Contents

Stinging nettles

Treatment

Self-care for nettle stings

  • Wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible to relieve the sting and remove the nettle hairs. If no water is available, clean the area with a cloth or other available material
  • Local symptoms of pain and itching can be relieved by applying a moistened cloth and/or ice pack to the area. It is also important to refrain from scratching or rubbing the itchy areas
  • Antihistamines may be effective in relieving local itching and swelling, while creams such as hydrocortisone containing creams can help reduce inflammation. These are available at your local pharmacy
  • Use cool, light, bedding and clothing as this will also help relieve itching
  • Avoid extreme heat- have lukewarm baths and showers.

The National Poisons Centre is available 24 hours a day on 0800 764 766 for advice on first aid and treatment of stings.

Medicine precautions

  1. Do not give aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or aspirin-containing products to anyone 18 years or younger because of the risk of a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
  2. Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with food or milk to prevent stomach irritation. Do not give NSAIDs to anyone with:
    • NSAID-induced asthma
    • increased risk of bleeding, such as ulcer disease, a bleeding disorder, if taking blood thinners (anticoagulants), or following surgery, significant trauma or major dental work
    • an allergy to NSAIDs.

When to see a doctor

While most nettle stings require no further treatment, seek immediate medical attention if you develop:

  • Loss of co-ordination
  • Faintness
  • Tremor
  • Muscle weakness
  • Breathing problems
  • Swelling under the skin
  • Abdominal pain

You should also seek medical attention if there is significant skin itching or rash that is not resolving with self care.

How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Burning & Stinging Nettles

Published 10/08

In this Guideline:

  • Identification
  • Life cycle
  • Impact
  • Management
  • About Pest Notes
  • Publication
  • Glossary

Burning nettle plant, Urtica urens.

Stinging nettle Urtica dioica ssp. holosericea stinging hairs.

Burning nettle seedling, Urtica urens.

Burning nettle, Urtica urens, flowering stem.

American stinging nettle Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis flowers.

Burning nettle, Urtica urens, seeds.

Burning nettle (Urtica urens) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) belong to the family Urticaceae. Both are upright plants, which are well recognized for their stinging hairs. Although both are often called stinging nettle, that common name only applies to Urtica dioica. Despite their similarity in causing skin irritation, the two species are considerably different in their biology and preferred habitat.

Burning nettle, Urtica urens, is also known as dwarf nettle or small nettle. It is native to Europe, but in the United States is common in many eastern states and a few central states. It also occurs in the Western United States, including Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. In California, burning nettle is widely distributed, although it is not known to occur in the desert, the Klamath Mountain range or in the higher regions of the Cascade Mountain range above 9800 feet. It is especially common along the California coast. Burning nettle commonly infests disturbed sites, such as fence rows, ditch banks and roadsides, but can also be a problematic weed in gardens, vegetable crops, sugar beets, citrus and deciduous orchards.

Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is native to North America, including California and other western U. S. states. This species has two widespread, subspecies that include the subspecies gracilis, commonly known as American stinging nettle, California nettle, coast nettle, or Lyall nettle, and the subspecies holosericea, known as California slender nettle, creek nettle, giant creek nettle, hedge nettle, hoary nettle, or mountain nettle. In California, stinging nettle does not generally occur in the desert and areas above 9800 feet. The species commonly infests moist uncultivated areas including waste places, riverbanks, fence rows and roadsides, and is occasionally a problem in orchards and vineyards. It is not generally a problem in gardens and row crops.

IDENTIFICATION

Burning Nettle

Burning nettle is a small to medium-size summer annual broadleaf weed common in gardens. The first new seed leaves, or cotyledons, are bright green, notched at the tips, but smooth along the edges. The first true leaves have serrated margins, and occur opposite each other on the stalk. The leaf blade and the stalk have both stinging and nonstinging hairs. Mature plants can be 5 inches to 2 feet tall. Plants are slender and upright with sparse, four-angled stems. Stinging hairs on stems and leaves are long. Shorter nonstinging hairs may also be present. The two opposite, stalked leaves have toothed margins and are 1/2 to 2 inches long with 3 to 5 veins radiating from the base. Flowers are about 2/5 of an inch long and greenish white. The plant contains both male and female flowers that occur in the same cluster. Fruits are small (1/16 to 1/10 of an inch), triangular, with one seed.

Stinging nettle is a tall perennial broadleaf weed that often grows in colonies. The cotyledons (seed leaves) are round to oval, and hairless except for a few stinging hairs and sparse, short, nonstinging hairs. The first true leaves have margins that are coarsely round-toothed on short stalks. Leaf surfaces are coated with stinging hairs as well as nonstinging hairs. Full grown plants can be 3–1/2 to 10 feet tall, but can reach 20 feet in some situations. Stems are angular, often branched from the base and have long stinging hairs as well as short, nonstinging hairs. Leaves are opposite and 2–1/2 to 5 inches long with 3 to 5 veins radiating from the base and coarsely toothed and lance shaped. Separate male and female flower clusters occur at the base of the leafstalks and are whitish green and inconspicuous. Fruits are small (1/25 of an inch) and egg shaped.

LIFE CYCLE

Burning nettle seeds germinate from late fall through early spring. Plants may produce viable seeds within five weeks of germination. Flowers generally bloom from January to April, but blooms can be seen year-round in milder climates such as along the California coast. As an annual plant, it dies within one year.

Stinging nettle seeds germinate in the spring. Underground stems, or rhizome fragments, can also develop into mature plants under favorable conditions. Often large clumps of plants grow from rhizomes in uncultivated areas. The flowers bloom from March to September. As a perennial plant, stinging nettle may live for several years regrowing from rhizomes.

IMPACT

Both burning and stinging nettle are aptly named. Their leaves and stems are covered with long, fine to bristly hairs that can irritate and blister skin when handled. When human skin comes into contact with a leaf or stem, it often rapidly develops reddish patches accompanied by itching and burning. Frequently, a prolonged tingling sensation may persist on the affected skin for more than 12 hours, even after visible symptoms have faded.

The prickly hairs of both burning and stinging nettle consist of a minute tubelike structure that has a hard round bulb at the tip and a softer vessel at the base. This bulb breaks off after contact with skin and exposes a needlelike point. When the tip contacts and penetrates the skin, it puts pressure on the basal vessel and results in the needlelike injection of irritating substances under the skin. The contents of the structures are not fully known, but have been found to contain active concentrations of the neurotransmitter chemicals acetylcholine and histamine. Unlike poison oak, which causes a red, itchy, weepy reaction called allergic dermatitis in only a portion of the population, the nettles affect everyone equally. This is known as irritant dermatitis.

Along the coast, burning nettle is particularly problematic because it grows year-round. Stinging nettle plants can become a nuisance for farmers when large stands block irrigation waterways. Stinging nettle prefers moist areas in wildlands, such as areas surrounding creeks or rivers. If these sites occur along hiking trails, plants can be a nuisance or even a health hazard to visitors.

MANAGEMENT

Burning and stinging nettles growing in the home garden and landscape are best controlled using cultural and mechanical methods.

