Latin Name: Urtica dioica
Other Names: common nettle; stinging nettle; devils leaf; devils plaything (2).
Varieties: Urtica dioica (stinging nettle); Urtica urens (small nettle) (2); Urtica pilulifera (Roman nettle) more virulent sting, rare and possibly extinct in the wild (5).
Family: Urticaceae (2).
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio (17).
Gender: Masculine (13)
Key words: Nutritious; food and medicine; tough, robust, vital, power, vitality, fortifying, detoxifying, tonic, vibrant, ferocity, cleaning.
Parts Used: Leaf (spring); flower, seed and root (autumn).
Growing habitat: wasteland;damp and nutrient rich soil (2). A wind pollinated perennial. Grows in woods, riverbanks, farms, roadsides, field edges, wherever soil has high nitrogen content (5). Band together in plots of rough legged warriors (7).
Harvesting: young spring shoots and tops can be used as food until the plant flowers, all but the tops are fibrous. Harvested tops will send fresh shoots so they can be collected through summer and autumn. Fresh nettle can be frozen (5).
Tea tasting: Salty (4). Seaweed, sea, fishy, sweet, metallic (mineral content).
Energetics: Hot and dry (8, 12).
Tissue State (acted on by herb/ suitable for):
Depression: opposite to excitation, tissues are under-stimulated or unable to respond to stimulation. Hypo-function, tissue deterioration, retention of waste products. Build up or invasion of bacteria, parasites, poisons, heavy metals, toxic chemical, all of which depress cellular life and suppress the cell life of the host. The body attempts to deal with the invasions with increased WBC, resulting in debris, waste, pus etc. This need to be eliminated, may appear as skin outbreaks or infections resulting in low grade fever. Eventually systems become exhausted trying to keep up with the bacteria and toxic invasion (bone marrow making WBC, lymphatic), defences and immunity become weakened (21).
Atrophy: lack of trophism or function. An underfed, withered or weak condition, tissues have little energy to function. Well-nourished tissues hold water and oil, so this state is associated with dryness. Affects the hormones and the nerves. A common symptom of atrophy is nervous exhaustion. No reserves to recover from mental or physical exertion. Dry tongue, narrow, withered, cracked. Skin is dry and cracked, with skin conditions being common (eczema, psoriasis, acne). Dehydrated tissues may give raise to heat, phantom/false heat as it is due to lack of fluids not excess heat (21).
Stagnation: collection of fluids inside the tissues, toxins accumulate. The membranes do not excrete as they should, impedes nutrition, metabolism and elimination. Remedy needed are blood purifiers, alternative. Most are bitters that increase secretions in the digestive tract, liver, and eliminative channels. Promotes tissue activity and nutrition (21).
Specific Indications for use:
Constitution/Complexion: low BP. Loss of hair, hair colour. Poor circulation of blood to the head with lack of oxygen and iron pigment. Pale, grey face and skin tone. Mouth-sores (20).
Mind/senses/emotions/personality: mental dullness, lack of concentration, focus and mental acuity, memory lapses. Dullness in eyes, drooped lids, lack of sparkle in eyes. Low BP and prone to fainting. Tired, begins the day slowly. Yawning and sleepiness (20).
Plant Constituents: Chlorophyll; vitamin C; Amines (serotonin; histamine); acetyl-choline; iron; calcium; silica (1). Formic acid; glucoquinine (3). Magnesium (4). Flavanols (kaempferol, quercetin), protein, fibre (14). Vitamin A; tannins; sodium; silicic acid; sulphur; phosphorus (7). Vitamin A, B, C & K (8). Rich and complex blend of minerals in a form which is digestible and easy for the body to assimilate (9). “Based on a serving portion (100g raw/fresh), nettle [leaf] can supply 90%–100% of vitamin A and is a good source of dietary calcium [300-788mg], iron [1.2 – 3.4mg], and protein [4g]. We recommend fresh or processed [cooked] nettle as a high-protein [inc. all EAA], low-calorie source of essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins” (Rutto et al, 2013). Omega 3 (α-linolenic acid) was the pre-dominant fatty acid in leaves, while seeds were richer in omega 6 (linoleic acid) (Guil-Guerrero et al, 2003).
Organ Affinities: kidney; skin; blood; digestion; muscular and skeletal.
From Rutto et al (2013): Suggested food labeling information for raw & processed stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
- Average portion 30-50g.
