Stinging Nettle - Urtica dioica

Toothed leaves on young plant. You can harvest the nettle without gloves if you are calm and careful not to bump the plant. If you are brave, go ahead!

Toothed leaves on young plant. You can harvest the nettle without gloves if you are calm and careful not to bump the plant. If you are brave, go ahead!

Why Get to know this plant:

Freshly dried leaves can keep through the winter and are an excellent nutritive tea that help with allergies and prevent cold and flu. It grows abundantly and quickly throughout our region and when tops are harvested early, the plants will continue to grow.  This is one of my absolute favourite plants and I use the dried leaves as tea almost every day. You and your loved ones will benefit from this tea.

 

Fresh young patch of nettle. I like to harvest the top 1/3 of the plants so that they can rejuvenate and grow more leaves but others take the whole upper part.

Fresh young patch of nettle. I like to harvest the top 1/3 of the plants so that they can rejuvenate and grow more leaves but others take the whole upper part.

Where This Plant grows:

Grows in disturbed habitat in road side ditches or low lying hill sides.  In the interior regions, it grows near old abandoned homes and on cattle land. This plant is sensitive to picking up heavy metals and exhaust so care should be taken to harvest from areas that are free of traffic or pollutants.

 

How to Identify stinging nettle:

Leaves are jagged at the edge and grow alternately along the stem. The leaves are covered with stinging hairs, hence it’s name Stinging Nettle. Young leaves grow brighter green at the top of the plant and leaves become larger and darker. Height reaches your waist or a little higher. The characteristic sting feels like a hot pin prick at first and could result in red welts so caution should be used to prevent direct contact on skin.

 

Parts Used:

Leaves – harvested fresh in the spring before they have gone to flower, after the plant produces seeds there is an increase in oxalates which is not what you want.

Roots – used to reduce BPH in men. Typically harvested in the fall after the plant has completed its growth cycle.

 

Medicinal Actions:

Anti-inflammatory, Diuretic, Astringent, Expectorant, Anti-allergenic, Anti-rheumatic, Root to reduce BPH (benign prostrate hyperplasia).

 

Tips from Experience:

·      Use scissors and gloves when harvesting to avoid the sting. (There is a way to harvest without getting stung so you can practice and see how you do).

·      Leaves clipped from the stem can be shaken in the bag which will help to get some of the sting to fall off into the bag rather than on your hands.

·      If you find yourself stung, be calm and find a leaf of plantain (either broadleaf or narrow leaf and you can chew up a bit and spit out the pulp onto the stinging skin. Stinging will go down in a few minutes.

·      Minerals rich in the leaves are made more bioavailable if the tea is steeped (infusion) for a longer duration (or in a decoction with a closed lid).

Before I dry the plants, I use scissors and cut the leaves to remove them from the stems since the leaves dry much more quickly than the stems, and leaving them attached can lead to risk of improper drying.

Before I dry the plants, I use scissors and cut the leaves to remove them from the stems since the leaves dry much more quickly than the stems, and leaving them attached can lead to risk of improper drying.

·      Young leaves can be eaten if steamed first, like how you would with spinach. Occasionally the sting can remain so to prevent getting stung in the mouth, shake the leaves in the bag a lot, rinse and soak and steam until tender.

·      Long stalks can be harvested in the fall and cordage can be made by stripping the long fibers and winding them alternately around each other.

 

Caution: 

Hypersensitivity or allergy to Urtica can occur, so start with low doses! Watch for runny nose or eyes becoming worse.  If skin is exposed to the formic acid on the hairs it can form red welts.

 

Stinging Nettle seeds in clusters develop after the plant has flowered. The seeds have their own properties and uses.

Stinging Nettle seeds in clusters develop after the plant has flowered. The seeds have their own properties and uses.

Constituents in the plant:

Flavonoids (quercitin, kaempferol, rhamnetin); Chlorophylls a and b; Carotenoids (b-carotene and xanthopylls); Vitamins C, B, K1; Triterpenes; Sterols (including (-sitosterol); Mineral salts including silica; potassium salts, nitrates; Formic, acetic, citric and other acids; Amines in stinging hairs including histamine, serotonin, choline; Enzymes

 

 

 

 

References:

Hoffman, D. Herbal Medicine.

Kirchhoff HW, Phytotherap, 4, 1983:621.

Lutomski J and H Speichert, Pharmazie in unserer Zeit, 12, 1983:181.

Schmidt, K, Fortschr Med, 101(15), 1983:713-6.

Schottner M, Planta Medica, 63, 1997:529-32.

Hirano T, Homma M and Oka K, Planta Med, 60,1994:30-3.

Romics, I, Int Urol Nephrol, 19(3), 1987:293-7.