Urtica dioica (L)

Family Urticaceae
Genus Urtica
Species dioica

Synonyms and Common names: Urticae herba, Urticae radix, Stinging nettle, Common Nettle.

Description and Habitat:  Stinging Nettle, belonging to the genus Urtica (the name derived from the Latin, uro, to burn), known to everyone for their distinctive shaped leaves carrying serotonin, histamine and formic acid, a brush with the leaves of this herb results in inflammation and irritation which can last for a couple of days. Its white spring flowers are incomplete: the male or barren flowers have stamens only, and the female or fertile flowers have only pistil or seed-producing organs. Sometimes these different kinds of flowers are to be found on one plant; but usually, a plant will bear either male or female flowers throughout, hence the specific name of the plant, dioica, which means 'two houses.'

Nettles can be found almost anywhere, but they thrive best in soil rich in nitrogen, although any fertile, land in river valleys and woodland glades, or roadside is a favourite, the young shoots are susceptible to frost.

Parts used: the aerial parts of the herb are used

Collection and preparation: The herb should be collected when the flowers are in bloom, preferable just as they are beginning to open. Only cut the tender new growth at the top of the herb. Dry the herb in a dark warm place and keep away from sunlight, preferably in a dark cupboard.

Constituents: Histamine, formic acid, chlorophyll, glucoquinine, iron, potassium, calcium and silica and vitamin C.

Actions: Astringent, diuretic, tonic, altaerative, rubefacient.

Indications: Asthma, Iodine deficiency disorder, kidney disorders, lung health, rhinitis, thyroid disorders, urinary tract infections and inflammation.

Therapeutics:  Nettles are one of the most widely applicable plants we have. They strengthen and support the whole body. They are specific in cases of childhood eczema and beneficial in all the varieties of this condition, especially in nervous eczema.

As an astringent, they may be used for
Nettle is anti-asthmatic: the juice of the roots or leaves, mixed with honey or sugar, will relieve bronchial and asthmatic troubles and the dried leaves, burnt and inhaled, will have the same effect.
An infusion of nettle added to a final rinse on the hair will provide an excellent hair tonic and will help stop falling hair and dry scalp.
A poultice made from nettle and placed upon haemorrhoids will give relief and lessen swellings.
In spring when nettles are in flower they can be used as a ‘spring clean’ for the body, a tea made from equal parts of nettles and cleavers (Galium aparine), taken as a tea three cups a day over several weeks, will cleanse the system, skin, digestion and lift the spirits after winter.
For stiffness and osteoarthritis rub the affected joints with fresh nettle leaves.
Make a compress as a treatment for burns.
The infused oil is useful for inflamed psoriasis
Take fresh nettle juice for anaemia or mineral deficiency with lethargy and pallor.
Drink nettle tea to relieve heavy menstrual bleeding.
Nettle juice or tea is a useful drink during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Take an infusion for nettle rash, allergic reactions to shellfish, strawberries etc.

Contraindications: There are no known contraindications to using nettle.

Preparation and dosage:

Infusion: Pour a cup of billing water onto 1 to 3 teaspoonsful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes, taken three times a day.

Tincture: Take 1 to 4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Folklore and additional comments: Nettle makes delicious and nutritious food, not unlike spinach and can be treated in the same way, the sting in the nettle leaf is destroyed by heat so cooking the herb makes it very palatable. Again the nettle tips are the best to use.

If planted in the neighbourhood of beehives, it is said the Nettle will drive away frogs.  A decoction of Nettle yields a beautiful and permanent green dye, which is used for woollen stuff in Russia: the roots, boiled with alum, produce a yellow colour, which was formerly widely used

Nettle fibre was made into clothing as long ago as the Bronze age, often being used as a burial shroud.

Arthritic joints were sometimes treated by whipping the joint with a branch of stinging nettles. the theory was that it stimulated the adrenals and thus reduced swelling and pain in the joint.  Nettles are reputed to enhance fertility in men, and fever could be dispelled by plucking a nettle up by its roots while reciting the names of the sick man and also the names of his family.

If nettle is gripped firmly in the hand it won’t sting, the hairs that sting will be crushed thus removing the sting.

In the highlands and islands of Scotland, it was believed that nettles grew from the bodies of the dead, as they would still be growing strong long after people had left the land.  And it was believed in Denmark that clumps of nettles grew on the blood that was shed of innocent victims.  Nettle was also called the devil"s claw/devil"s plaything, and were thought to mark the living place of elves.

Roman soldiers were said to have brought their nettle north with them and used it to rub their skin to keep out the cold.

Strangely enough nettle juice is an antidote to nettle stings, soothing and calming the inflammation that the sting causes in the first place!