People who are forgetful against their wishes should take stinging nettles and pulverize them, add olive oil, and rub their chest and temples energetically when going to bed; this they should repeat and their forgetfulness will decrease. The pungent warmth of the stinging nettles and the warmth of the olive oil stimulate the constricted vessels of the chest and temples, which sleep a little by waking consciousness.
(Causae et Curae 195, 13)
They look like a generic leafy stream-bank plant. They grow among clusters of flowers. They will sneak up on you by hiding in plain sight – even when you look at them and think “oh hey, that’s a nettle” somehow it doesn’t sink in that you’re about to put your hand into a stinging pit of discomfort as you reach for a dandelion. Perhaps it was because I’d never seen so many in one place (the whole bank of the Nahe river I was walking along was covered in them), or perhaps it was because I’m on a different continent, or perhaps it was because I was preoccupied with thoughts about neumes, but I didn’t think twice about our friend the nettle and reached for that fluffy golden dandelion.
Hildegard was certainly right about the nettle’s stimulating properties.
Today they are used in the treatment of arthritis, as a general tonic for the skin, hair, and internal organs, and to rejuvenate exhausted adrenals. They’ve also been used as a folk remedy to stimulate muscles exhausted from long journeys on foot – but that involves basically getting stung on purpose. High in vitamins A, C, potassium, manganese, and calcium, nettles can also be a valuable source of nutrition in the leafy-green department. Supposedly they taste a bit like spinach when they’re boiled.
I don’t know about making a “memory oil” with them, but they were certainly quick to remind me that nettles are NETTLES.
Thank you for keeping me alert and honest, little plant.