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A Plant to Know: Nettle

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Everyone knows the unpleasant feeling of touching a nettle, the slightly burning pain and the small red dots on the skin. I walked through some only a few days ago accidently, not one of the best things to do. But nettles are one of many plants that are very useful as nature medicine for a lot of different diseases.

[ Urtica ]

Family: Urticaceae
Time: annual or perennial
Occurence: everywhere, no special habitats
Height: 10-300 cm
Leaf: elliptic, lanceolate, ovate or circular
Particularities: stinging hair, serrated leaves

To know // There exist around 30 different types of Urtica. The most common (in germany) are the Urtica dioica (bull nettle) and the Urtica Urens (small nettle). Moreover nettles are spread almost all over the world, the Antarctic is the only place no nettles are growing. Usually they are food plants for insects like caterpillars, butterflies or moths, but they have also a great use for us.

Use // Nettle shoots are mostly used for consumption as vegetables because of their high content of minerals like magnesium, calcium, and iron but also vitamin A and C (almost two times more than an orange). Furthermore they contain a lot of protein. You can use them as some kind of spinach but also in soups (nettle soup recipe). You can use the shoots, leaves and also seeds. By cutting, drying or (hot) washing the nettles the stinging hair becomes harmless. Nettles are also useful against the spread of bacteria, compresses can help disinfecting and healing wounds. Besides nettle tea and tinctures are used for purification, because it works detoxifying. It is helpful in cases of fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, unpure skin and scaly scalp.

Myths // A nettle in a pocket should keep a person safe from lightening, a nettle in a room should keep everyone safe inside. Nettles are also reputed to enhance fertility of men. Fever could be dispelled by plucking a nettle up by its root while reciting the name of the sick man and his family.

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Illustrations by Emily Stelten