Other Names: Stinging Nettle, Nettle Leaves, Common Nettle, Beggar’s Lice
Habitat: Everywhere! Temperate regions throughout the world, including Britain.Waste ground, hedgerows, woods etc, preferring a rich soil and avoiding acid soils.
The leaves of the plants have stinging hairs, causing irritation to the skin. This action is neutralized by heat or by thorough drying, so the cooked leaves are perfectly safe and nutritious. However, only young leaves should be used because older leaves develop gritty particles called cystoliths which act as an irritant to the kidneys. Possible interference with allopathic drugs for diabetes mellitus, hypertension. Central nervous system depression drugs (e.g. morphine, alcohol) may also interact with nettle. Avoid during pregnancy!
Nettles have a long history of use in the home as a herbal medicine and nutritious addition to the diet. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used as a cleansing tonic and blood purifier so the plant is often used in the treatment of hay fever, arthritis, anaemia etc. The whole plant is antiasthmatic, antidandruff, astringent, depurative, diuretic, galactogogue, haemostatic, hypoglycaemic and a stimulating tonic. An infusion of the plant is very valuable in stemming internal bleeding , it is also used to treat anaemia, excessive menstruation, haemorrhoids, arthritis, rheumatism and skin complaints, especially eczema . Externally, the plant is used to treat skin complaints, arthritic pain, gout, sciatica, neuralgia, haemorrhoids, hair problems etc . The fresh leaves of nettles have been rubbed or beaten onto the skin in the treatment of rheumatism etc. This practice, called urtification, causes intense irritation to the skin as it is stung by the nettles. It is believed that this treatment works in two ways. Firstly, it acts as a counter-irritant, bringing more blood to the area to help remove the toxins that cause rheumatism. Secondly, the formic acid from the nettles is believed to have a beneficial effect upon the rheumatic joints. For medicinal purposes, the plant is best harvested in May or June as it is coming into flower and dried for later use . This species merits further study for possible uses against kidney and urinary system ailments. The juice of the nettle can be used as an antidote to stings from the leaves and an infusion of the fresh leaves is healing and soothing as a lotion for burns. The root has been shown to have a beneficial effect upon enlarged prostate glands. A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves. It is used in the treatment of rheumatic gout, nettle rash and chickenpox, externally is applied to bruises. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Urtica dioica Stinging Nettle for rheumatic ailments (internal use of leaf), irrigation therapy, for inflammatory disease of the lower urinary tract and prevention of kidney ‘gravel’ formation, urination difficulty from benign prostatic hyperplasia (root).
Urtica dioica, Nettle is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is not frost tender. It is in leaf 11-Mar It is in flower from May to October, and the seeds ripen from Jun to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
Cultivation of Nettle:
Prefers a soil rich in phosphates and nitrogen. Plants must be grown in a deep rich soil if good quality fibre is required. Nettles are one of the most undervalued of economic plants. They have a wide range of uses, for food, medicines, fibres etc and are also a very important plant for wildlife. There are at least 30 species of insects that feed on it and the caterpillars of several lepidoptera species are dependant upon it for food. Especially when growing in rich soils, the plant can spread vigorously and is very difficult to eradicate. It is said that cutting the plant down three times a year for three years will kill it. It is a good companion plant to grow in the orchard and amongst soft fruit. So long as it is not allowed to totally over-run the plants, it seems to improve the health of soft fruit that grows nearby and also to protect the fruit from birds, but it makes harvesting very difficult. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Propagation of Nettle:
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame, only just covering the seed. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and plant them out in the summer. Division succeeds at almost any time in the growing season. Very easy, plant them straight out into their permanent positions.
Collection: The herb should be collected when the flowers are in bloom.
Culinary uses of Nettle:
Edible Parts: Leaves, Oil.
Edible Uses: Colouring, Curdling agent, Drink, Oil.
Young leaves – cooked as a potherb and added to soups etc. They can also be dried for winter use[. Nettles are a very valuable addition to the diet, they are a very nutritious food that is easily digested and is high in minerals (especially iron) and vitamins (especially A and C). Only use young leaves (see the notes above on toxicity) and wear stout gloves when harvesting them to prevent being stung. Cooking the leaves, or thoroughly drying them, neutralizes the sting, rendering the leaf safe to eat. The young shoots, harvested in the spring when 15 – 20cm long complete with the underground stem are very nice. Old leaves can be laxative. The plants are harvested commercially for extraction of the chlorophyll, which is used as a green colouring agent (E140) in foods and medicines. A tea is made from the dried leaves, it is warming on a winters day. A bland flavour, it can be added as a tonic to China tea. The juice of the leaves, or a decoction of the herb, can be used as a rennet substitute in curdling plant milks. Nettle beer is brewed from the young shoots.
