Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Other common names: Common nettle

nettle

Diagram courtesy of Zsoldos Márton / Wikimedia Commons

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Family: Urticaceae

Actions: Nutritive, overall tonic, immune booster, antimicrobial, antihistamine, anti-cancer, hemetic, lymphatic cleanser, alterative, detoxifier, kidney cleanser, antilithic,  rubefacient, liver stimulant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory

Harvest: Harvest just before flowers open, ideally. This is usually in May or June.

Part used: Leaves

Constituents: Mucilage, formic acid, iron, carbonic acid, lignans, carotenoids, monoterpenoids, plant sterols, quercetin, phenolic compounds, fibre, ash, protein, polyphenolic acids, niacin, riboflavin, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, chromium, silica, amino acids, potassium, sulfur, copper, selenium, zinc, iron, and magnesium, among others.

Indications:

Nettle

Photo courtesy of Uwe H. Friese, Bremerhaven 2003 / Wikimedia Commons

All-round tonic for all body systems, used for preventing and treating seasonal allergies, useful for those who have been sick for a long period, have a compromised immune system or are lacking nutrition. Including nettles in one’s diet can help prevent cancer and other illnesses. Also useful for treating chronic disorders, anemia, fatigue, arthritis, gout, enlarged prostate, bleeding, PMS, hormone balance, fluid/urine retention, prevention and treatment of kidney and gallstones (under the guidance of a doctor if stones already exist), and assisting in cleanses.

Medicinal preparations:

Internal

There is an old saying among herbalists…”when in doubt, give nettles,” because it has qualities that benefit almost any condition.

Nettle leaves can be infused in a tea, tinctured, or even stewed and eaten in culinary dishes. The leaves need to be blanched, dried or steeped in alcohol first to get rid of the “sting” from the formic acid.

External

Applying the fresh leaves (while somewhat painful) can draw bloodflow to the area, which is helpful for swollen and injured areas. Do not apply fresh leaves to children or the elderly, or to open wounds. A gentler approach is to blanch the leaves to remove the formic acid, and apply them as a poultice. You can also use the tea or tincture as a hair rinse or a wash for wounds.

Contraindications:

nettle stalk

Photo courtesy of Randy A. Nonenmacher / Wikimedia Commons

While nettle is safe (and even beneficial) in most cases, it is advisable to consult with a doctor before use during pregnancy. Talk to a doctor before use if taking pharmaceuticals, or if you already have kidney or gallstones, or an obstructed bile duct.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Energetic/traditional use:

Nettles are a favourite of the Norse god Thor, and it was burned to protect an area from thunder and lightning. Loki is also a fan, using nettle fibres to spin his fishing nets. It played a role in one of the Anansi stories from Western Africa, as well. The German army used to use nettle fibres and pigment to make and dye their uniforms. Romans used to flog themselves with the leaves, and even wore them in their loincloths to encourage blood flow to certain areas…

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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