Note: The Clinic Memoirs are based on real experiences from Occupy Medical clinic, a free, integrated health clinic that serves patients primarily, but not exclusively, in Lane County, Oregon since 2011. The names of the patients and a few personal details are changed to protect patient identity.

Nettle: A Clinical Memoir

I knew the herb that Gale needed the minute she stepped into the clinic. Her skin was pale. She has dark circles under her eyes. She looked too weary for a woman of 20. Gale was petite in frame and weight. She had short reddish hair and pale skin that hinted of Irish descent. She said that she thought she was allergic to milk because it upset her stomach but was used to eating foods that are heavy in dairy products.

Gale’s primary complaint was allergies. She told me she seemed to be allergic to everything. She got hives regularly. She sneezed. She coughed. She had trouble going to sleep. She was miserable. If she took over-the-counter antihistamines, she fell asleep. She need to work a full day and get good sleep at night.

Nettle is the first herb that our herbalist team reaches for when treating allergies. It is not a decongestant. It fortifies our bodies so that we have the strength to fight off the allergy problems ourselves. Nettle pairs well with plantain, a natural anthistamine that is the perfect ally for those with hives.

To help Gale treat her sinus congestion, I suggested another ally: yarrow. I told her how to do a facial steam with herbs and recommended doing one every night. The selling point was the price. Yarrow is cheap to buy in the bulk section of any of our local health food stores. She can buy it on food stamps at the same time that she was buying nettle.

Nettle’s high iron content would easily take care of her anemia. If she could discipline herself into taking the tea or the tincture regularly, she would find her energy increasing steadily throughout the week. Giving Gale an over-the-counter decongestant would only make her more tired, more weary. Nettle energizes. Vitality was what this young woman really craved.

We talked about dietary changes that she could incorporate into her busy lifestyle. She agreed to switching from candy to raisins and nuts as a snack to carry in her purse. She had a few iron and vitamin C rich foods that she used to cook for herself that just dropped off her list  when she changed jobs. She agreed to go in for the blood test her doctor had suggested to see how her iron levels really sat at. Until then, the healthy foods would be a good change.

We talked about other life changes she could make but she looked weary. We agreed to start with this dietary change first. Replacing the milk products with diary-free items was a change she had considered doing before  We could talk about the others in later visits. After she got her confidence up with this first change, the other ones would come easier.

I gave Gale a bottle of nettle/plantain tincture to take home. She opened it up and admired the deep green color in the dropper tube. She smiled and put a few drops on her tongue.

“Not bad”, she said nodding in approval, “I could get used to this.”

I wouldn’t doubt it for a minute.