Actions: Astringent, diuretic, tonic, hypotensive.
Part Used: Aerial parts.
Indications: Nettles are one of the most widely applicable plants we have. They strengthen and support the whole body. Throughout Europe they are used as a spring tonic and general detoxifying remedy. In some cases of rheumatism and arthritis they can be astoundingly successful.They are a 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 nose bleeds or to relieve the symptoms wherever there is haemorrhage in the body, for example in uterine haemorrhage.
King’s Dispensatory gives these specific indications and uses: “Chronic diarrhoea and dysentary, with large mucous evacuations; profuse secretions of gastric juice, with eructations and emesis; choleraic discharges; summer bowel diseases of children, with copious watery and mucous passages; chronic eczematous eruptions.” Conditions that benefit from its use include: diarrhoea,dysentery, hemorrhoids, hemorrhages, febrile affections, gravel, nephritic complaints, chronic diseases of the colon, eczematous affections, eczema of the face, neck and ears, chronic cystitis.
Combinations: Nettles will combine well with Figwort and Burdock in thetreatment of eczema.
Preparations & Dosage of Nettle:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-3 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Other uses of Nettle:
Biomass, Compost, Dye, Fibre, Hair, Liquid feed, Oil, Repellent, Waterproofing.
A strong flax-like fibre is obtained from the stems. Used for making string and cloth, it also makes a good quality paper. It is harvested as the plant begins to die down in early autumn and is retted before the fibres are extracted. The fibre is produced in less abundance than from flax (Linun usitatissimum) and is also more difficult to extract. The plant matter left over after the fibres have been extracted are a good source of biomass and have been used in the manufacture of sugar, starch, protein and ethyl alcohol. An oil obtained from the seeds is used as an illuminant. An essential ingredient of ‘QR’ herbal compost activator. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost. The leaves are also an excellent addition to the compost heap and they can be soaked for 7 – 21 days in water to make a very nutritious liquid feed for plants. This liquid feed is both insect repellent and a good foliar feed. The growing plant increases the essential oil content of other nearby plants, thus making them more resistant to insect pests. Although many different species of insects feed on nettles, flies are repelled by the plant so a bunch of freshly cut stems has been used as a repellent in food cupboards. The juice of the plant, or a decoction formed by boiling the herb in a strong solution of salt, will curdle milks and thus acts as a rennet substitute. This same juice, if rubbed into small seams of leaky wooden tubs, will coagulate and make the tub watertight again. A hair wash is made from the infused leaves and this is used as a tonic and anti-dandruff treatment. A beautiful and permanent green dye is obtained from a decoction of the leaves and stems. A yellow dye is obtained from the root when boiled with alum.
Magickal uses include dispelling darkness & fear, strengthening the will, and aiding in the ability to handle emergencies. Sprinkle in the home to drive off evil & negativity. Carry in a sachet or use with a poppet to turn back a spell on the one who cast it. Sprinkle on self to remove petty jealousies, gossip, envy, and uncomfortable situations.
- Chlorophyll in high yields
- Indoles such ashistamine and serotonin
- Vitamin C and other vitamins, protein and dietary fibre.
Citations from the Medline database for the genus Urtica
NettlesBarsom S Bettermann AA [Prostatic adenoma. The conservative therapy with urtica extract]
ZFA (Stuttgart) (1979 Nov 30) 55(33):1947-50Czarnetzki BM Thiele T Rosenbach TImmunoreactive leukotrienes in nettle plants (Urtica urens).
Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol (1990) 91(1):43-6Maitai CK Talalaj S Njoroge D Wamugunda R Effect of extract of hairs from the herb Urtica massaica, on smoothmuscle.
Toxicon (1980) 18(2):225-9Mittman P Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in thetreatment of allergic rhinitis.
Planta Med (1990 Feb) 56(1):44-7Wagner H Willer F Kreher B [Biologically active compounds from the aqueous extract of Urticadioica]
Planta Med (1989 Oct) 55(5):452-4