Plants have much to teach us; they have served as inspiration for artists, thinkers, and writers for thousands of years. Take the quote above from celebrated French author Victor Hugo. In the nettle, Hugo sees the reflection of an important human truth: the importance of compassion, and the need for us to truly see others for their dignity and their value, no matter what.
Hugo’s choice to feature the nettle is a potent one. Anyone who has ever felt the nettle’s sting knows that these plants are the very definition of prickly: they require gentle handling and respect, or they can impart a painful rash that lingers for hours. However, nettles are one of our very favorite plants – their wellness benefits are well known by herbalists. Supportive of joint health and traditionally used in spring tonics, nettles are great friends to plant people everywhere.*
Even a plant that appears fierce at first glance can offer some helpful qualities if you take the time to seek them out. (We even see the good side of poison ivy – it helps to protect sensitive habitats that need renewal, keeping intruders out.) There are many misunderstood plants out there – and many misunderstood people, too, of course. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that we use the phrase “turning over a new leaf” to describe the process of seeking out our best selves.
With compassion and patience, we can recognize the good in everyone – even ourselves. There’s always time to begin creating a better self and drawing out the positive aspects inside us all (whether they’re easily apparent or buried under a layer of thorns). Taking care of our health is one way to start. And plants are an important part of that – even the prickly ones.