Cultural and Mechanical Control

Burning and stinging nettles can be controlled by removing plants by hand. However, it is important to wear gloves to protect skin from the stinging hairs. For stinging nettle, ensure that the underground portion called rhizomes are removed or the plants will regrow. Because stinging nettles are native to California and the western United States, control should only be performed in areas where they cause economic or health problems. Close mowing can prevent the development of fruit. Be aware that cultivating the soil may spread the rhizomes of stinging nettle, thus increasing the size of the population. Repeated cultivation works best as a control for this weed.

Chemical Control

Herbicides listed to control burning and stinging nettles include isoxaben, oxadiazon and oxyfluorfen, but these materials are available only to licensed pesticide applicators. Refer to the herbicide label for proper use of these products.

WARNING ON THE USE OF PESTICIDES

DiTomaso, J. M., and Healy, E. M. 2007. Weeds of California and other Western States. Oakland: Univ. Calif. Agric. Nat. Res. Publ. 3488.

Fischer, W. 1998. Grower’s Weed Identification Handbook. Oakland: Univ. Calif. Agric. Nat. Res. Publ. 4030.

Kulze, A. and Greaves, M. 1988. Contact urticaria caused by stinging nettles. British Journal of Dermatology. 119, 269-270.

Whitson, T. D., L. C. Burrill, S. A. Dewey, D. W. Cudney, B. E. Nelson, R. D. Lee, and R. Parker. 2002. Weeds of the West. Jackson, Wyo.: Univ. Wyoming.

PUBLICATION INFORMATION

Pest Notes: Burning & Stinging Nettles
UC ANR Publication 74146

Authors: A. E. Schellman, UC Cooperative Extension, Stanislaus County, A. Shrestha, UC Statewide IPM Program, Kearny Agricultural Center, Parlier
Produced by UC Statewide IPM Program, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

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How to Get Rid of Stinging Nettles archived

“The contents of the structures are not fully known, but have been found to contain active concentrations of the neurotransmitter chemicals acetylcholine and histamine. Unlike poison oak, which causes a red, itchy, weepy reaction called allergic dermatitis in only a portion of the population, the nettles affect everyone equally. This is known as irritant dermatitis.”
Herbicides listed to control burning and stinging nettles include isoxaben, oxadiazon and oxyfluorfen, but these materials are available only to licensed pesticide applicators. Refer to the herbicide label for proper use of these products.
On the other hand…

“Nettles produce new shoots from their roots so it is important to use a systemic herbicide such as
glyphosate that will move into the root system and kill the entire plant. Applications using a hand-held or backpack sprayer with a 2% glyphosate concentration are effective in nettle control. Spray the plants until they are wet but not dripping and follow label directions to mix herbicide to the desired concentration. Currently, products containing the active ingredient glyphosate are the only systemic herbicides for the control of stinging nettles that are considered “low in hazard” by Thurston County’s pesticide review process. However, it is non-selective and will injure any plant that it comes in contact with.
Many glyphosate products have an initial glyphosate concentration of 41% (example: Roundup Pro®, Glyfos ®, etc.), they are recommended to be diluted to a 2% solution for spraying nettles. Pre-mixed, ready-to-use glyphosate products do not contain enough active ingredient to control stinging nettles.”

Because RoundUp is non-selective, painting it on with a brush, waiting a few days until it visibly wilts and then pulling it out, would be advisable. I probably have a bottle of concentrate if you need it.
On the third hand…
I suggest starting a list of eager MOLers to come over and graze, three times a week on a regular schedule.

Stinging Nettles – Control & Eradication of Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles are a common weed, tough weed to control. They spread from seed and from the roots so to control nettles you need to attack on both fronts. They prefer a a slightly acid, rich soil but will grow on any soil type – wet or dry, rich or poor.

Stinging Nettle Benefits – Butterflies & Edible

Stinging Nettle – Note the seeds it’s about to shed

Nettles do have some plus points, for a start they are essential for some butterfly species whose caterpillars feed on the nettle whilst protected from predators to a degree by the stings. The main butterfly species that use the nettle are: Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma.

Some people like to grow stinging nettles in pots in a border to attract and assist those attractive butterfly species but you need to be careful not to let them seed.

They’re not very useful, to encourage butterflies and other wildlife a bigger patch is more effective.

Yes, young stinging nettle shoots are edible (cooked) and some people actually like them. I’d not place them in the delicacy division myself. It’s amazing what human beings can eat when pushed.

Like most plants, they have their place – just not all over my garden, thanks!

Stinging Nettle Tea – An Organic Control

Nettle roots can go down fairly deep as they extract their nutrients from the soil. It’s a shame to waste that pirate’s chest. By converting nettles to fertiliser you get the benefit of that chest and eventually weaken and kill the weed.

Take shears, sickle or scythe to nettle patch, cutting them as near to the ground as you can. Gloves and long sleeved shirt are a good idea unless you’re immune to pain. Collect the cut and cram into a barrel, fill with water and leave.

The liquid will get smelly but not as bad as comfrey tea! Basically use as a liquid fertiliser instead of just watering. Particularly good for brassicas and sweetcorn who need a lot of nitrogen.

By the time your first batch of nettle tea is ready, your stinging nettle patch will be in full growth again. Take another cut. You can add to the barrel and top up with water or use this cut on the compost heap so long as there are no seeds.

Three or four cuts a year for a year or two will kill most nettle patches off.

Weeding Stinging Nettles Organically

Killing off stinging nettles that are growing up from windblown seeds is a matter of hoeing them off before they get properly established. A sharp hoe, just under the surface and flick so they don’t get chance to re-root.

With an established patch, a bigger task awaits you. Cut the foliage down and compost it unless it’s seeding. If seeding make nettle tea or burn them because, unless you have a really good hot compost heap, it will be a nettle patch in short order.

Next fork over the soil and remove all the yellow nettle roots you can see. I mean every bit. Burn or drown the roots as nettles will grow back from even a small piece of root. Leave the patch for a month and you’ll see new nettles springing up from the bits you missed. Repeat the digging and root removal.

Nettles prefer an acid soil and liming to a PH above 5.5 or 6.0 seems to really slow them down if not stop them.

Non-Organic Chemical Control of Stinging Nettles

Because they spring back from the roots, killing the foliage alone is ineffective way to eradicate nettles. You need a systemic herbicide – that is a weedkiller that is absorbed by the leaves and taken down to the roots.

Unfortunately the only effective systemic weedkiller available is likely to be glyphosate based which has had a lot of adverse reports regarding it’s safety and environmental friendliness. Even glyphosate may need 4 applications to kill off an established patch of stinging nettles

Previously ammonium sulphamate would be effective against stinging nettles but this is no longer licensed although it has no reported safety concerns.

Controlling Weeds

  • Weed Control

  • Bracken Control, Composting Bracken, Cancer Risks
  • Clearing Couch Grass (Twitch Grass or Scutch, Wickens, Quick)
  • Control Horse or Mare’s Tail – Equisetum Arvense
  • Organic Control of Brambles
  • Stinging Nettles – Control & Eradication of Stinging Nettles
  • Stinging Nettles – Problem or Resource?