- 100g = 2 large bowlfuls (cereal bowl size, see picture on scales).
- Large handful of fresh leaf = 15-20g.
- For soup, 30-50g per person, 2-4 handfuls of fresh nettle per person.
Actions: Alterative (15); Blood tonic; hypoglycaemic (lowers BSL); antiseptic; tonic-astringent (external); diuretic; expectorant; vasodilator; hypotensive (lowers BP); galactagogue; splenic; circulatory stimulant; amphoteric (increase or decrease flow of breast milk); strengthens natural resistance; re-mineraliser; anti-rheumatic; eliminates uric acid from body (1). Nutrient dense – relieve nutrient deficiencies; stabilise blood glucose levels; reset metabolic circuits; normalise weight; reduce fatigue and exhaustion; restore adrenal potency; lessen allergic reactions; eliminate chronic headaches; adrenal tropho-restorative; adaptogen (4). Strengthens and detoxifies the whole body (14). Tropho-restorative, bringing back function to parts that have become paralysed, atrophied, functionally inactive, bringing them back to effective operation: kidney; thyroid; menstruation; hormones; nerves; muscles; (20).
Leaves and stem are covered in tiny spikes which are like tiny silica syringes and inject formic acid into the skin. The syringes have a small head attached to a glassy, hollow body. At the slightest movement the head breaks off and the tip of the hair penetrates the skin, so the caustic juice flows into the wound. This causes burning and itching and a mild skin reaction and rash, increase blood flow to the area and slight inflammation. This localised inflammation is often followed by a significant reduction in pre-existing joint pain (Randell et al, 2000; Randell et al, 2008).
The nettle sting contains serotonin, acetylcholine, histamine and leukotrienes, which increase activation of nociceptive pain neurones (Randall et al, 2000). The mechanism of stinging nettle analgesia could be: hyperstimulation of the sensory nociceptors, causing a TENS-like effect; acupuncture-like effect; a counter-irritant effect (Randall et al, 2000).
INTERNAL: iron deficiency anaemia; gout; fever; malaria; uvula inflammation; stimulate kidneys; detoxify blood; provide minerals in pregnancy; kidney disease; chronic skin disease (such as eczema); splenic disorders; high blood sugar (in diabetes); feeble digestion (due to low HCL); bleeding of stomach or bowels; eliminate urates; “for women desiring an ample bust” (1). A valuable tonic in long winter months due to mineral content (2). Strengthen and support the whole body (3). Eczema; low metabolism; hypothyroid; weak hair, teeth, bones; fatigue; low lactation; building blood (blood tonic); helps liver build blood proteins; seasonal allergies; UTI’s; asthma; menstrual cramps; amenorrhea; improved insulin resistance; improved control of type 2 diabetes; reduced fasting blood glucose and HA1c (4). Stimulate menstruation and treat malfunctions of the womb (6). Inhibit production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, effective treatment for arthritis and other inflammatory ailments (9).
Food: high in iron which is highly bioavailable (easily absorbed and assimilated by the body), minerals and chlorophyll (5). Two minutes of boiling or blanching nettles will remove the silica syringes, histamine and formic acid (5). Or roll in the hand before eating raw. Purifies the blood, widely believed in Ireland that taking 3 meals a day of nettle in May will guard against illness and “keep a good fire in them” for the rest of the year (17). Helps with all the protein pathways of the body: digestion; immune response; liver metabolism; skin reactions; kidney elimination (20).
Digestion: astringent tannins protect gut lining from irritation and infection (15). Stimulate kidney and liver function, clears toxins (15).
Detox: nettle supports detox organs of the body (liver, kidney, lungs, urinary tract). Used to treat signs of poor elimination (eczema, constipation). Nettle is a diuretic so can strengthen the urinary system and support UTI’s (9). Nettle also stimulates peripheral dilation which promotes the elimination of urine (and decrease blood pressure) (5). To strengthen the lungs in cases of asthma. Enhances our natural immunity, helps clear the blood of urates and toxins through stimulating the kidneys (5). Promote urination and help dissolve gravel and stones from the bladder and kidney (6). Reported to counter the effects of poison from mercury of fungi (6), and be an antidote for hemlock, henbane, serpents and scorpions (8). A valuable blood cleanser in the spring when our sluggish bodies are full of the mucus from winter (7). “Nettle tops eaten in spring consume the phlegmatic superfluities in the body, and the coldness and moistness of winter be left behind” (12). Being hot and dry it will rid the body of phlegm and open the lungs and allow trapped phlegm to escape (8). “it is a safe and sure medicine to open the pipes and passages of the lungs, which is the cause of wheezing and shortness of breath, and helps to expectorate tough phlegm, and spend it by spitting” (12).
