- Urtica dioica L.
- Nettle family
Common stinging nettle
Great stinging nettle
Parts Usually Used
Description of Plant(s) and
A most potent herb, the many qualities compensating for the stung fingers that inevitably accompany the harvest. The sting is caused by the formic acid in the plant and can be soothed by rubbing the spot with dock leaves (Rumex obtusifolus). Providence, somehow, usually plants the dock alongside the nettle beds. Nettle is like a beast with a heart of gold.
Nettle is a perennial 2-7 feet high: the root is creeping and branching, the plant is clothed in stinging hairs and bears opposite, cordate, deeply serrate, pointed leaves which are downy underneath; heart-shaped, finely toothed leaves and it has a clump of upright, four-angled, 1-2 foot stems are covered with downy hair and with venomous spines; emits an acrid fluid when touched, causing pain. Each spine is a hollow needle filled with venom which is released whenever the plant is brushed. The venom stings like a bee and produces a red rash. The virulent qualities are destroyed by cooking (boiling or steaming) or drying the plant. The small, petal-less, greenish flowers grow in axillary clusters in "tassels", male and female on separate plants; blooms from July to September. Fruits are small nutlets enclosed in dried sepals.
Varieties: Urtica gracilis Ait.; Urticastrum divaricatum L.; Urtica urens L.
The plant U. urens, a dwarf variety, is used interchangeably with U. dioica.
Found on waste land, vacant lots, pastures and in hedges, nettles can be found in plenty. Found all over the world.
Astringent, hemostatic, diuretic, galactagogue (promotes flow of milk), lowers blood sugar levels, expectorant, tonic, nutritive, styptic, rubefacient
Formic acid, silicon, potassium, tannins, glucoquinones, histamine, acerylocholine, serotonin, chlorophyll, carbonic acid, mucilage, magnesium, iron, many minerals and vitamins A, B, and C.
Legends, Myths and Stories
Nine of the 30 species of Urtica are found in the United States and Canada growing wild.
It is an old English custom to drink nettle tea on occasion. This habit was believed to have been brought with the Roman conquerors to the Isles, who used the tea as a bracer in the rigorous climate.
Nettle is often an ingredient in herbal prescriptions. The addition of nettle leaves to Oriental tea in a proportion of 1 part nettle to 3 parts tea, makes a cup of tea well appreciated by the connoisseur. It is said that the flavor is improved if the mixture is stored for some times before using.
A novel use of the nettle plant was as a counter-irritant in rheumatic cases. The afflicted person was "whipped" on the rheumatic joint with whole plants. The idea was that the pain of nettle stings would make the sufferer forget the pain of the rheumatism.
Caesar's troops introduced the Roman nettle (U. pilulifera) into Britain because they thought that they would need to flail themselves with nettles to keep warm.
Nettle rash can be relieved by applying the juice of the leaves themselves, thus taking away the stinging of the nettles.
It is said that if hens are given dry nettles in the winter, broken in small pieces, with their food, they will fatten and increase egg production all winter long. When nettle is cut and allowed to wilt, used as fodder for livestock, it is said to increase the amount of milk produced. In Germany, dried nettle is mixed with feed for thin horses suffering digestive troubles. Horse dealers mixed the nettle seed with oats and other feeds to give the animals a sleek coat. In Egypt, oil from the nettle seeds is used in burning lamps.
The Russians make a beautiful green dye for woolens from the nettle plant. The root boiled with alum makes a yellow dye. The tall stalks yield a stronger and finer fiber than flax. The Germans used this in place of cotton in World War II.
According to an old recipe book, steel dipped in the juice of the nettle becomes flexible.
Widely used to treat rheumatism and poor circulation, but also cures bronchitis, prevents scurvy, reduces the risk of hemorrhage, neuralgia, scrofula, sore throat, sore mouth, sciatica, vaginal yeast infections, anemia, increases milk flow for nursing mothers, lowers blood sugar, joint aches, neuralgia, gout, first stages of dropsy, bee stings, whooping cough, expel worms, and dispels melancholia.
The leaves may be boiled and then eaten like any green vegetable, or else used for an infusion. A decoction may also be made from the root, this is good for dissolving renal (kidney) stones and other internal obstructions. Old herbals say that nettles are useful in weight-reducing diets. Treats tuberculosis, anemia, clorosis, rickets, scrofula, lymphatic problems. A good spring tonic. Boiled leaves applied externally will stop bleeding almost immediately. Externally applied for eczema.
A tincture made of the seeds is recommended for goiter and low thyroid. In raising the thyroid function, it effectively reduces the associated obesity.
The warm tea is used for asthma, hay fever, allergies, colds, fever, grippe, flu, mucous condition of the lungs, pleurisy, leprosy, diarrhea, cholecystitis, dysentery, hemorrhoids, various hemorrhages, scorbutic affections, and mucous in the colon in adults.
Boiling the entire plant in a mixture of vinegar and water, then adding eau de cologne was supposed to produce a good hair lotion. Combing the hair with expressed nettle juice was supposed to stimulate hair growth, bring back the natural color of the hair. Or dip fingers in and thoroughly massage the scalp and it will cure dandruff.
Pulped nettle leaves make a marvelous compress and bring cooling relief when inflammation is present.
Formulas or Dosages
Infusion: steep 2 to 3 tbsp. leaves or plant in 1 cup water for 10 minutes.
Juice: mix with an equal amount of water and take 1 tsp. at a time.
Extract: mix 5 to 10 drops in liquid daily.
Scalp wash: boiled 3 to 4 oz. chopped leaves in 2 cups water and 2 cups vinegar for a short time.
Vitamins A and C, magnesium and iron
Capsules: take 1 to 2 capsules daily. Up to 4 times per day for hayfever (not to exceed 8 capsules per day).
Do not eat uncooked plants, especially old plants uncooked; they can produce kidney damage and symptoms of poisoning.
Handle the plants with care.
The bristly hairs of the nettle plant act like a tiny hypodermic needles, injecting an irritant substance under the skin when touched: handle with care.