Main Content

Stinging Nettles – more than just a sting


Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles are easily distinguished plants with a memorable sting. This plant, which can easily reach 3 feet in height, has fine hairs on the stems and leaves. Each hair is like a hollow needle filled with formic acid, the same chemical in ant saliva that causes pain to humans when bitten. This acid can redden the skin and cause a non-spreading rash that can last up to 24 hours.

Remedies for this sting include a plant that often grows next to it called jewelweed. Applying the crushed stem of this plant to the affected area soothes the irritated skin. Another method for alleviating the pain is to apply a mixture of baking soda and water. Rubbing human saliva on the stung area can lessen the pain as well.

The more interesting aspect of this plant, despite the painful affect it is known for, is its use as a remedy for many ailments. It was, at one time in history, used as an antispasmodic, a treatment for asthma and a hair growth stimulant. Some have, and still do, use it as a cure for swollen joints from arthritis. They hit the swollen area with the stinging nettle plant. In Germany, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical devices has approved the use of stinging nettles as a cure for urinary tract infections and kidney stones. It is also believed to build energy and restore flexibility to blood vessels for women going through menopause.

Nettles have also served other purposes. One such use is as a food source. They can be used in teas or soups, or simply cooked and eaten like other green vegetables. Native Americans relied on this plant as a means of keeping themselves awake while staying up late to keep guard and used the fibers, which are stronger than cotton, as rope-making material. There’s more to this plant than meets the eye, or skin, in this case.

Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle): A Neglected Plant With Emerging Growth Promoter/Immunostimulant Properties for Farmed Fish

Introduction

Immunostimulants and growth promoters consisting of herbs or their extracts, are frequently administered to farmed fishes (Harikrishnan et al., 2011; Chakraborty et al., 2013; Van Hai, 2015). In fact, when added to diet, they have proven to be effective in a dose dependent manner in stimulating their immune system and improving growth performances (Harikrishnan et al., 2011; Chakraborty et al., 2013; Van Hai, 2015; Vallejos-Vidal et al., 2016). According to Reverter et al. (2017) plants belonging to the order Lamiales (family Lamiaceae) are the most studied for their application in aquaculture, and had the highest number of species displaying immunostimulant activity. However, U. dioica, a polyvalent plant belonging to the order Rosales, that has a long history of traditional medicinal uses in many countries in the world (Ahmed and Parasuraman, 2014), seems to possess unexpected biological properties useful also for aquaculture. Such an emerging feature, together with cost-effectiveness, adequate availability, and easy processing, could make this herb an excellent, inexpensive and widely used dietary supplement on intensive farms. Unfortunately, despite its great potentials as multi-purpose crop under a low input cultivation, U. dioica is today an underestimated and frequently neglected plant, considered by the contemporary agriculture as a weed to be eliminated (Di Virgilio et al., 2015). Furthermore, the literature concerning its use in fishes is still fragmentary, which could limit the effort for studying the application of this plant in aquaculture. This mini review focus on very recent studies on dietary administration of U. dioica, both as a single herb or in combination with other herbs, to enhance growth and stimulate farmed fish immunity, thus enabling the fish to be more resistant against bacterial infections.

Botanical Pharmacology of U. dioica

Urtica dioica (stinging nettle), is a perennial plant belonging to the genus Urtica of the family Urticaceae (Ahmed and Parasuraman, 2014). The stem is erect and green, quadrangular, with lacunar collenchyma at each corner. Fibrovascular bundles could be 12–20 (Corsi and Masini, 1997). The leaves are dark-green above and paler beneath, oblong or ovate, opposite, cordate at the base, finely toothed (Testai et al., 2002). Stinging trichomes cover both stems and leaves, and contain a fluid enriched in histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin (Tuberville et al., 1996). The small dioecious flowers are either male or female in separate inflorescences, brown to greenish in color, occurring as racemes in the axils of the upper leaves and flowering from May to September every year (Corsi and Masini, 1997; Ahmed and Parasuraman, 2014). A rhizome is present and the root is usually biarch (Corsi and Masini, 1997). Flavonoids, tannins, volatile compounds, fatty acids, polysaccharides, isolectins, sterols, terpenes, protein, vitamins, and minerals are among the main chemical constituents of U. dioica (Joshi et al., 2014). In this context, flavonoids and caffeic acid derivatives contribute to the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic activities of Urtica leaves extracts (Chrubasik et al., 2007a). In particular, the anti-inflammatory effect of ethanolic extracts of U. dioica leaves is caused by inhibition of NF-kB pathway, which ultimately regulates inflammatory cytokine release (Chrubasik et al., 2007a). On the other hand, patient with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) may benefit from nettle root extracts treatment thanks to at least three different mechanisms: (1) Lignans from an aqueous nettle root extract that inhibit the binding of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) to receptors on human prostatic membranes, which are involved in BPH pathogenesis (Chrubasik et al., 2007b; EMA, 2012); (2) chemicals found in a heptane fraction of U. dioica extracts inhibited aromatization of androstenedione, thus interfering with the conversion of testosterone into estrogen, a well-known mechanism in BPH pathogenesis (Chrubasik et al., 2007b; EMA, 2012); and (3) inhibition of aromatase gene expression may also be involved in the nettle root effect (Chrubasik et al., 2007b; EMA, 2012). The immunomodulating activity of U. dioica seems to be ascribable to its polysaccharide and lectin fractions, able to stimulate proliferation and interferon secretion of human lymphocytes (EMA, 2012). Finally, from a nutritional point of view, U. dioica leaves contain considerable amounts of essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins (Rutto et al., 2013).

Ethnoveterinary Use of U. dioica

The use of nettle in folk veterinary medicine is well documented and it is difficult to give an exhaustive view in this short paper. Briefly, in Europe, ethno-veterinary reports documented the use of U. dioica at least in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Austria (Disler et al., 2014). In Italy and Spain U. dioica was administered to chickens and turkeys as growth promoter and to stimulate hens to lay (Viegi et al., 2003; Bonet and Valles, 2007; Benítez et al., 2012). In some Italian regions, pigs were fed with boiled nettle to improve their resistance to infectious diseases; furthermore, U. dioica tips along with Malva sylvestris were also given to cows as a decoction after calving (Viegi et al., 2003). In Switzerland, stinging nettle orally administered to animals (both as raw material and infusion), improves general strengthening and is used for curing genital, gastrointestinal, skin and metabolic disorders (Disler et al., 2014). U. dioica is also used in traditional veterinary medicine in Canada, where it is given to ruminant to improve fertility and in pregnant and lactating ones to provide trace minerals and as tonic (Lans et al., 2007). In India, animal disorders, such as haematuria, rheumatism, neck sore, infertility, bone fracture, wounds, sprains, lactation, abdominal pain, and internal injury, are also cured with nettle (Pande et al., 2007).

U. dioica As Growth Promoter and Immunostimulant in Fish

Bacterial infections are considered the major cause of growth retardation and/or mortality in aquaculture for which prevention is the most important measure (Madhuri et al., 2012).

Most of the studies concerning the use of U. dioica as growth promoter and immunostimulant in fish, involved species of either economic interest, such as Oncorhynchus mykiss, or endangered (Labeo victorianus, Huso huso) and even ornamental fish (Carassius auratus).

