The Medicine and The Magic: Stinging Nettle | The Herb That Fueled Julius Caesar and The Roman Army
GENERAL EFFECT: Energizing, nutritive
HOW TO USE HER: Nettle makes a delicious pesto, but I most often drink her as an overnight tea, infusion
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Urtica dioica
Did you know the great queen of ancient Egypt, Cleopatra bore the children of 2 great Roman heads of state: Julius Caesar and his successor Mark Antony. It’s a big deal, Cleopatra was that powerful a seductress and leader that she powerfully combined her presence with politics and folded under her wing leaders from the greatest civilization at the time, Rome. The only other woman in modern history to have wed two presidents or heads of state in her lifetime was Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela's third wife. Nevertheless, Roman soldiers were known for their strength, strategy, and might. Legend has it that this, the world’s strongest army at the time, including Julius Caesar and his men would carry with them to battle pockets of Stinging Nettle. Here is the story of this herb’s medicine and magic.
If Earth is the Mother from whence we came, Nettle is her milk. In fact, the flavor of a Nettle tea, due to it’s high concentration of calcium, “has been described as akin to milk or mother’s milk” (1). So abundant in vitamins, chlorophyll, antioxidants and minerals is this staple amongst western herbalists, that taking Nettles as tea can be thought of as a multivitamin in a cup (2). Nettle is rich in chlorophyll - chlorophyll is identical in molecular structure to the structure of our red blood cells except where chlorophyll carries magnesium, hemoglobin that makes up our blood, is an element off, carrying iron instead. Regardless, chlorophyll is thought to be the blood of plants, drink or eat plants rich in chlorophyll and it will support and build rich and healthy blood within you too.
As much as a mother is nutritive, she is also protective - evidence of Nettle’s magic.
Nettle is filled with nutritive vitamins and chlorophyll, but her leaves are surrounded by stinging silica that will kiss your skin with welts if you are not careful - that is why she is known as ‘Stinging Nettle’. To access her goodness boil or dry Nettle and the protective and stinging silica around her will grow obsolete and will no longer sting.
She is a strong one, the world has known this. Roman soldiers including Julius Caesar’s army would carry Nettle to battle for protection and to wake themselves up when they needed strength; “A Nettle’s sting stimulates blood flow and is so awakening that it has become legend; In William Camden’s Britannia, it is revealed that Julius Caesar and the Romans carried with them Nettles to Great Britain during the Gallic Wars so that they could, “sting their legs awake when they went numb from the cold climate of England” (3). Even Hungarian lore explains that if you carry a Nettle leaf with you, you will be protected from such things as lightning strikes. (4).
Tote Nettle with you when you need strength, for as her magic goes, she will protect you.