Blood glucose control and Diabetes: Nettles reduce blood glucose levels, which is supportive in diabetes (5). Nettle leaf extract improved glycaemic control in type 2 diabetic patients needing insulin therapy (Kianbakht et al, 2013). Diabetes type 2 is a metabolic disorder that characterized by hyperglycaemia and insulin resistance. Hyperglycaemia and impairment of oxidant/antioxidant balance, can increase oxidative stress and increase risk of cardiovascular disease. Nettle extract can increase total antioxidant capacity and reduce oxidative stress in diabetes 2 patients (Namazi, 2012).
Seasonal allergies: drink nettle tea daily, starting a month before allergy season and continuing throughout (4). This is due to the histamine content, which reduces the inflammatory cascade to allergens (Helms and Miller, 2006; Roschek et al, 2009). The antihistamine effect treats allergies, hay-fever, eczema, reduces severity of asthma (5). Should be used in asthma, wheezing, mucusy bronchitis and catarrh (8). Antagonism of the histamine receptors, inhibiting the production of hay-fever symptoms (9). It reduces allergic reactions to proteins and eliminated mucus on membranes resulting from allergy (20).
Prostate: Extracts of the root for prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia [BPH]) (9). “Urtica dioica has beneficial effects in the treatment of symptomatic BPH” (Safarinejad, 2009).
Nettle Seeds: kidney support; aphrodisiac; convalescence (5). “Speedy” effect, energizing when feeling tired (6). Nettle seeds are a tonic to stimulate bodily functions in conditions of exhaustion, stress or convalescence from illness (7). Used with some success for goitre (swelling of thyroid gland); and weight/obesity problems (8). Improve thyroid function, reduce goitre (15). Nettle seed has the potential to be libido-enhancing, euphoric and heart opening (9).
Nettle Root: enlarged prostate; infections; inflammation; bacterial and fungal infections (5).
Arthritis: via urtication [stringing skin to increase blood flow to the area] (4).
Uritication (external stinging) can relieve musculoskeletal pain such as stiff muscles, joint pain and osteoarthritic pain (4). Analgesic effect and reduced arthritic disability after 1 week of intervention (Randall et al, 2000)
Textile Fibres from stalks used for ropes, nets and clothing (4).
Dye: Natural green dye (5).
Hair growth: massage tea into scalp (5).
Burns: apply tincture to burns.
Nettle rash: apply tincture or tea to sooth (6).
Massage oil: warm oil infusion in slow cooker or bain-marie.
Pesticide: soak leaves in rainwater and spray on aphids and blackfly (2). Hung in the house will keep flies out (8).
Green manure/ plant feed: soak in rain water and use to feed plants (5).
Root growth: breaks up and improves the texture of soil, loosening tight soil, massaging soil back to health (9).
Helps a person with excessive watery emotions to contact their rage and anger, cutting through self-pity and victimhood, and rendering these emotions as less overpowering. It builds and empowers the fire element, evoking the warrior within, contact with inner resources, own power and resilience. Warm a frozen heart and allow passion to blaze forth (8). Nettle offers a fullness, richness and healing for that which is deficient and lacking; as these deep deficiencies are met the body can step into its full potential, unhindered by the past (9).
Flower Essence (10): For people who are cold, angry, cruel or spiteful. Nettle helps people to express and release their anger and therefore relate to others more openly. To be used where there is anger, conflict or cruelty (at home or work) bringing emotions out in the open to re-establish unity.
Tea: 1-3 teaspoon of fresh or dried herb, infuse 10-15mins (3, 14). “The minerals that diffuse to the tea at higher concentrations at the 10th minute were Ag, B, Cu, Co, Fe, ln and Zn, with only K added after 15 and 20 minutes. As a result, 10 min was the optimum time for getting the minerals into the tea” (Ozcan, 2008).
Tincture: 1:5, 45%. Leaf and roots (vodka), seeds (brandy).