Urtica dioica as Immunostimulant and Growth Promoter in O. mykiss

According to Awad and Austin (2010) feeding Rainbow trout with a diet including 1% stinging nettle significantly reduce mortalities after challenge with Aeromonas hydrophila. Furthermore, in the group fed U. dioica they also reported an increase in values of haematocrit, hemoglobin, antiprotease, total protein, serum bactericidal activity, respiratory burst, myeloperoxidase, complement, and lysozyme activity (Awad and Austin, 2010).

More recently, Saeidi asl et al. (2017) demonstrated that O. mykiss juveniles receiving 3% U. dioica dietary supplementation improved weight gain, growth rate and feed conversion ratio. Furthermore, hematological responses including: haematocrit (Htc), hemoglobin (Hb), lymphocyte, neutrophil populations, and total red blood cells, mucus bactericidal activity, significantly increased after 8 weeks in the nettle group (Saeidi asl et al., 2017). In the same experiment the cumulative mortality of rainbow trout juveniles subjected to Yersinia ruckeri infection exhibited a significantly low mortality levels in U. dioica group compared to controls, suggesting that dietary administration of U. dioica enhanced growth and stimulated fish immunity (Saeidi asl et al., 2017).

Awad et al. (2012) also demonstrated that feeding rainbow trout for 2 months with a diet containing 1–2% of a mixture of herbs (Lupinus perennis, Mangifera indica, and U. dioica) resulted in weight gain, fish length and growth rate significantly higher in treated fish than in control ones. Immune parameters such as lysozyme, antiprotease, total protein, myeloperoxidase, bactericidal activity, and IgM titers were also enhanced by adding 1% nettle extract (Quercetin) to trout diet (Awad et al., 2013).

Bilen et al. (2016), fed three different groups of trout for 30 days with diets containing three different concentrations of a nettle extract. At the end of the feeding trial, rainbow trout were challenged with A. hydrophila, resulting in a fish weight, growth rate, and survival rate higher in treated groups than in control group (Bilen et al., 2016). Furthermore, all measured immune parameters improved after dietary administration of nettle extract, with a significantly higher level of phagocytic, lysozyme and myeloperoxidase activity compared to control (Bilen et al., 2016).

Urtica dioica Studies in Labeo victorianus and Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso), Two “Critically Endangered Species” of Economic and Social Relevance

Currently, L. victorianus and Beluga sturgeon (H. huso) are both listed at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “critically endangered species” (Maithya et al., 2005; Gesner et al., 2010; FishBase team RMCA Geelhand, 2016).

As far as L. victorianus is concerned, before the 1950s, it was a fished species of major commercial value in Lake Victoria (Ogutu-Ohwayo, 1990; Kembenya et al., 2017). Unfortunately, a combination of factors, including illegal fishing, overfishing, as well as competition with invasive alien species, led to a rapid collapse of the population in the late 1950s (Ogutu-Ohwayo, 1990; Kembenya et al., 2017). Currently, Kenya government supports aquaculture projects of this species in attempt to reduce the exploitation of residual natural populations and promote restocking (Kembenya et al., 2017). In this context, juveniles and adults of L. victorianus were challenged against A. hydrophila to assess the effect on growth performance and immune parameters of 5% U. dioica dietary supplementation of for 16 weeks (Ngugi et al., 2015). In particular, serum immunoglobulins, lysozyme activity and respiratory burst significantly increased, with fish survival reaching up to 95% after the bacterial challenge, a percentage significantly higher compared to the control group (Ngugi et al., 2015). Furthermore, adding nettle to diet, increased growth performance, hematological (red blood cell count , white blood cell counts , haematocrit , mean cell hemoglobin concentration ), biochemical (total serum protein and albumin), and immunological parameters in experimental fishes (Ngugi et al., 2015).

Historical data reported that the Beluga sturgeon (H. huso) used to live in the Pô river (Italy), in the Adriatic Sea and in the Danube river (Billard and Lecointre, 2001). In the last 40 years, stocks of sturgeons are dramatically decreasing due to overfishing and environmental degradation (Billard and Lecointre, 2001). Because of this decline, sturgeon aquaculture have been developed which hopefully may contribute to reduce fishing pressure and increase wild stocks (Bronzi et al., 2011). However, development of sturgeon farming was also accompanied by disease outbreaks, including those unknown prior to cultivation (Bauer et al., 2002). For that reason, lately, increased attention has been directed toward the use of immunostimulant in Beluga sturgeon aquaculture, in order to improve fish health (Jalali et al., 2009).

In this context, Binaii et al. (2014) found that feeding beluga juveniles for 8 weeks with increasing amount of nettle in the diet (0–12%) resulted in a significant increase in neutrophils and Hb levels compared to the controls. Furthermore, the increase of the above parameters was dose-dependent, with 12% nettle group showing the highest Hb, RBC, WBC, Hct, respiratory burst activity, total immunoglobulin, and total protein values (Binaii et al., 2014). Other studies of Nobahar et al. (2015) the effect of 1% U. dioica diet supplementation on juveniles of Beluga sturgeon with mean weight of 30 ± 0.5 g reared for resettlement. After 60 days treatment, Condition Factor, Hb concentration, Hct value, Neutrophils and Lymphocytes were significantly higher in fish fed nettle than in control group.

Ornamental Fish

Production of aquarium fish is becoming an important business activity in aquaculture because of an incessant increase in demand for ornamental fishes by hobbyists from all over the world (Yanar et al., 2008). Unfortunately, as with other types of breeding, one of the major limiting factors is infectious and parasitic diseases (Kumar et al., 2013). In this regard, Bilen et al. (2014) demonstrated that supplementing diet with 0.5 g/kg of a methanolic extract of U. dioica for 30 days is sufficient to increase non-specific immune response of gold fish (C. auratus) with an increased superoxide anion production, lysozyme, myeloperoxidase, and phagocytic activity.

