Despite using the leaf and seed of nettle on a regular basis, this year was the first time I have harvested and made tincture from the roots. I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Sascha, who I should probably mention, gathered the biggest root of all, honestly it was quite impressive!
I’ve been feeling the call of nettle root strongly this autumn and it keeps popping into my mind in relation to a particularly problematic case involving hormonal dysfunction. I have little experience of using the roots of nettle clinically other than in cases of male pattern baldness and problems of the prostate, most notably Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). However the case in question is that of a woman, though certainly a testosterone imbalance is indicated in her symptoms, and there is little information available to support my intuitive nudging that this was the right medicine to turn to.
Several studies have shown the success of nettle root in treating BPH, particularly in its early stages when it can help to slow the growth of prostate cells, improve urinary flow and alleviate the constant urge to urinate. This is especially so when combined with other herbs such as Saw palmetto or Pygeum. It does this primarily by inhibiting proteins that help to carry certain hormones into the cells and would otherwise encourage the growth of prostate cells.
In its action of reducing the numbers of sex hormones available to the tissues I imagine that the benefits of nettle root must be more wide ranging than we usually consider. Though, without doubt, certain herbs may have a greater affinity for either male or female conditions and personalities, there is always some crossover and no herb can be said to belong exclusively to one sex or another. Traditionally, nettle root has been used to help menstrual irregularities and for this reason it’s best avoided in pregnancy. Linda Crockett, a herbalist specialising in women’s hormonal health, includes nettle root in her formulas for polycystic ovarian syndrome and Susan Weed writes, ‘ Use nettle root as a hair and scalp tonic, a urinary strengthener and stimulant, an immune system/ lymphatic strengthener and a bit of first aid’ – primarily in cases of diarrhoea.
There is also some information available online, though it’s hard to know how much of it you can trust, especially when one website contained the following gem, ‘Nettle root is commonly prized for its stems and leaves, which are reported to contain numerous health benefits’. Anyone else notice the obvious flaw there?
I feel like, in getting to know nettle root, I’m accessing a whole new facet of a long time favourite herbal ally, and I’m really excited to carry on my research and experimentation into the possibilities for its different healing applications.
When digging roots it’s especially important to connect with the plants an ask permission because, unlike when you gather the arial parts of perennial herbs, you are taking the life of the plant when you harvest its roots.
The soil is very sticky clay round here so our roots needed a good soak before scrubbing with a brush and chopping finely ready for tincturing.
I’m quite excited to try the finished result and will be experimenting on myself before giving it to my client. I hope to have some interesting findings to report back before too long.
Healing Our Hormones, Healing Our Lives – Linda Crockett
Healing Wise – Susun Weed
Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy – Mills and Bone