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Stinging nettle

Stinging nettle

Overview
Stinging nettle or common nettle, Urtica dioica, is a herbaceous
Herbaceous
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

 perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

, native to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, northern Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, and is the best-known member of the nettle
Nettle
Nettles constitute between 24 and 39 species of flowering plants of the genus Urtica in the family Urticaceae, with a cosmopolitan though mainly temperate distribution. They are mostly herbaceous perennial plants, but some are annual and a few are shrubby...

 genus Urtica. The plant has many hollow stinging hairs called trichome
Trichome
Trichomes are fine outgrowths or appendages on plants and certain protists. These are of diverse structure and function. Examples are hairs, glandular hairs, scales, and papillae.- Algal trichomes :...

s on its leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles that inject histamine
Histamine
Histamine is an organic nitrogen compound involved in local immune responses as well as regulating physiological function in the gut and acting as a neurotransmitter. Histamine triggers the inflammatory response. As part of an immune response to foreign pathogens, histamine is produced by...

 and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals.
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Encyclopedia
Stinging nettle or common nettle, Urtica dioica, is a herbaceous
Herbaceous
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

 perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

, native to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, northern Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, and is the best-known member of the nettle
Nettle
Nettles constitute between 24 and 39 species of flowering plants of the genus Urtica in the family Urticaceae, with a cosmopolitan though mainly temperate distribution. They are mostly herbaceous perennial plants, but some are annual and a few are shrubby...

 genus Urtica. The plant has many hollow stinging hairs called trichome
Trichome
Trichomes are fine outgrowths or appendages on plants and certain protists. These are of diverse structure and function. Examples are hairs, glandular hairs, scales, and papillae.- Algal trichomes :...

s on its leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles that inject histamine
Histamine
Histamine is an organic nitrogen compound involved in local immune responses as well as regulating physiological function in the gut and acting as a neurotransmitter. Histamine triggers the inflammatory response. As part of an immune response to foreign pathogens, histamine is produced by...

 and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals. The plant has a long history of use as a medicine and as a food source.

Description


Stinging nettle is a dioecious
Dioecious
Dioecy is the property of a group of biological organisms that have males and females, but not members that have organs of both sexes at the same time. I.e., those whose individual members can usually produce only one type of gamete; each individual organism is thus distinctly female or male...

 herbaceous
Herbaceous plant
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

 perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

, 1 to 2 m (3.3 to 6.6 ft) tall in the summer and dying down to the ground in winter. It has widely spreading rhizomes and stolons, which are bright yellow as are the roots. The soft green leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are 3 to 15 cm (1.2 to 5.9 in) long and are borne oppositely on an erect wiry green stem. The leaves have a strongly serrated margin, a cordate base and an acuminate tip with a terminal leaf tooth longer than adjacent laterals. It bears small greenish or brownish numerous flowers in dense axillary inflorescences. The leaves and stems are very hairy with non-stinging hairs and also bear many stinging hairs (trichome
Trichome
Trichomes are fine outgrowths or appendages on plants and certain protists. These are of diverse structure and function. Examples are hairs, glandular hairs, scales, and papillae.- Algal trichomes :...

s), whose tips come off when touched, transforming the hair into a needle that will inject several chemicals: acetylcholine
Acetylcholine
The chemical compound acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter in both the peripheral nervous system and central nervous system in many organisms including humans...

, histamine
Histamine
Histamine is an organic nitrogen compound involved in local immune responses as well as regulating physiological function in the gut and acting as a neurotransmitter. Histamine triggers the inflammatory response. As part of an immune response to foreign pathogens, histamine is produced by...

, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotriene
Leukotriene
Leukotrienes are fatty signaling molecules. They were first found in leukocytes . One of their roles is to trigger contractions in the smooth muscles lining the trachea; their overproduction is a major cause of inflammation in asthma and allergic rhinitis...

s, and possibly formic acid
Formic acid
Formic acid is the simplest carboxylic acid. Its chemical formula is HCOOH or HCO2H. It is an important intermediate in chemical synthesis and occurs naturally, most notably in the venom of bee and ant stings. In fact, its name comes from the Latin word for ant, formica, referring to its early...

. This mixture of chemical compounds cause a painful sting or paresthesia
Paresthesia
Paresthesia , spelled "paraesthesia" in British English, is a sensation of tingling, burning, pricking, or numbness of a person's skin with no apparent long-term physical effect. It is more generally known as the feeling of "pins and needles" or of a limb "falling asleep"...

 from which the species derives its common name, as well as the colloquial names burn nettle, burn weed, burn hazel.

