Archive for Nettles

Baby boom: pregnancy tips.

Perhaps it really is “Change you can conceive in,” as Newsweek put it.

In any case babies are popping up everywhere these days, and people have been asking me about herbs and healthy pregnancy.

This is what I tell them.

1. The “duh” list: Get enough rest, eat enough (good) food, and stay away from toxic stuff.

Rest: Your body will tell you how much you need. It’s best to listen.

Don’t freak out if you have trouble sleeping — drink a cup of chamomile tea, put a drop of peach leaf tincture on your wrist, or smell your hop pillow. And like I said, don’t freak out. (Remember, Barbara Kingsolver wrote her first novel when she had insomnia during her first pregnancy.)

Food: Don’t eat bad food. Do your best to avoid sketchy food. Do eat plenty of good-quality protein (including fish), all kinds of good fats, and lots of in-season vegetables. (Confused about fish? Check this out. And this.) Oh, and if you know you’re allergic or sensitive to something, just don’t eat it.

Toxic stuff: This is a hard one. There’s toxic stuff everywhere, and once you’ve determined how much you can practically avoid, it’s best not to freak out about it too much. (Sense a theme?) Stress isn’t good for babies. That said, here are some common sources of toxic stuff: cosmetics; cleaning products; plastic food and drink containers; paint and other new building materials; dust in old houses; dirt around old buildings. (The last two are due to lead contamination. And this is something to worry about. Read up on it.)

2. Pay close attention to your blood sugar.

Low blood sugar can cause morning sickness (or anytime sickness). High blood sugar can make your baby grow too big, or give it blood sugar problems later in life. (And you don’t even want to think about gestational diabetes.)

Avoid low blood sugar: Eat protein. Avoid refined carbohydrates (i.e., white flour, white sugar, white rice). Eat protein. Don’t eat carbohydrates by themselves (butter your bread; put cheese on your crackers). Eat protein. And eat fat, lots of good fat.

Avoid high blood sugar: See “avoid low blood sugar.”

3. Take care of your kidneys.

Your kidneys do a lot of extra work when you’re pregnant (they have to filter 50% more blood than usual). Be nice to them. Drink plenty of water. Use a good high-mineral salt in cooking (avoid cheap refined salt). And remember that nettles are your friends. Nettle tea is rich in minerals and also a lovely kidney restorative. Nettle seeds are a good choice too. (If your kidneys are unhappy, you’ll end up with puffy ankles and feet. You don’t want this.)

4. Take care of your nerves.

There’s a lot going on. Give yourself a break. Breathe a lot and stretch a lot and take time to be quiet. Also milky oats. And peach leaf if you’re highly sensitive and irritable. Mint tea is lovely for tired nerves, and so is bee balm tea, especially if those nerves are feeling frayed. Holy basil tea if you’re tense and worried. Rose if you’re sad and scared.

5. Take care of your veins.

Remember all that extra blood? It can be a lot for your veins to deal with, too. Eat lots of purple foods — blueberries, blackberries, beets. If you know you might be prone to varicose veins (did your mother get them? ask her!), you might take hawthorne berries or oak bark (small doses of oak) preemptively.

6. Take care of your belly.

To prevent nausea (especially in the morning), make sure you eat enough protein (especially at supper). Peach leaf and ginger are both great for nausea, but in opposite situations: peach is good for “hot” constitutions, and ginger for “cold” ones. If you don’t know, experiment. Take a little taste and see how you feel. Catnip and mint are also good if you’re feeling gassy and burpish.

As your baby grows, your guts might get a bit sluggish. Make sure you eat enough bulky and mucilaginous food to keep things in order. Flaxseed is great for this, and so are apples.

7. And of course, take care of your uterus.

Remember, the uterus is a muscle. For generations, midwives have reminded us that raspberry leaf tea makes it strong. This is a good thing. A cup of raspberry leaf tea everyday is pleasant, too.

(You’re right, I didn’t mention supplements. I’m not a big supplements person, and I don’t know a lot about them. But if you take a prenatal vitamin, make sure it’s good quality. And if you don’t eat fish, you might consider fish oil or cod liver oil.)

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Eat your herbs: nettle salt.

Nettle seeds are amazing for people who are seriously exhausted and drained of energy (tired to the bone, dry skin, brittle nails and hair). I love to preach the gospel of nettle seeds, but people sometimes complain that they’re too gritty and “strange” to chew.

Enter nettle salt. It tastes green and salty, and it’s not gritty. You can sprinkle it on all kinds of food (I really like it on bread and butter), or just eat a bit now and then. (Quite a few people who need nettle seeds also need salt — think low blood pressure, generalized dryness.)

Just take some nettle seeds and grind them up with some good-quality salt (unrefined gray sea salt or another high mineral salt). You can play with the proportions until you get a taste you like. I generally use somewhere in the range of one part coarse salt to four or five parts nettle seed (by volume).

Grind them until they’re nice and powdery — I use a little electric coffee grinder that I save for herbs and spices — and sprinkle them wherever you like!

If you want to learn more about the many virtues of nettle seeds, there’s an exhaustive discussion between herbalists on the herbwifery forum.

UPDATE: Fall is the time to harvest nettle seeds. Pick them when they’re fully ripe, and dry them in a well-ventilated place out of direct sun.

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Spring aphrodisiac: nettles.

No, I’m not suggesting you swat your sweetie with a stinging nettle switch. (Though no doubt some of you might enjoy that.) I’m suggesting that nettle is an often-overlooked aphrodisiac plant, as tincture, brew or just plain food.

See, I pretty much missed last month’s aphrodisiac blog party (unless you count my last flax post), so I thought I’d do a combination February/March blog party post. And it’s perfect, because March’s theme is stinging nettle and, really, nettle is one of the best aphrodisiacs out there.

So you’re scratching your head now. “None of my books say it’s an aphrodisiac. And how could something so prickly…”

Well, that’s exactly it. Nettle keeps you separate.

Separate, you say? What in the world is she talking about? Isn’t an aphrodisiac all about, um, togetherness?

Well, see, for an aphrodisiac to work, you have to want to get together. Which means you have to start out separate.

Think of those couples that do everything together. They can hardly turn around without consulting each other. People start to think of them as one person. No surprise, then, that these people often lose interest in each other on a physical level.

Nettle helps you remember where you begin and where you end. (You already know this if you’ve ever come across a nettle patch where you didn’t expect it.)

Nettle is incredibly strengthening and revitalizing — perfect for spring. It’s the best thing I know for that late-winter-blob feeling. (Think of maple sap rising — nettle gets the sap rising in your body!)

We don’t quite have nettles coming up where I live yet, but if you have some where you are, I’d suggest picking them young and sauteeing them with butter and garlic (or ramps if you can get them). So rich and so tasty.

A bit of zing for spring!

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