Nettle: More Than a Galactagogue
Nettle is a galactagogue, an herb that supports breast milk supply for nursing mothers. Nettle is believed to support lactation by providing essential nutrients. It is one of the most nutritious of the spring greens, containing high levels of vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, folic acid, B vitamins, vitamin K, and essential amino acids. In addition, Nettle has some of the highest calcium levels when compared to other herbs, which allows for it to be a great tonic for the bones of breastfeeding mothers.
The powers of nettle go beyond supporting breastmilk supply. Medically, the use of nettle can be dated back to ancient Greece, as it was used to treat coughs, tuberculosis, and arthritis. Bandages soaked in nettle leaves were often used to heal wounds after battles or burns to the skin. Cooked nettle leaves can be eaten as a vegetable, prepared in a variety of dishes. We have even heard it is great in lasagna, stay tuned for a recipe! Some herbalists even mention it is a natural aid to healthy weight management and diet due to its nutritional contents.
Nettle supports our health and is often consumed in a tea blend to help with menstruation, reducing heavier flows, and uterine hemorrhaging. The iron, along with vitamin C, helps to reverse anemia and the root can be used to reverse high blood pressure. The herb relaxes blood vessels and opens potassium channels, it increases the strength of heart muscle contractions, pumping blood throughout the body. By infusing the leaves and creating a tincture of the herb, it has been used to reduce blood sugar levels, while supporting the kidney, liver, and adrenals.
Otherwise known as stinging nettle or just plain “ouch”, this herb can cause pain to the bare hands of its harvester. The underside of nettle leaves are covered in thousands of tiny, hollow, needle-like hairs that contain a combination of antigenic proteins and formic acid. Formic acid is what red ants use when they bite, causing that awful stinging feeling. When contacted with sudden force, the little hairs break off and the remaining hair becomes a small needle, injecting its contents while causing a burning rash that can last up to an hour. “Ouch” – is a well-deserved nickname.
Reaching up to 6 feet tall, nettle can thrive in a variety of environments, although it does prefer partially shady or sunny, moist soil. When harvesting for seeds in the late summer, cut the flower tops off and hang the leaves upside down, allowing the seeds to fall as they dry out. However, its leaves are best harvested before flowering – but be sure to wear gloves!
If you are using nettle to support your breastmilk supply, the recommended method of taking the herb is in an herbal tincture. This herb works well with other galactagogues, and will usually not be found as a single herb dosage. It is common to find nettle with fenugreek, fennel, goat’s rue and blessed thistle. Nettle can be found in Motherlove’s herbal supplements, supporting breast milk supply, naturally.