Plants That Bite! Stinging Nettle – Urtica dioica

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!

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Stinging Nettle – Urtica dioica

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.

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There is no part of this plant that does not sting..

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.

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When it comes to prickles on this plant, they are EVERYWHERE on this plant!!

Nettle has been studied and shown promise in treating:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Bladder infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Gingivitis
  • Gout
  • Kidney stones
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Prostate enlargement
  • Sciatica
  • Tendinitis

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:

  • Anemia
  • Excessive menstruation
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Arthritis
  • Rheumatism
  • Eczema

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

22 thoughts on “Plants That Bite! Stinging Nettle – Urtica dioica

  1. I find nettles very helpful when my knees or hands ache. Stroking a bed nettles sorts the problem because the pain of the nettle stings makes me forget the initial discomfort 🙂

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  2. I had a stone mason doing some work here and when his wife saw my stinging nettles she went berserk. She grabbed a plant and started slapping her left knee. I had noticed she seemed to have a stiff joint . Within ten minutes she was walking very freely. She was Croatian and swore by its benefits but she lived in a highrise development and hadn’t seen nettles for a year. When they finished the job they took about ten plants potted up to grow on the balcony. Just thort youd like to know

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    • That is so interesting!
      Another reader wrote the same thing! Again, I feel there are many things on this planet that are here by whatever grand designer and are helpful to many health and other issues. Why pay $100 per pill with side effects when you can smack your knee with a plant that grows quite easily? I feel it’s because big business can’t patent herbs (well, here in US they can’t) and because of this, stears us to drugs they can patent and profit from. If doctors told you what herb to grow instead of a pill. .. The big buck health industry would go broke! Wellll, we still have Ebola, so drugs and the money aren’t going anywhere. .. yet.
      Thanks for the great info! !

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      • So girl! You’ve declared a negative to churchiness but now you talk about some grand designer. I think I’m with you on this. There are too many things in nature that are too cool for chance – BUT – the established churches have done a lot to totally destroy our belief in “the unable to be understood”. Don’t you just love the questions “Mother Nature” throws in our face.

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        • Ok. You caught me there!
          Yes. I do not believe in a god or someone we need to worship who created the earth. I believe I will be plant food when I die and become a part of the earth in a different way. Not exactly regeneration, but I think you get it.
          It is hard to explain (wo the whole god thing) that there are things in nature that fix all problems. Aspirin is salicylic acid that’s found in willows.. It is patented now as aspirin, but you can’t patent the plant. I believe there is a cure for cancer and even ebola out there, however we need to stop cutting down rain forests (etc) and find it!
          I do believe that everything did come together quite magically and it is hard to not refer to a ‘grand designer’ for lack of a better word. Perhaps an ice comet hit the earth.. Maybe we are an alien ant farm? Ha!
          Even the ‘religion’ of Wicca refers to a goddess, even tho she is really the earth. If anything, I may look into this religion, as it worships the earth and all is beauty.

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  3. We were stung by nettles all the time as kids. Luckily where there were nettles there were usually dock leaves. Rubbing the skin with a dock leaf brought quick and welcome relief. I don’t know why but it did.

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    • I think there is a yin for every yang out there. Thanks for the great info! Seems there are others in the comments that use it as joint relief by slapping it on the offending joint. Who knew!? We do now!
      I love my community, you all are so smart !

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