Conclusion

Among the food production sectors, aquaculture is the fastest growing in the world, and is expected to be the biggest source of food by the year 2030 (Brugère and Ridler, 2004; Carella and Sirri, 2017). Such an increase in fish farming, results in a parallel increase in outbreaks of infectious and metabolic diseases, which act as major limiting factors for aquaculture development (Wunderlich et al., 2017). In order to control mortality and avoid huge economic losses, fish farmers frequently adopt inappropriate practices, which disregard care for the environmental, animal and human health. Among them, the indiscriminate use of pesticides, disinfectants and antibiotics is of major concern (Valladão et al., 2015). For the above reasons, attention to a much more “natural” approach in aquaculture development is increasing worldwide (Xie et al., 2013). According to organic standards, health of the cultivated organisms shall be mainly guaranteed through preventive measures (i.e., optimizing management, feed, and diet). However, studies suggested that the use of disinfectants and antibiotics are not always effective in prevention or control diseases in aquaculture (Kumar et al., 2013). For that reason, to improve fish immunity and increase resistance to infectious diseases, immunostimulant are today routinely administered in fish farming (Kumar et al., 2013; Nobahar et al., 2015). However, the high cost of such additives and their impact on ecosystem health, risks becoming deterrent to their use, and the search for cheaper and more natural compounds is an urgent necessity for modern aquaculture. In this context, large numbers of plants have been proven to be rich sources of cheaper immune-enhancing and growth promoter substances, with a wide therapeutic and preventive spectrum of activity, potentially useful in solving the multiple health problems that characterize aquaculture (Karatas et al., 2003; Kumar et al., 2013). According to our knowledge, the effects of dietary nettle as growth promoter and immunostimulant in fish were examined in this brief survey. The review of the literature, thought limited, provides evidence for the effective immunostimulant use of nettle in aquaculture, and open new perspective for the use of U. dioica as cost-effective adjuvant therapy added to fish food to prevent diseases and increase growth. However, the biological properties reviewed in this paper, perhaps represent only the tip of the iceberg of possible uses of nettle in aquaculture: some recent studies show, for example, the great efficacy of nettle extracts against the main pathogenic bacteria for fish in aquaculture (Dar et al., 2012). Thus, it is hopeful that further studies involving determination of optimal doses, the active principle of the plant extract and feeding protocols for food additives could led to widespread application of U. dioica in current aquaculture.

Author Contributions

All authors listed have made a substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Ahmed, M. K. K., and Parasuraman, S. (2014). Urtica dioica L., (Urticaceae): a stinging nettle. Syst. Rev. Pharm. 5, 6–8. doi: 10.5530/srp.2014.1.3

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Southern Stinging Nettle: Control the plant that bites back

I remember the first time I saw it; a gentleman said he had a plant growing under his fig tree in the farm yard that stung him when he touched it.

Sure enough, it was Southern Stinging Nettle. It was about 20 years ago, but I continue to see it more and more. It loves to grow in pastures where soil isn’t tilled, especially along fencerows maybe where there’s a little shade. The message today is to be aware of it, be able to identify it, stay away from it and control it if possible.

Now in late winter and early spring is the time when we see a lot of it. It’s a low growing, tender plant with roundish scalloped leaves that don’t look harmful, until you look very closely to see the tiny tubes of poison glistening in the sun. When you or an animal brush against them, they break and almost like a hypodermic needle, inject the poison. These hollow stinging hairs are on the leaves and stems of this plant are called trichomes.

A couple of years ago I brushed the back of my hand against some of this fiery weed inadvertently in a pasture while I was examining some Bahia grass plants. I looked closer to see the culprit that had been tromped on by cattle hooves but still packed a punch. It caused a red rash and stung and burned my skin for several days.

We once had a young lady that had a show steer in a nice pen and shelter but there was some of this bad boy growing up next to the fence where the steer was. She got into this weed in a bad way and had to spend a night in the hospital to get over it.

I’ve heard that you can eat this weed if it’s prepared correctly and it’s good to eat it or use it in some fashion since it has medicinal properties. Reports are that ancient Greeks used it, and folks today have uses for it for everything from prostate problems and hair loss to alieving muscle aches and pains.

Some folks around the world say it tastes like turnip greens. Also, it’s reported that the plants can be used as a fiber to make cloth. Due to a cotton shortage in World War I, German army uniforms were made from it. Please don’t use it for anything straight from the field as it is dangerous stuff to be around.

Miller County Georgia Agent Brock Ward and I were discussing controlling it earlier this year when a goat farmer was complaining about it in his pasture. He had done some spot sprays with glyphosate that were effective. Other pasture herbicides are quite effective as well. Most effective options in a pasture include anything with picloram (Grazon P + D) or aminopyralid (Milestone, Surmount). You have to be careful with these chemistries around peanuts and other legumes.

I wouldn’t recommend hand pulling this weed unless you have some real good gloves, but the problem with that is if you handle the exterior of the gloves later it could affect you. A hoe or other tillage would be effective in small areas but watch for it growing back in the same areas no matter what you do. One reason it continues to grow in an area is that once an animal that may want to graze it touches it once, they leave it alone thereafter, of course.

This plant grows from 4 to 20 inches tall but usually grows draping over surrounding plants, not a lot of structure to it. It has tiny greenish flowers that aren’t very noticeable. The range of this particular native species is southern Ohio, Kentucky-Illinois west to southeast Kansas, south to central Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Mexico.

I like to say that we learn from experience and from our mistakes, but I’d rather learn from other people’s mistakes than from my own. So maybe you’ll learn from my mistakes with this plant.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of the most fascinating weeds found throughout Europe and North America. It is extremely common and familiar to most people because of its mild sting. For this reason, it is often treated with disdain. However, it offers a litany of beneficial qualities.

The weed is a herbaceous flowering plant that can take the form of any one of six sub-species. Of these species, five have stinging hairs called trichomes on their leaves and stems. The hollow hairs function as hypodermic needles and inject histamine and other chemicals into the skin. This is what produces the painful sensation when a person comes into contact with the stinging nettle.

Despite this, the weed is used, medicinally, to treat everything from urinary problems, joint pains, nosebleeds, lung congestion, stomach aches, diabetes, eczema, cancer, asthma, alopecia, and more. In some regions, it is also used as a culinary ingredient or added to hair and skin products. So, with all of these benefits, why would a gardener want to get rid of the stinging nettle?

Well, apart from their tendency to cause pain, these plants can quickly dominate soil and take over lawns. This is why a proper lawn maintenance or weed control strategy is needed to keep their growth in check. If you think that you may have stinging nettles growing in your garden, identify the species by looking for the following features.

The weed can grow up to 2 meters tall in the summer, but it shrinks during cold weather. It has a creeping rhizome root structure that may be seen above ground. The leaves are soft and green, and they can grow up to 6’’ long. They form a teardrop shape, with the broadest end attached to the stem. From May to September, small green or brown flowers appear.

The stinging nettle can be controlled with manual weed pulling or weed control. If all parts of the plant are removed and discarded, it is unlikely to grow back. However, the best way to make sure is to continue with lawn care and hoeing after removal. This will destroy any seedlings left in the ground. Or, you can seek the help of a reliable lawn service.

1. Cut enough nettles to fill a bucket. You should choose plants that aren’t carrying any seeds and cut them at the base so you don’t get any roots or soil. When I gathered my second batch (Dad accidentally knocked over part of my first batch while it was brewing), I had to watch out for snails who had eaten through most of the patch and were still hanging on (I didn’t want to risk killing them unnecessarily).
Attention: Use gardening gloves to protect your hands (stinging nettles sting!)
2. Trim the plants inside the bucket with pruning shears or scissors. You can leave the plants whole and get the same results, but it is much easier to handle the brew later (stirring and filtering) if the cuttings are trimmed short.
3. Fill the bucket with clear rainwater a little under the top and cover. As the nettle tea brews, a layer of foam might develop, so you need to leave some room for it. The tea will smell unpleasant during brewing, so you don’t want it to spill and overfill.
Attention: It is better to use rainwater as it doesn’t contain chlorine, fluoride or other chemicals that may inhibit the beneficial qualities of nettles.
Alternative: You can put the trimmings inside a cloth bag and tie it closed before adding water. This works like a tea bag and makes it easier to filter the tea later.
4. Place the covered bucket in a warm sunny place and stir every 2 days or more. I stirred mine every morning because it only took a few seconds.
Your nettle tea will be ready after around 2 weeks when it stops bubbling (in cold places with little or no sunshine, the brew might require an additional week).
5. Filter the nettle tea over a wide container using an old cloth (or, if you used the “tea bag” method, simply squeeze it dry) and use only the clear-ish liquid.
How to use your nettle tea
Brewed nettle tea will last up to 6 months, enough to get you through the growing season (spring).
To use as a fertilizer, mix 1 part nettle tea with 10 parts water (1:10) and pour the mixture at the base of plants where roots will absorb them more easily.
This fertilizer works best on plants that have a high demand for nourishment such as fruit trees and bushes, roses, annuals and perennial flowering plants. It works for tomatoes, leeks, brassicas, cucumbers and courgettes. However, it is not meant for beans, peas, onions, potatoes and root vegetables. Apply nettle tea to your plants every 3 weeks in the growing season.

