Stinging Nettle: Friend or Foe

Stinging Nettle: Friend or Foe
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Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is actually high in vitamin C, iron and potassium plus is used in herbal medicine as a treatment for many things, including allergies! However, if you handle the plant without heavy gloves you will most likely feel a burning sensation, as well as redness, white bumps and itchiness that can last up to 24 hours. Ironically, a juice made with the leaves will relieve its own stings. Dock is a plant that is often near nettle and if you rub your skin with one of its leaves you will find relief. Also, you can rub a paste made with baking soda and water on the affected area. (Never leave home without baking soda!)
SUSAN'S STINGING NETTLE TIPS Stinging nettle and woods nettle lose their "sting" after they've been cooked, and there's a bit of a thrill in being able to "bite" the plant back! If you're sure that the plant is indeed nettle (and if you've ever walked through it wearing shorts, you'll know...), wear long rubber gloves (I use the same kind I'd normally use for washing dishes) and approach the plant with a pair of scissors. Cut the stem about 6" from the top , taking the top 2 or 3 sets of leaves (the smaller top leaves are the most succulent, although if the plant has started to flower, even the top leaves may not be their tender best), take it home and (don't take off the gloves yet!) wash it. From here, treat it like spinach: place it in a soup pan with enough water to steam it (a couple of tablespoons is plenty, but add more if you feel the need), and bring it to a simmer. Once the leaves are good and wilted, it's safe to handle, and great to eat. Drain it well, squeezing out the excess water, and try it with red wine vinegar, or chop some up and stir it into scrambled eggs with some sautéed onion and feta cheese.

By the way, if you do brush the still-live plant, look around for a handful or two of plantain. Roll the plantain leaves between your palms to bruise them well, or if you're not squeamish, stuff them in your mouth and chew them to a poultice. (Again, be sure you know what you've got first! I can't stress this enough!) Either way, place the now shredded leaves on the nettle scratches. The sting will subside shortly.


Stinging nettle can be cooked, much as you would spinach and greens. The nettle loses its sting once it wilts from the cooking, as Susan mentioned above. Harvest the top 4 inches of the nettle plant for cooking use, and if there are any thick stems, remove those. You can combine the nettle with other cooking greens such as chard, kale or sorrel.

Stinging Nettle is also used in herbal teas and cosmetic recipes. The following is a nice hair rinse to try.

Nettle Hair Rinse

You'll need:

4 tsp. stinging nettle leaves

1/2 cup boiling water

Place the nettle in a glass bowl and pour over the boiling water. Let it infuse for 10-15 minutes. Cool it to luke warm, and slowly pour over your hair after it's been shampooed and is still damp. Massage your scalp and hair as you pour it over slowly.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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