Stinging Nettle aka Great stinging Nettle, Common Nettle
Parts Used: roots, leaves and stems
Nettle is high in iron and vitamins C and K
Nettle is very common all over the world. It is often found in moist shaded woodlands but does grow in the prairie too. Plants grow from 2 to 6 feet tall and is propagated from root runners and seeds. The Nettle plant consists of a long, flexible stem that has serrated leaves opposite of each other. When I was a kid we used to encourage the growth and propagation of stinging nettle on the homestead.
The thin hairs on the Nettle plant contain Formic Acid which causes the Stinging effect. Redness, itching, burning ect can last a few hours to a week. This can be somewhat less than fun.
Prevention / protection from Stinging Nettle reactions is best accomplished by learning to identify it and staying away from it ; ]
If you must OR should you decide that you want to make use of this very helpful plant the best way to handle the Nettle plant is to wear long sleeves and gloves to prevent skin contact with the plant until it has been processed.
How do you process Stinging Nettle for use? The most common uses are for consumption as either a pot herb or tea. The younger the plant the more delectable it will be to eat or to make tea. Younger leaves can be striped off the stem and either boiled or sauteed with salt or pepper to taste or mixed in with vegetables or meats.. basically any way that you would use mustard or turnip greens in cooking. The young leaves can also be minced to make a tea with the pulp consumed with the drink not strained out.
Older leaves can be dried [which inactivates the formic acid] and later crushed before steeping for tea, the pulp can be consumed as with fresh young leaves. The stems can be be used fresh or dried for tea with the fibers strained out before consuming.
Some people apply the fresh leaves directly to an arthritic area as a poultice and report that this temporarily relieves the discomfort of the condition.
Dealing with the skin reactions and stinging:
Some references recommend OTC remedies such as analgesic creams or pills, steroid creams [and RX pills] and antihistamines such as Diphenhydramine creams or pills OR Ranitidine aka Zantac. OR –ominous music– you may need to seek medical treatment*.
[*MOST people are not actually allergic to this plant and will not have an anaphylactic reaction which does need intervention]
It has been my experience that the ‘old wives’ who tell the tales are correct and that Stinging Nettle is best treated FIRMLY and not with a light touch. Meaning if you brush against it, it will sting you. But if you grab it firmly the area will go numb and not bother you.
Other uses for stinging nettle include making it into string, rope or weaving it into a rough fabric or baskets.
Stinging Nettle can also be used as a deterrent to dissuade people from coming into your yard when planted in strategic locations.
What memories of using stinging nettles do you have?