Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Seasonal Allergy Tips with Nettle

My 10-year-old son has increasing problems with seasonal allergies — we brace ourselves as spring comes with its pollen because this kid really reacts. Last year we kept him comfortable with over-the-counter medications, local honey, regular elderflower tea, lavender oil in a nebulizer/diffuser concoction as he sleeps, and a chest rub of lavender and eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil. The remedies helped keep him comfortable but he still needed a small dose of allergy medication, nearly daily.
With each year we have added some new tools to the arsenal but it has felt impossible to stay in front of the problem, until now.
As of April 8, he has had allergy medicine twice. When he would normally be taking a small dose each evening he has only had medicine on severe pollen days (and he played outside to boot on those days, tempting fate apparently and unaware of the pollen count).
This season’s addition has been near-miraculous for him: nettle leaf.
(Updated a year later to report that he used medication three times last season and this year, in a challenging year for allergies, he has remained medication-free.)
By “nettle leaf,” I do mean the stuff with the stinging hairs that leaves an itchy rash on your skin for a few days.

You can definitely buy nettle dried online but we have been consuming so much this season that we have harvested it in great quantities locally. We have had it in soups and infusions several times a week for the past two months. We gathered enough to save three gallons packed of dried leaves and 28 quart-sized baggies of blanched and frozen nettle for soup.
We have hauled nettle infusions on trips for allergy relief and packed soup in my son’s lunch, all for a kid who will eat nothing else green. He consumes nettle because his relief is near-immediate. Last week an attack came on and his eye began to look like he had a shiner. I tried to capture his agony in a photo and the relief one hour later, after 1/2 cup (~ 4 oz) of nettle soup. The pictures aren’t the greatest and his eye was not as bad as it can get, but we caught the allergy attack in time, threw some nettle at it, and Frederick went on with the rest of his day like a normal 10-year-old.
Our two key tools are nettle soup and nettle infusions, both cooked to neutralize the stinging property of the nettle leaf. We have a standard nettle soup recipe (here) but it can be seasoned in many ways for variety. We do use fresh or frozen nettle but my mom promises to develop a soup recipe using dried nettle that you can purchase online. In the meantime, experiment with dried nettle in soups — just rehydrate it in your cooking process.
We also make strong infusions with nettle stems and leaves that are left over from our nettle foraging and processing but you can use fresh or dry nettle. Place it in a pot with boiling water, turn off the heat, cover and let it sit overnight or for up to 24 hours. Strain out the liquid — that liquid is your infusion. We make a very strong infusion because of the quantity of nettle we have, so strong that we add citrus juice and a sweetener to cover the grassy taste. Experiment with what works for you in terms of flavor and concentration. A cup of soup or infusion brings near-immediate relief to my son but each cup we make may be stronger than what you end up cooking up in your own kitchen. You may need to experiment a bit to find what works best for you.
The rest of the household gets a nice energy boost from nettle as well. It’s really a no-lose situation and is now a key part of our spring time regimen.

Buy nettle online: For the quantity of nettle you will want to experiment with, we recommend buying it in bulk.

First Published on Fresh Bites

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