This week’s column is not for the fainthearted, or if you are super sensitive to smell. But if you are looking for a chemical- or manure-free fertiliser then, please, read on.

We start with a hazard warning. It really will smell. A lot. Your garden neighbours will notice. They may disapprove.

First, you will need a container with a tight lid. A plastic barrel with a screw top is best. Ours once held mango chutney. Keep it far from gardening friends.

We use two plant varieties as the base: comfrey, our preference, and nettles. With comfrey, you might wait until before or after flowering as bees and other insects love them.

We make around three preparations a season. It couldn’t be more simple. Cut armfuls of comfrey and/or nettles. Pack them in a barrel. Fill with water until near the top. Remember to tightly screw on the lid. And wait.

After a few weeks, you will be happily gardening, but will be distracted by an oddly pervasive odour.

When you lift the lid, you may see a crust, with white, worm-like funghi. Your brew is ready. Be prepared for the stink (though you likely won’t be). I’d advise long and strong rubberised gloves. You’ll also need a jug.

Pour your brew into a watering can. We vary from a ratio of around 20-1 to around 10 (sometimes stronger), depending on potency and impatience. Top up slowly with water. It may bubble like honeycomb.

Apply liberally to the soil late in the day or your neighbours may complain. We give stronger doses to squashes than leaf crops. We also water it in. Take care not to spill on your clothes. Your ‘herbal tea’ will give your growing a boost, help replenish plants. Lastly, pick late sweet peas or night-scented phlox or stocks. Breathe them in.

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Stinging nettle manure is highly regarded as a mild plant protector and biological fertilizer in an ecologically farmed hobby garden. Prepared as a swiftly effective brew, it fights widely spread parasites found in the garden attacking the valuable wild plant like aphids. In order for the flexible natural remedy to fully take effect, it is important to properly utilize it. This instruction will explain in detail how to properly produce stinging nettle manure.

Hobby gardeners are relying on the concentrated force of stinging nettle manure in ecologically ornamental and vegetable gardens in order to strengthen their crops and to supply them with nutrients as well as to fend of diseases. The herbaceous plant renders, thanks to their valuable ingredients, chemical compounds irrelevant.

The unpleasant stinging hairs are being used for its multitude of virtues. In order to use the natural permeability of the natural remedy, you should have a vat standing ready. The effectiveness of the mixture is decidedly dependent upon a successful mixture of ingredients and the fermentation process.

Brew, manure?

Where lies the difference between brew and manure?

When producing brew and manure from stinging nettles, the time factor is the decisive variable. This means in detail, that a brew with the usage of boiling water has to be prepared within 2 minutes and should be ready for application after additional 24 hours. Opposed to this, the production of manure, on the basis of cold water – takes approximately 14 days for production.

Focusing on the significant difference in time it is obvious, that manure clearly trumps brew concerning effectiveness. Stinging nettle manure is thus solely being used in a diluted concentration, whereas brew is being administered without dilution.

Harvesting

Harvesting the stinging nettle

The little stinging nettle (Urtica urens) as well as the big stinging nettle (Urtica dioca) are the perfect ingredient for the production of brew and manure. The ideal time for the harvest lies between May and July, as long as the plants are not yet blooming. As the seeds are effortlessly surviving every form of production you can leave blooming or withered stinging nettles out of your consideration. If both varieties thrive in the catchment area, the smaller plant will be pushed into the focus as it seems more intensive.

Harvest Stinging nettles 1 of 10

Please do not miss to put on gloves as not to come in contact with the stinging hairs. Pick the leafs from the stems to collect them in a nearby basket. In order to be able to produce, if needed, stinging nettle brew or stinging nettle manure in late summer, a part of the harvest should be dried and be stored in a dark container.

Production brew

Instruction for stinging nettle brew

In order to solve a cultivation problem short term, like the healing of leaf chlorosis or the infestation with leaf lice, stinging nettle brew seems like an effective substitute in the event there is no fermented manure available for usage. If you follow this instruction, the usage can begin within the course of one day.

Required materials and ingredients:

  • 500 g fresh stinging nettle leafs
  • 5 l Water (ideally filtered rain water)
  • 1 fireproof container (no metal)
  • 1 fast cooker or water kettle
  • 1 kitchen sieve
  • 1 kitchen spoon

Instead of using herbs, you can use 75 to 100 gram of dried stinging nettle leafs, without having the effectiveness suffer from it.

Instruction

As soon as the materials and stinging nettles are ready, the actual production happens within a few minutes.

This is how it is done:

  • fill the fireproof, non-metallic container with fresh or dried herbs
  • make the water boil in the fast cooker or water kettle
  • stir for a while with the cooking spoon

Let the brew stand with the lid on top for 24 hours. Subsequently let the water herb mixture run through the kitchen sieve. Filled in a hand sprayer or a watering can, the stinging nettle brew can be used undiluted. Resourceful hobby gardeners are letting leftover leafs dry to spread them in ornamental or vegetable gardens as mulch.

Production manure

Instruction for stinging nettle manure

We recommend, in light of the time consuming production of stinging nettle manure, to create a supply in a great vat in May or June, as the mixture is lasting for many months. Aside from metal, the container be made from manifold materials like wood, plastic, stoneware, ceramic, glass or clay. This is how you produce the manure.

Required Materials and ingredients:

  • 1.000 g fresh stinging nettle leafs
  • 10 l tap or rain watering
  • 1 wood container, vat or bucket
  • 1 wooden stick
  • wire or a grate
  • rock flour or betonite
  • valerian, oak or chamomile leafs

If there is no fresh harvest available, you can use 200 grams of dried stinging nettle leafs as a substitute without any problems.

It makes sense, to place the vat in advance at an adequate location. If you aspire towards producing a higher amount of plant brew, there is a high effort to surmount to transport the filled container.

This is how the preparation is being done right:

  • place the brew container at a sunny, warm spot in the back area of a gardener
  • crush the stinging nettle leafs and stack them up in the container
  • fill up sufficiently with water as to expose an edge of 5- 8 cm
  • strongly stir the mixture with a wooden stick
  • a to prevent animals falling into it, cover the vat with a grate or wire mesh

The container should not be closed airtight. In order for the fermentation process to occur, air and liquids have to react with one another. Inside of 2 to 3 days, the formation of foam signalizes a successful fermentation procedure. An unpleasant smell with occur simultaneously, because of which a location with a sufficient distance from the house or terrace is being recommended.

