Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Getting to the root of the Nettle

Nettle tea
Several months ago I had a fascinating evening with a trainee intuitive herbalist (i). This is an approach to herbs where the direct experience of the plant is put at the forefront of any learning and healing. It draws on traditional uses and research but also emphasises the importance of the individual herbalists knowledge of and relationship with each plant they work with. 

Intuitive Herbalism website says the approach is about 'relationship, experience and initiation'. They go onto ask questions....What does it mean to come into deep knowing of a plant and its potential for healing through our relationship and experiences with it? At the core of the work is the idea of initiation. What would it mean to be taught by a plant? To be changed by a plant? To let a plant guide you into a deeper understanding of yourself, your health and your healing process? If interested in learning more listen to Stroud's Nathaniel Hughes talking about Intuitive Herbalism in this great podcast: https://youtu.be/f-FxqneDWJo

Beautiful illustration from 'Weeds in the Heart'
All of this was fascinating; slowing down and spending an hour plus just being introduced to nettle roots - those roots that have been carefully dug up and washed ready to make a tea. In candle light we sat in quiet, letting feelings come up, using all my senses to really experience the tea. It felt such a special space to just consider and feel into a relationship with a plant - another part of my brain was saying this is too wacky for words! However there is no doubt that it was a lovely experience.

I learnt more about the plant later. Nettle root is also a lignan like flax and sesame seeds and has been used widely across parts of Europe to treat prostate swelling. It is seen as optimizing and regulating the hormonal system - even adding sex hormones where they are needed and deleting them where they are doing damage.
Nettle root

A blog on Raw Forest Foods suggests: "Nettle Root doesn't do the work for you, but what it does it is assists your own body in finding a healthy harmony….it is able to minimize harmful estrogen metabolites in the body”. See also my blog on oestrogen here (ii).

The Raw Forest Foods blog also argues that in men it "dramatically increases levels of free testosterone, the kind of testosterone that works positively on the body, the mind, the soul”(iii). Indeed amazingly they note that "laboratory studies have demonstrated Nettle Root to be as effective as finasteride (a medication commonly prescribed for BPH) in slowing the growth of certain prostate cells.” Well Finastride was one of the hormones I had in my first hormone treatment. 

Totally beautiful book
There are several studies of particular interest - one published in "Planta Medica” (2000) found nettle root extract inhibited proliferation of human prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. This study suggests like some of my previous blogs on hormones that testosterone and DHT are not the causes of prostate issues, but that prostate issues can actually be resolved when testosterone and DHT are brought back to healthy levels, and conversions of male sex hormones into oestrogen metabolites is blocked.

All that sounds very good; I didn’t start taking the nettle root regularly after I tried it in the candle light as I was still on hormones and about to start radiotherapy. My intuition said wait, but now it feels right. 

To read more about intuitive Herbalism I can strongly recommend the beautiful book, 'Weeds in the Heart' by Nathaniel Hughes and Fiona Owen. There is a chapter on nettles which also looks at the roots. I have had the root as a tea but one of their suggestions is to simmer the roots with milk (non-dairy better) to make a “delicious, nurturing tonic, a fine restorative for those depleted and feeling unsupported, and a native alternative to the ‘Golden Milk’ of Ayurveda (milk simmered with turmeric).” The book also suggests that the root should be taken with "a process of coming deeper into relationship with the prostate through perineal massage and pelvic floor exercise, alongside encouraging a general increase in physical activity.” More of the massage in another blog soon.
“The teachings of Nettle extend beyond the personal, perhaps as far as people. Our abusive relationship with the planet, the wastefulness, exploitation and greed that leads to environmental destruction, is perhaps itself rooted in a deep, unmet need to feel nourished. If we felt satiated and at peace with ourselves, we wouldn’t feel the hunger that fuels the unstoppable momentum of materialism.” Nathaniel Hughes and Fiona Owen

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