Urtica dioica

One spring during an herb walk, I carefully picked a tender new leaf of a stinging nettle. I held it between the pads of my thumb and forefinger so it wouldn’t sting me. I held it up and said to the class, this is a stinging nettle plant. Notice how its leaves resemble the leaves of the spearmint.”

A girl back in the group had only heard the word spearmint. She walked up, snatched the stinging nettle leaf out of my fingers. She said, “Spearmint,” as she rubbed the nettle leaf under her nose. “It doesn’t smell like spearmint to me.” In less than a heart beat, she knew it wasn’t spearmint. She started to holler and cry and jump around. I immediately looked around for a plant that would act as an antidote. Less than ten feet away was a mullein plant. I grabbed a mullein leaf and rubbed it in, under, and around her nose. Very soon she stopped crying and things got back to normal.

The stinging nettle is found the world over. It is usually found in damp ground streams and in waste places.

The history of stinging nettle goes back to the time of the Roman Empire. It is said that the Roman soldiers took the seeds wherever they traveled. They used the nettle as a medicine. Most everyone knows what a stinging nettle looks like, although more people know the plant by its reputation.

The young plant resembles the mint family with its square stems and heart-shaped leaf that is serrated at the edges. In the spring, the young nettle plant is soft and very green and does not sting as badly. The leaves grow in pairs out each side of the stock. The whole plant is covered with stinging hairs. These coarse hairs are very sharp spines that are hollow. They grow out of a gland that is filled with venom or acrid fluid. This fluid is bicarbonate of ammonia which irritates and inflames the skin. If you get stung by the stinging nettle, you should just top and look around and you’ll see a plant that is an antidote for the nettle’s sting. This plant would be hound tongue, burdock or yellow dock, mullein, plantain, lilac or many others.
Early in the spring, the nettle is tender and can be used as a pot herb or streamed and put in a salad. As the nettle is washed and heated, the hairs or spines get soft and will not hurt you.

Nettles contain vitamins A, C, D, and E, they have iron, silicon potassium, calcium, sodium, copper, manganese, chromium and zinc. The nettle plant is another one of those herbs that is good for many things. It is an astringent and will correct internal bleeding, excessive menstruation, and nosebleeds. It is a diuretic that will help the kidneys, will expel gravel from the bladder and increase the flow of urine. It is a decongestant that will help lung and respiratory problems, including asthma. It is an alterative that will help neuralgia, eczema, headaches and other adverse conditions of the body. It has antiseptic qualities to help fight infection, helps clean the blood, and will even help to prevent scrofula and boils. The list goes on and on.

An old painting showed an angel flying down to bring the people on earth a gift. The gift was stinging nettle.
There was man whose wife had a tuberculosis. She had been given up as incurable. The man gave his wife nettle tea, nettle soup, blanched nettles in her salad, and gave it to her in any other way he could think of. Within a year she was well, thanks to the healing power of nettle. The nettle is such a good plant that if it were not for the stings, man, animals and rodents would have used it up long ago. Any one who has allergies or hay fever should drink stinging nettle tea everyday and avoid all mucous forming foods. Stinging nettle tea will even help to curb a sweet tooth.

All things considered, nettle is not an enemy, but a friend.

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