Last weekend I was doing some indoor pot maintenance and had a shocking little surprise. I was bitten… By a PLANT! Well, stung would be more like it. I looked down to see I had grabbed a hold of some stinging nettle or Urtica dioica. As I rubbed out the prickles*, I decided I would provide this post as a public service message to all of you that want to become horticulturists. This job is DANGEROUS! It would be safer to become a fireman, cop or perhaps a crash test dummy…
*In botanical terms, thorns are derived from shoots, spines are derived from leaves and prickles are derived from the epidermis and can be found anywhere on the plant.
This is what the culprit looks like. Forgive the late Easter decoration… I left it there for a size reference. Not very large, if hiking, you wouldn’t even notice this ‘lil guy. It’s when it sneaks-up on you, all alone in a pot, not worth me putting gloves on to yank it does it pull a sneak attack and stings! ZZZZZT!
Not all things are evil all the time. Nettle has a good side. It is a great herb with many wonderful medical benefits.
For centuries, nettle has been utilized to treat allergy symptoms. It has been found that nettle’s aerial parts (used in tea) may decrease the amount of histamine that is produced by the body in response to an allergen. An allergen is an element such as pollen that may trigger an immune response in individuals who are sensitive to it. Through this possible action, the aerial parts of nettle may help to reduce allergy symptoms.
Another hypothesis is that nettle’s aerial parts may interfere with the body’s production of prostaglandins and other inflammation-causing chemicals. Subsequently, nettle may have an anti-inflammatory effect. It may also heighten responses of the immune system. Chemicals in nettle’s aerial parts are also thought to reduce the feeling of pain or interfere with the way that nerves send pain signals. All of the effects may reduce the pain and stiffness of arthritis and other similar conditions.
Nettle has been studied and shown promise in treating:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bladder infections
- Kidney stones
- Multiple sclerosis
- Prostate enlargement
The root is used as a diuretic, for relief of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) including other prostate problems and as a natural remedy to treat or prevent baldness.
An infusion of the plant is very valuable in treating:
- Excessive menstruation
A nettle extract can be applied to the skin to relieve joint pain and muscle aches. The astringent properties of nettle’s aerial parts may also help to reduce the swelling of hemorrhoids and stop bleeding from minor skin injuries such as razor nicks. An astringent shrinks and tightens the top layers of skin or mucous membranes, thereby reducing secretions, relieving irritation, and improving tissue firmness. As a shampoo additive, it can help curb dandruff and clean overly oily hair and scalp.
© Ilex – Midwestern Plants