Nettle : Amazing vegetable for the growing child
Fleurya aestuans (L.) Gaud. ex Miq.
Common names: local stinging nettle; agbara ubi-Igbo; ippe erin-Yoruba; bulsum fage-Hausa.
The stinging nettle (Fleurya) is so named because its hairs release some chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals. The hairs are mostly on the underside of the leaves and stem. A herbaceous plant with stems growing up to 1-5 m in length. The leaves are slightly mucilaginous, heart shaped with serrated margins and tapered at the ends. Flowers are yellow. Stinging nettle thrives well in nitrogen-rich soil and is usually found in waste places and quickly appearing in new cultivations and fallows.
Nettle is used for fiber, food, medicine, clothing and textile.
Parts used: the entire plant – leaves, stems and roots.
Research and documentations show that nettle is a powerhouse of nutrients-containing on average: 22% protein, 4% fats, 9-21% fiber and 19-29% ash. The fresh leaves contain vitamins A, C, D, E, K, P and B-complex as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin all of which are found in appreciable quantities. The leaves are also noted for their particularly high content of selenium, zinc, iron, iodine, sulphur, calcium and magnesium. These constituents attribute to nettle’s anti oxidant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, blood purifying, wound healing and immune-boosting properties. With all its powerful potentials, incorporating this vegetable into your child’s menu, will no doubt have a positive impact on his or her health. And needless to add, would lead to a reduction in the frequency, severity and duration of many common childhood complaints.
After gathering several handfuls of the leaves, these would be washed the same way as leaves of lettuce, in cold water. Once clean, they would be laid out in clean paper and thoroughly dried indoors.
The tea is prepared by infusing one teaspoon of nettle in 60 mls of boiled water for 15 minutes. Nettle infusions are a fantastic way to hydrate and boost minerals for children, who do not feed well. To make it more appealing to the child, flavor with little honey or mint. A little orange or lemon juice will make it taste really good.
Nettle can be powdered and added to smoothies or drunk as infusion.
The leaves can be steamed and cooked similar to spinach. Once cooked, they can be added to soup or stew. Be sure to cook under low flame to achieve maximum
benefits from its vitamins A, C, protein and iron.
Nettle can also be pureed and used in green smoothies and salads or simply sautéed like greens.
Benefits – Nettle vegetable has been proven effective against the following conditions:
The young leaves make a very good leaf vegetable for children suffering from anemia. You may add it to their meals like plantain/yam porridge and vegetable soups. If you do not want to use it this way, then simply juice it or you use as tea, as recommended earlier. They may take along a flask of nettle tea to school, not only will it quench thirst but will take away all weariness associated with anemia. Nettle has frequently been used to make tonics to treat weakness and anemia symptoms.
Iron deficiency: nettle is a rich source of iron and so may be used to arrest iron deficiency in children. Nettle, being a rich source of iron, helps in formation of red blood cells, thereby preventing and treating anemia.
Nettle is very beneficial for treating childhood eczema, thanks to its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities. The vegetable is also a powerful blood purifier and thus eradicates eczema from the roots. Half a teacup of nettle tea a day, will relieve eczema.
Cold & Flu
It has been recorded that nettle helped reduce sneezing and itching in children with flu. Researchers think that this may be due to nettle’s ability to reduce the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen. Give your child a hot preparation of nettle immediately you notice he or she is coming down with a cold.
Fatigue and exhaustion
If your child often feels tired and less efficient, nettle tea taken for a course of two weeks will greatly rejuvenate and energize the person. This herb with its iron content has been used with great successes and after a course of treatment, energy, vitality and total well being is noted to be achieved. Nettle juice may be mixed with other juices to help provide instant strength and nourishment.
It protects against festering corn and fungus under the nails, stomach acid, diarrhea, dysentery, lung congestion.
It is a wonderful wound healer and in fact used as a general tonic for the body.
Nettle is a powerful coagulant, which assists in the process of blood coagulation.
As such, it leads to faster healing of wounds and also prevents septic infections.
It may be deployed to relieve a nose bleed, thanks to its rich vitamin K content.
Nettle is anti-allergic in action and prevents allergies. This amazing vegetable may also be used to cure burns and insect stings.
The vegetable, being a rich source of vitamin D, helps prevent diseases like rickets.
It has astringent properties and serves to cleanse the digestive system.
Nettles are sometimes used in cheese making and if you are adventurous like me, try making your groundnut paste (peanut butter) with some nettles for extra multi vitamin advantage.
About The Author
Dr. Ifeoma Chukwuma is the Principal Research Consultant at Natureal Herbal Health Consulting, an expert on botanical remedies and a wellness advocate. Reach her on Naturealherbals@yahoo.com or visit www.naturealherbals.com