Food: spring leaves before seed, cooked and eaten like spinach. Soup (onion, garlic, potato). “Cooking led to changes in the fatty acid profile of U.dioica with more saturated fat being converted into monounsaturated
and polyunsaturated forms (Ozcan, 2008).
Nettle Root (rhizome): decoction boiled for 20 minutes. Decocted tincture: same amount of fluid decoction and tincture and mix (can use same root as in decoction to make tincture) (5). Nettle root simmered in milk makes a nurturing tonic, restorative for those who are depleted and feeling unsupported, and a native alternative to golden milk (9). Dose of 4-6g root (14).
Nettle beer and nettle syrup (16).
Energy Drops (ROOT): Nettle syrup; nettle seed brandy; hawthorn blossom brandy; ginger brandy.
Ladies Lovelies (Sacral): Nettle syrup; raspberry leaf tincture; ladies mantle tincture.
ReActiviT Tea (Crown): chamomile; elderflower; lemon balm; nettle; ground ivy; lime flowers.
Figwort and Burdock for eczema (3).
Tincture: 2-6ml, 3 x day (1). 1-4ml (3).
Root decocted tincture: 5ml, 3 x day (5).
Tea: 3 x day.
Fresh juice: 1-2 teaspoons.
Safety and contraindications:
Old plants uncooked (post seed) can cause kidney damage & symptoms of poisoning, safe to eat once cooked (2).
Nettle can be a strong diuretic in some people (4).
Nettle root should not be consumed in pregnancy (5).
Overdosing on juice can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea (7).
Due to the diuretic effect, high vitamin K levels, blood glucose lowering effect and potentially BP lowering effect, consider use alongside: lithium; warfarin; diabetes medication and BP medications (9).
Folklore, traditional uses and Magic:
Urtica comes for the Latin uro meaning “I burn”. Anglo-Saxon name for nettle was noedl, meaning needle (8). Originally came to Britain with the invading romans, soldiers used to flog their arms and legs with the plant to keep circulation going and to keep them warm, and to ward off illness and infection rife in cold, damp weather (10). Nettle has been used in the making of fabric form thousands of years, to wrap bones for burial, bed sheets, dining cloths. Nettles mark the dwelling place of elves and provide protection against sorcery. During WWII dark green nettle plant dye was used as camouflage, and chlorophyll was extracted for use in medicines (2). “Nettle is a plant for the witch’s tool bag. Drink it, grow it, burn it as incense. May patriarchy fall!” (8). Druid oracle meaning: irritation, hidden gifts, transmutation (18). Harsh exterior, concealing incredible goodness. Initial discomfort leading to benefits later: nettles tech us the secret of transmutation, whereby an experience that is initially uncomfortable transforms into something treasured and valuable. Easy to dismiss prickly people as irritable, but the defence my conceal their true gifts. Communicate more deeply and you may be surprised at what they have to offer.
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- Namazi, N. Tarighat, A. and Bahrami, A. (2012). The Effect of Hydro Alcoholic Nettle (Urtica dioica) Extract on Oxidative Stress in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Double-blind Clinical Trial. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 15: 98-102. DOI:3923/pjbs.2012.98.102
- Kianbakht, S., Khalighi-Sigaroodi, F., Dabaghian, F.H. (2013). Improved glycemic control in patients with advanced type 2 diabetes mellitus taking Urtica dioica leaf extract: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Clinical Laboratory, Jan (9-10): pp1071-1076.
- Safarinejad, M.R. (2009). Urtica dioica for Treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: A Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study. Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 5:4, pp1-11, DOI: 1080/J157v05n04_01
- Randall, C., Randall, H., Dobbs, F., Hutton, C., and Sanders, H. (2000). Randomized controlled trial of nettle sting for treatment of base-of-thumb pain. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol 93, Issue 6, pp. 305 – 309. https://doi.org/10.1177/014107680009300607
- Rutto, L.K, Xu, Y., Ramirez, E. and Brandt, E. (2013). Mineral Properties and Dietary Value of Raw and Processed Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.). International Journal of Food Science. doi:10.1155/2013/857120 [Accessed Online 30th March 2018]
- Guil-Guerrero, J.L., Rebolloso-Fuentes, M.M., and Torija Isasa, M.E. (2003). Fatty acids and carotenoids from Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.). Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 16(2), pp. 111– https://doi.org/10.1016/S0889-1575(02)00172-2 [Accessed Online 30th March 2018].
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