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02 August 2009

Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioicia)

So, I begin with my great green ally Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioicia).

Notice I included the Latin name (above) - why do weeds have Latin names? Think about that one for starters. Consider your definition of a weed. People can be weeds, too. Ask Hitler or Margaret Sanger. Ask Dick Cheney - he knows a lot about what he considers human weeds and what we do to them. The list goes on and on.

We also live in a society that craves elitism. The (Donald) Trumping of America. First class, gated communities - I am somebody, can't you see by my clothes or my car or the way people treat me? My great wealth and power are my validation. I will show you what is truly important and valuable. You will want what I am.

Weeds are not elite, neither is healing. Michael Jackson spent 150K a month on his private physician -- how many of us could afford that elite level of health care?

Obama supposedly wants health care for everyone, but what are we (ok, you) putting your trust in? You can't trust a weed can you? Does a weed have more access to the energy/information that heals than your doctor? I'm perhaps questioning the content that would be delivered in a Government Health care system - that goes beyond the basic question of whether or not a Government can or should provide health care - which, unfortunately, seems to be where the focus of the debate has stuck. I realize I need to be careful here because I do not want to be drawn into the same category as so many who oppose Obama's health care initiative for very different reasons.

If weeds could only talk -- oh, that's right, they can. The word weed has evolved to a more pejorative meaning -- it used to mean just grass or herb, now it is imposing it's will on our gardens or lawns, invasive, taking over, not clean or safe or controllable. Something to be dealt with harshly. As a modern day human, believer only in science and technology, I'll decide what/who lives and dies. I am a master abortionist - god-like in my insanity.

Nettle is a great weed to start with. Just get to know that one weed and your life will change. I have had a deep and long relationship with Nettle. We have been intimate many times. It is definitely tough love. Nettle is in my blood now, green and dark. Nettle grows really fast, great at taking energy out of the universe and shaping it into the material world. Hmm, which organs do that? Kidneys and lungs for starters -- liver maybe -- blood is pretty important to that process -- could Nettle help my kidneys and lungs? Strengthen and build my blood? My immune system? Help me breathe better? What's the stinging about? Touch it and find out! Touch it hard and less/no pain; try to be gentle and you'll get zapped worse. Stand up for yourself. Why are you sneaking around like a mouse -- maybe you're a lion instead? Only one way to find out. Get your head out of your ass and look around.

Nettle is about fast, quick observation, sensory perceptions: let's have fun with your nervous system while we're at it. Is pain bad? Can pain be pleasurable? How's that possible? Can I breathe through pain and transform it into something else? Can I use my pain for something other than mere misery? Can I dance with pain? Does it hurt less if I'm flowing with it, flowing into it, letting it move through me instead of sticking somewhere? What are all these perceptions but signals anyway? Why do we attach emotions to these signals? Why not learn from them instead? They are just energy, usually hurts more when stuck -- let it out. Scream or cry! There's the trick to living and Nettle will teach you. Easy to say not so easy to do. So much more on Nettle to come.


  1. M. Bonagura - I read a notice about your weed blog at my cousin Jeff Ford's 'Ditch' blog.

    As another longtime fan and student of weeds, I look forward to seeing what you have to say. My familiarity with Stinging Nettles is of fairly recent vintage. I am trying to learn the rudiments of biodynamic growing, a somewhat arcane group of chemical-free and poisonless practices outlined by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, well in advance of the organic growing movement.

    Steiner included instructions for making several specific plant preparations to be stirred into water and then sprayed on the plants or added into the compost heap. Stinging Nettle is one of those plants, and over the last few years I have cultivated a healthy little patch which stings me whenever it sees an opportunity.

    I pulled enough shoots from it early this spring to send to another biodynamic grower friend, that he was able to start 250 nettle plants from the material. I did it bare-handed and my hands burned for days - a not unpleasant sort of feeling, just very unusual and different from the brush-against-it stinging sensation.

    This spring I also enjoyed a few Nettle omelettes and fritatas, and have a bunch hanging in the dining room for use later as a dried addition to soups, etc.


  2. Hey Dylan,
    Do you find that as you become more exposed, the reaction time of being stung goes down? If I get stung now, the pain and stinging only last a few minutes.Have your ever tried nettle infusions? That's a great way to use the plant. You only need some dried herb, a mason jar and boiling water. I've also heard of nettle beer though I haven't made it myself. You can use the fresh nettle for soup as well; the soup is great, it tastes like seafood soup though there's no fish in it! Does the solution of nettle sprayed on the plants keep the insects away? That's really interesting!

  3. Marc - It hadn't occurred to me but now that you mention it, I suppose the duration of sting has diminished. I certainly don't much care about getting stung anymore, having survived so many brushes without tears.

    According to folks who lay claim to way more insight into Steiner's difficult teachings than I can (and among whom I have found precious little agreement about almost anything), the nettle preparation is added to the compost pile (or sprayed on crops) to (for one thing) help with the Plants 'form'.

    The sting of the nettle is a function of formic acid. Formic acid is also responsible for the sting of bees, wasps, ants, etc. It is also responsible for the lovely scent of Lemon Balm, which you may have noticed is very similar to the smell of a disturbed red ant nest.

    Biodynamic practitioners believe that, aside from their other important functions, bees and ants are indispenible agriculture partners because they spread formic acid into the soil and atmosphere, which allows the plant to fully develop to its greatest potential within its species specific archetype.

    I think.

    Obviously I'm new to all this, and a fairly lazy and disorganized student. Any rate, it is my understanding that the nettle prep works along these lines, and that another value of encouraging nettles is soil cleansing, balancing, and rejuvenation.

    There is a semi-cheesy old horror flick called "THEM" about nasty giant ants. The little girl who is the only survivor of the initial ant attack is in shock, and unresponsive, until she happens past an open bottle clearly marked "FORMIC ACID", at which point she goes batshit (or perhaps more accurately, 'antshit')and starts pointing and shouting "Them! Them!

    This traumatized little girl had clearly lost any hope of developing into a proficient biodynamic grower.

    One well-known and successful biodynamic farmer is a New Zealand man named Peter Proctor, who authored a book called "Grasp The Nettle". There is a great documentary about him and his current work in India, called "One Man, One Cow, One Planet, How To Save The World". I highly recommend this film to everyone. A trailor for it may be seen here:



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