The Ubiquitous Healthful, Horticultural, Culinary, and Other Uses of Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle Characteristics
The Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a perennial flowering herb native to mild, damp climates in Europe, North America, Asia, and northern Africa. In North America, it’s readily available in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. It can grow up to 7 feet tall, with leaves up to 6 inches long. The leaves are serrated and covered with small hairs whose tips come off when touched, causing pain, stinging, itching, and numbness. The stems of the Stinging Nettle also contain these small, needle-like hairs. The sensations caused by the sting can disappear within minutes, or last up to a week.

Nettles prefer full sun, and a slightly damp soil rich in nitrogen. For eating purposes, they are best when young and tender. For medicinal purposes, the herb should be harvested when the flowers are in bloom between June and September. Because of their stinging properties, you should wear long gloves to harvest. When cooked, nettles taste similar to spinach. When cooked and/or dried, Stinging Nettles lose their stinging properties, and are therefore useful for many purposes. You can also eat nettles raw. However, you must be careful to get them into your mouth without touching your lips or surrounding tissue. Once in your mouth, your saliva breaks down the stinging properties.

Fun, Historical Uses of Stinging Nettle

• Caesar’s troops brought Stinging Nettle to England, and used its spines for urtification.
• Burial shrouds made of nettle fabrics that date back to the Bronze Age have been discovered in Denmark.
• Hippocrates (460-377 B.C) wrote of 61 ailments remedied by Stinging Nettle.
• When the Germans ran short on cotton during WWI, they used nettles as a substitute.

Sources: http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/19/34056/health-benefits-stinging-nettle.html; http://www.herballegacy.com/Vance_History.html

Health Benefits
The health benefits of Stinging Nettle are ubiquitous. It is often used in treatment for arthritis and gout, allergies, asthma, eczema, diarrhea and other colon disorders, kidney and urinary problems, enlarged prostate, cystitis, nephritis, anemia, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and brittle hair and nails.

In addition, it’s often used as diuretic, expectorant, pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and general tonic.

Stinging Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Vitamin E, iron, iodine, magnesium, potassium, chromium, copper, zinc, and silica.

Stinging Nettle is often available in health food stores as an extract, in capsules, and sometimes as dried leaves. To use Stinging Nettle to treat any medical condition, consult your doctor first. Often, it is not recommended for children or pregnant women, or people who take blood thinners, such as aspirin.

Other Uses
Stinging Nettles are an effective aphid destroyer. Soak nettles in water for 7-10 days. Dilute if necessary, then spray on plants.

The crushed, dried leaves diluted with water will help keep your roses from getting black spot, a type of fungus.

Nettle leaves provide almost all vegetable crops with essential nutrients. Add a handful to the earth while planting your next garden.

Though coarser than many textiles, nettles make great fibres, and grow easily without pesticides.

Nettles produce a yellow to yellow-green substance that is useful in dye-making.

Recipes

Stinging Nettle Tea
Steep 1 tsp. dried nettle leaves in an 8 oz. mug of hot water for 2-3 minutes. Add honey if desired.

Stinging Nettle Pesto
via Gourmet Sleuth

Nettle Soup
via The Kitchn

Further Reading

“How to Pick Stinging Nettles Without Gloves”

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