Treatment during the fermentation

At sunny, warm locations, the desired decomposition of stinging nettles takes approximately 14 days. In this time period it is important, to stir the brew once or twice daily. By doing this you can keep the process of conversion going which takes place with a multitude of microorganisms.

Produce Stinging nettles manure 1 of 5

A vast majority of the invisible assistants needs a supply of oxygen and predominantly stays at the surface of the brew. With the proper stirring technique you can effectively support the work of the microorganisms.

This is how it is done:

  • move the wooden stick along the inner edge
  • as soon as a funnel is forming in the middle, pull out the wooden stick

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The stick should not decelerate the rotating herb brew, as they would be pushed down and eventually die due to a lack of oxygen. This deficit slows the process of fermentation and simultaneously promotes the growth of the intensive brew stench.

Prevent foul smell

A proper stirring technique alone is not sufficient to prevent the intensive brew smell. With the help of the following steps you can influence, that the air in the periphery does not get polluted.

  • before every stirring, add some herb brew or rock flour or betonite (clay mineral powder)
  • additionally stir the leafs of chamomile, oak or baldrian into it
  • ideally install an aquarium pump near the bottom of the container

The higher the level of oxygen in the fermenting liquid, the lower the occurrence of the smell. By installing an aquarium pump at the bottom of the container, you can solve the problem as well and just as easily. In order to prevent swimming stinging nettles to clog the device, you can fill leafs into a back with air and water permeable material, like with old drapes.

Completion and usage

Stinging nettle is finished as soon as the brown liquid ceases to foam. If the plant parts have not been in a net, pour the mixture through a sieve or remove the stinging nettles with a foam spoon. In order to counteract a secondary fermentation of the manure, a shady, cool location is advantageous.

Usage

Tips regarding usage

As part of the preparation as brew or manure, the water soaks in the valuable ingredients of stinging nettles, to supply it to the plants of the garden as a natural fertilizer, tonic or ecological fungicide and insecticide. We have summarized in the following overview the most frequent methods of usage for you.

Stinging nettle brew

Fighting parasites

In combination with boiling water, stinging nettle brew will have mobilized after 24 hours those antibodies which counteracts sucking or stinging parasites. If you observe on your plants an infestation of leaf lice, spider mites or thrips, then the brew already contains a high concentration of unsolved nettle toxins.

One will not have to wait long for a success if applied undiluted to the upper and lower sides of the infected leafs. In the early stage of infestation, one application can already be sufficient. Otherwise spray the stinging nettle brew with a distance of two days repeatedly.

Leaf fertilizing

If there is yellow or brown coloration occurring on your crops and the green leaf nerves sticking out, it is mostly due to leaf chlorosis. A surplus of lime in the substrate determines important nutrients, which will not find their way into the plant pathways and thus not transported to the leafs.

The actual cause for a surplus of lime in the ground should be analyzed and mended. This problem is usually occurring when plants with a preference for a sour pH value are being watered with hard tap water.

Stinging nettle manure

Stinging nettle manure produced in adherence to this instruction contains a strong load of valuable nutrients like nitrogen, sodium, potassium as well as trace elements and vitamins. Your ornamental and crop plants will profit from this, without the necessity of using chemical additives.

In light of the high concentration, plant manure should only be used in a diluted manner with the ratio of 1 : 10 for the watering can and 1 : 50 for a pressure sprayer. It is furthermore important to make sure, that the solution is not being spread under the condition of direct sun exposure or on dry earth.

Please adjust the dosage on whether you are dealing with a plant with low, moderate or strong nutrient demands. Even though you are holding with the stinging nettle manure a natural fertilizer in your hands, there is still the possibility of overdosing with the respective disadvantages. With some exceptions, crop plants welcome a dosage of the nourishing plant manure.

Only for the usage with salads, peas, cabbage or vegetables the usage of stinging nettle manure is not suited. On flower and blossom groves you should add the natural fertilizer merely onto the growth of buds, as the high level of nitrogen carries negative implications for the blossoming.

Acceleration of the compost rotting

It requires a lot of patience to wait for a self-grown pile of compost which supplies the desired organic solid fertilizer. The stinging nettle manure has proven useful when it comes to accelerating the rotting. It is being used, as an exception, in an undiluted state.

Now and then shower the compost pile with the flower manure, this way the composition proceeds faster as the first diligent microorganisms are being vitalized. The stinging nettle manure counts as an especially effective accelerator if you want to create a sour compost with foliage leafs.

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Medicinal Weeds: Stinging Nettle

This article originally appeared in Garden Culture Magazine US26 & UK28.

Perhaps you don’t know its name, but you certainly remember its sting. Even the slightest interaction with this tall weed can cause sharp pains and a burning tingle.

Why people hate it

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) has an impressive defense system. The stems, leaves, and flowers are covered with tiny hairs called spicules. These spicules, made from minuscule silica needles, are similar to sharp glass; they puncture the skin and cause painful irritation. Like a weapon used in chemical warfare, they inject tiny amounts of a cocktail made of acetylcholine, histamine, and 5-hydroxytryptamine, the same components that cause allergic reactions. Within seconds, the skin turns red, begins to burn, and little white bumps appear, making us feel miserable. Even if the rash isn’t dangerous and doesn’t last very long, it’s enough to make any gardener turn their back on a truly marvelous plant.

Appearances can be deceiving

Once we overcome the fear of being stung, stinging nettle is a fantastic weed. This common plant has been a close friend to humans, used in many different ways for centuries. From the roots, leaves, and stalks, to the flowers and seeds, every single part of the plant has a purpose.

Durable and resistant, the fibers of the mature plant stalks are used for textiles, ropes, and fishing nets. They can also be turned into paper or used to produce natural dyes in tones of yellow, green, or dark grey-green. Stinging nettle is also no stranger to the world of cosmetics. Urtica dioica extracts are commonly found in soaps, skin lotions, and shampoos that provide strengthening and nourishing properties.

Good for the body

Stinging nettle’s health benefits are plentiful, and this prickly weed can practically cure all that ills! The vibrant, dark emerald green hue of the nettle plant signals that it is rich in chlorophyll, and therefore, the plant is excellent for the body’s integumentary system (skin, nails, and hair), as well as the cardiovascular, urinary, lymph, and respiratory systems. It supports and rejuvenates our bodies from head to toe.

It is important to note that while nettle is generally considered a safe herb to use, for a few people, it can trigger some side effects or interfere with other herbs, supplements, or medications being used. Always consult a health care provider before including it in your daily herb regiment.

A Nourishing Medicine

Armed with long sleeves, pants, and a pair of work gloves, gather the top eight to ten inches of the nettle plant in the early spring when it is still young and has not yet gone into flower. Once the leaves are cooked, dried, or blanched, they lose their stinging capabilities, and the plant is ready to spread its wealth!

