Next month the bright green nettles will burst from the ground. Spring will arrive and the abundant world of wild edibles will begin anew.
Until then, I have stores of dried plants and herbs to use up. One of my favorite winter drinks is nettle infusion.
Tea, Infusion, Decoction - what’s the difference?
When we think of tea we probably think of a tea bag which turns hot water brown and delicious. In fact, “tea” is a term properly used only when making the tea from one plant, the tea plant, or Camellia sinensis. Depending on how it is prepared, if it is wilted and how long it is oxidized or fermented, depends on whether it will be white, green, oolong or black tea.
Today we also drink herbal tea, which though technically is not “tea” since it is made with plants other than Camellia sinensis, is still plants steeped in water, which imparts flavor and medicinal properties into the drink.
Infusions and Decoctions are stronger medicinal drinks. They take a bit more work to make and are deeply healing.
Infusions: boiling water is poured over plant matter - usually leaves and flowers. It is then covered and left to steep at least four hours if not overnight.
Decoctions: plant matter - often roots, sticks and seeds - is simmered in water on the stove for at least 30 minutes. Chinese medicinal tea is usually cooked as a decoction, with any aromatic elements - like mint leaves - added at the very end, when the stove is turned off.
Nettle Infusion - Urtica dioica
- Take a quart jar and cover the bottom with about 1/2 inch of dried nettles.
- Pour boiled water over the nettles to fill the jar
- Place the flat part of the lid over the top. I don’t screw the ring on, but I do cover the jar.
- Let steep four hours to overnight.
- Strain and enjoy, either heated or at room temperature.
- Will keep for 3 days stored in refrigerator.
Nettles is a fantastic herb for overall health. It is full of vitamins and minerals, including calcium. I have heard herbalist call nettle infusion “green milk.” It is particularly great for pregnant and nursing women, though pregnant women should start in small amounts and may want to consult with their midwife first.
Nettles is also known to influence the kidneys. When there is low back pain, knee pain, weakness, infertility, ringing in the ears, graying hair due to kidney energy deficiency, nettles is a great herb to take.
In Chinese medicine the kidney meridian influences reproduction, development, bones, brain, teeth. It is responsible for the emotions of fear, resolve, will and wisdom. The kidneys also govern pre and post natal jing, which is the energy you inherit from your parents and pass on to your children: your genes and dna.
Food Under Foot’s David Sokulski recently met a man from North Africa living in America. He was in his 20s when he got very sick. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes is the type you are born with. This used to be referred to as Juvenile Diabetes (but now thanks to our awful diets of processed foods and sugar kids are getting Type 2 Diabetes - which used to be called Adult Onset Diabetes.) Type 1 means your body does not make insulin. Only 5% of diabetes today is Type 1, and it is thought that diet does not influence Type 1 the way it influences Type 2.
He was put on insulin. His mother sent him dried nettles from North Africa and told him to drink a daily infusion of it. When he ran out he bought more here. Soon his doctor needed to lower his insulin, then take him off completely. His Type 1 diabetes - thought to be incurable - was no longer showing up.
He continues to drink the nettle infusion. He worked up to three cups a day but developed a rash, so he backed off back to one cup a day.
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT medical advice! Please do not remove or adjust ANY medications without consulting a doctor! It is simply an interesting true story about nettles I wanted to relay to you.
You can also add nettle infusion as a base for smoothies, soups, and risotto.
I also like to add dried nettles to soup and smoothies.
Enjoy your wild pantry! The sun is out today…I can tell spring is in the air!
~ Melissa of Food Under Foot