiencing were adrenal related…and had been easing considerably over the last Nettle year.

The kidneys allow us to expel toxins and the adrenals help us to respond to stress (think adrenaline) – so given the challenges of modern life, most folks can benefit profoundly from nettle’s medicinal properties. Additionally, she offers relief from seasonal allergies, strengthens the bones, hair and nails and nurtures the lungs, nervous, hormonal and immune system. Add in nettle’s bounty of iron and it adds up to a fortifying tonic for anyone who is anemic, or for pregnant, lactating or menstruating women. My menopausal friends treasure her for her support of the bones and the hormonal system as well.

Also, one of the wonderful things about nettle is that her nutritional benefits are delivered in a very balanced form and are easily assimilated and absorbed into our system. Few plants provide such a rich resource to help nurture our wellness and nourish our bodies. It certainly proved true for me, and others that I work with.

June 16, 2012 — Heather Wood Buzzard