Nettle is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as B1, B2, B3, B5, and K. It is also rich in protein, calcium, and converts into iron, folate, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, selenium, and zinc. Gentle and nourishing, stinging nettle is excellent to take as a daily infusion, as it contains many nutrients missing in modern day food crops.

How to use it

An infusion is a strong tea that steeps for a long time — anywhere between four to eight hours. The dark green brew will have an intense, earthy taste and smell, and it won’t be long before your body ends up craving it. To make it, just put 1 oz. of dried nettle leaves in one liter (1 quart) Mason jar. Add hot water all the way to the top. Refrain from using boiling water, as it will kill some of the plant’s beneficial properties. Close the cap tight and let it steep for four to eight hours, or even overnight. After straining and discarding the plant matter, enjoy one or two cups during the day. Store any leftovers in the fridge, but be sure to throw it out after 36 hours.

Follow these directives every day for six to eight weeks, and the entire body can benefit from this dark green concoction. It is an all natural tool to help recover strength, either following a long-term illness or from pure exhaustion. Its high iron content can help people struggling with anemia, and the various rich and concentrated minerals help fortify bones and replenish mineral reserves.

Nettle is also a gentle diuretic and helps cleanse the body of toxins. It has been proven to effectively treat gout, as it removes and evacuates uric acid deposits, and can treat urinary tract infections and prevent painful kidney stones.

It is instinctive for many gardeners to label weeds as undesirable, but having an open mind unlocks enormous potential and many benefits. If you can look past its barbed exterior, stinging nettle is not an intruder, but rather, a weed we are lucky to have amongst us. The same is true for many so-called weeds which are, in reality, precious gems that have so much to share.

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Caroline Rivard

A therapist and healer for over 15 years, Caroline’s passion for medicinal plants only began after leaving the city for the quiet country life in Quebec, Canada. Eager to learn, she’s never looked back, using forests and wildflower fields as her classroom ever since. In a time where reconnecting with plants and nature is badly needed, she spreads her love for herbalism by holding teaching workshops about the powers of medicinal herbs and natural remedies.

Latest posts by Caroline Rivard (see all)

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  • Yarrow: From Garden Weed To Powerful Medicinal Plant – November 4, 2019
  • Dandelions: Medicinal Weeds of Gold – September 5, 2019

Stinging nettles: A weed worth welcoming

“Stop the car!” my friend shouted as we cruised along a country road. The year was 1970. “Isn’t that wild marijuana?” he asked. I gamely pulled over and grabbed him a bunch of the weed in question.

Not only was it not marijuana, but it was stinging nettle, a plant whose touch leaves skin with an itch and a burning pain. I memorized the shape of its sharply toothed leaves, just as I’d memorized that of three-leaved poison ivy, years before. Fortunately, the sting of the nettle, caused by sharp microscopic spines, is short-lived. Nevertheless, I’ve given it a wide berth — until now.

In my community, spring brings with it a wave of nettle fever. Neighbors who are passionate foragers don leather gloves and set forth to gather nettle leaves for cooking. (Nettles lose their sting the minute heat is applied.) Like many common weeds, such as dandelion and shepherd’s purse, this one is a highly touted spring tonic, rich in vitamins and minerals. The cruel handshake it delivers is just a minor annoyance.

Nettles aren’t hard to find. Old-timers will often describe an abandoned farm as “all gone to nettles,” and there is just such a farm down the road from us where everyone scores their spring nettle fix, stuffing bags with the young, tender tips, and bringing them home to their kitchens. The resulting dishes often show up on potluck tables, and in the conversation around them. “Nettles are the most mineral-rich land plant in the world,” someone will crow. Recipe ideas are exchanged: a Tuscan sauce with nettles, garlic and cream. A smooth and creamy French soup in which nettles are combined with sorrel (another spring favorite) along with chicken broth and leeks. Nettles on pasta, nettles on pizza. Nettle risotto, nettle gnocchi, nettle quiche.

So I finally give in. I go up to the old farm and pick nettles, wash them in the sink and try sauteeing them with olive oil the way I often do spinach, topping them with scallions and toasted pine nuts. Not good. Even with all the more fibrous stems removed, the end result has a stemmy texture in the mouth. The aroma is intriguing, oddly oceanic, as if seaweed were a close cousin. (Perhaps because of all those mysterious minerals?) I dump the uneaten concoction into a blender, with some water to make it churn properly, and that’s a big improvement, an adequate substitute for creamed spinach.

Stinging nettles can be dangerous to the touch but are also edible (Barbara Damrosch)

I’ll admit I’m a cautious convert. It’s not just the hostility of the plant when you pick it, it’s the way it hovers in my future, poised to colonize my rich soil if I should ever stop maintaining the garden. (“It’s all gone to nettles now,” they’d say.) But I’m going to keep working on this plant. The sorrel in my plot is thriving this year, and I have my eye on that French sorrel and nettle soup.

Damrosch’s latest book is “The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.”

Tip of the week

Japanese black pine and mugo pines are pruned in May by removing a portion of the new needle bundles, which are called candles. Take care not to slice through emerging needles; prune the candles so that the remaining needles are fully intact.

— Adrian Higgins

Edible Weeds 101: The Health Benefits of Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles (Urtica diocia) may sound intimidating, but once you get past their prickly exterior this classic spring weed is packed with good stuff that offers many health benefits.

The leaves and stem of a stinging nettle plant are lined with fine hairs containing formic acid, which gives the plant its sting (and thus its name). Photo By Annie & John/Courtesy Flickr.

Vitamins and minerals: Nettles are an excellent source of protein. They also contain high amounts of vitamins A, B and C, as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Arthritis: Nettles have been used for centuries to treat arthritis. When applied to fingers and other affected areas, nettles can reduce arthritic pain—so much so that 85 percent of participants in a study at the University of Plymouth in England reported that the pain relief from applying nettles was significant enough to endure the sting and welts caused by the leaves. Nettles contain the neuro-transmitters serotonin and histamine, which may be responsible for the weed’s pain relieving qualities. Nettles can also be used to treat other types of pain, such as sore muscles.

Allergies: Tired of sniffling and suffering through allergy season? Studies have shown stinging nettles to be effective at combating hay fever. Anti-inflammatory compounds and flavonoids found in this weed reduce the amount of histamine produced in an allergic response, meaning you’ll sneeze and itch a lot less than normal.

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Detox: Because stinging nettles are a diuretic, they can be useful in cleansing and detox diets.

Nettles lose their sting once cooked. Add this edible weed to soups, pastas and other dishes. Photo By Olga Massov/Courtesy Flickr.

Collection and Cooking

Stinging nettles are covered with fine hairs containing formic acid. Brush bare skin against this plant’s leaves or stem, and it will release that acid, causing a sting and welt that may last for an hour. For this reason, it’s necessary to wear gloves when collecting and handling nettles. Collect nettles in the spring when the leaves are young and tender.

Fortunately, cooking, steaming or drying the nettles takes the bite out of this weed. Cooked nettles taste excellent with just salt, pepper and butter, or they can be incorporated into more extravagant dishes, such as this Potato Nettle Soup. Nettles can also be steeped as a tea.

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