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Thursday
Nov132014

Slender Stinging Nettle Rhizome

Well, it’s root season again.

There is a short lull in wild-harvesting September to November, but after that it ramps up again in root season. Generally, you gather the roots and rhizomes of herbs in late fall after the aerial portion of the plants have died back (when the upper portions of the plants are no longer producing chlorophyll and have turned brown, shrivelled up or even detached from the root and fallen to the ground). This is because the plant withdraws its energy from producing food and seeds in the aerial portion and stores it in the roots and rhizomes so it can survive the winter to once again send out its leaves in the spring.  This is the time when the healing properties of the below ground portions of the plant are strongest and the best time to make them into medicine.

I still have lots of roots left to do…hopefully I’ll get them in before the ground freezes. It’s always a race. Thankfully, it’s OK if it has rained or is raining (lightly) when harvesting roots so that opens up more potential harvesting days than when harvesting the aerial portions of the plants which require sunny, dry days.

My latest harvest is slender stinging nettle rhizome (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis). Rhizomes are basically horizontal underground stems. Harvesting rhizomes can be either fairly easy (for example, the rhizomes of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) grow close to the surface or even on the surface), to potentially labour-intensive (for example, the roots and rhizomes of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) can grow several feet underground).

I harvested this nettle rhizome at the transition area at the edge of a forest, so the rhizomes where entangle in grasses, which made it more of a labour-intensive experience than it would have been in an open-forest area with few under story plants…oh well. The rhizomes are beautiful and healthy as you can see in the picture.

Note: It is best to wear thick gloves when harvesting nettle rhizome as the tiny aerial portion of next years growth carries the same intense sting as when it is an 8 foot tall plant! I found that out the hard way the first time I harvested it…

I use nettle rhizomes a lot in my practice for inflammatory conditions of the male reproductive tract such as prostatitis and epididymitis. Other herbs I used for this condition are horse chestnut seed (Aesculus hippocastanum), Queen Ann’s lace seed (Daucus carota), Canada goldenrod herb (Solidago canadensis) and even chaste tree fruit (Vitex agnus-castus) as well as others.

Nettle rhizome has many other uses though besides male reproductive issues such as rheumatic conditions, lymphatic congestion, eczema, IBS, immune weakness and viral infections.

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