Taxonomy


The taxonomy
Taxonomy
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

 of stinging nettles has been confused, and older sources are likely to use a variety of systematic names for these plants. Formerly, more species were recognised than are now accepted. However, there are at least five clear subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

, some formerly classified as separate species:
  • U. dioica subsp. dioica (European stinging nettle). Europe, Asia, northern Africa.
  • U. dioica subsp. galeopsifolia
    Urtica dioica galeopsifolia
    Urtica dioica subsp. galeopsifolia, the Fen Nettle or Stingless Nettle, is a herbaceous perennial plant found in Europe. It is either considered to be a subspecies of Stinging Nettle , or a species in its own right: Urtica galeopsifolia.Unlike most other nettles Fen Nettle has no stinging hairs or...

     (fen nettle or stingless nettle). Europe. (Sometimes known as Urtica galeopsifolia)
  • U. dioica subsp. afghanica. Southwestern and central Asia. (Gazaneh in Iran)
  • U. dioica subsp. gansuensis. Eastern Asia (China).
  • U. dioica subsp. gracilis (Ait.) Selander (American stinging nettle). North America.
  • U. dioica subsp. holosericea (Nutt.) Thorne (hairy nettle). North America.


Other species names formerly accepted as distinct by some authors but now regarded as synonyms of U. dioica include U. breweri, U. californica, U. cardiophylla, U. lyalli, U. major, U. procera, U. serra, U. strigosissima, U. trachycarpa, and U. viridis. Other vernacular names include tall nettle, slender nettle, California nettle, jaggy nettle, burning weed, fire weed and bull nettle (a name shared by Cnidoscolus texanus and Solanum carolinense).

Distribution



Stinging nettles are abundant in northern Europe and much of Asia, usually found in the countryside. It is less gregarious in southern Europe and north Africa, where it is restricted by its need for moist soil. In North America it is widely distributed in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, where it is found in every province and state except for Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

 and also can be found in northernmost Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

. It grows in abundance in the Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region in northwestern North America, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Definitions of the region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common concept of the...

, especially in places where annual rainfall is high. In North America the stinging nettle is far less common than in northern Europe. The European subspecies has been introduced into North America as well as South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

.

In the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 stinging nettles have a strong association with human habitation and buildings. The presence of nettles may indicate that a building has been long abandoned. Human and animal waste may be responsible for elevated levels of phosphate
Phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

 and nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 in the soil, providing an ideal environment for stinging nettles.

Ecology



Nettles are the exclusive larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

l food plant for several species of butterfly
Butterfly
A butterfly is a mainly day-flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, which includes the butterflies and moths. Like other holometabolous insects, the butterfly's life cycle consists of four parts: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Most species are diurnal. Butterflies have large, often brightly coloured...

, such as the Peacock Butterfly
Inachis io
The European Peacock , more commonly known simply as the Peacock butterfly, is a colourful butterfly, found in Europe, temperate Asia as far east as Japan. It is the only member of the genus Inachis...

 or the Small Tortoiseshell
Small Tortoiseshell
The Small Tortoiseshell is a well-known colourful butterfly.-Range:It is found in temperate Europe, Asia Minor, Central Asia, Siberia, China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. There are a few records from New York City which, however, are believed to have arrived human-assisted.-Subspecies:*A. u. urticae...

, and are also eaten by the larvae of some moth
Moth
A moth is an insect closely related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. Moths form the majority of this order; there are thought to be 150,000 to 250,000 different species of moth , with thousands of species yet to be described...

s including Angle Shades
Angle Shades
The Angle Shades is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is a common and familiar European species and is often strongly migratory....

, Buff Ermine
Buff Ermine
The Buff Ermine is a moth of the family Arctiidae. It is sometimes placed in the genus Spilosoma. It is found throughout the temperate belt of the Palearctic region south to Northern Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan; also in Southern Siberia , Eastern Mongolia, Amur Region, China, Korea and Japan.The...

, Dot Moth
Dot Moth
The Dot Moth is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is found throughout Europe apart from the south-east.This is a very distinctive species with very dark brown, almost black, forewings marked with a large white stigma from which the species gets its common name. The hindwings are grey with a dark...

, The Flame
Flame (moth)
The Flame is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is found throughout Europe.This species has creamy-buff forewings with black streaking along the costa. The hindwings are whitish with a dark line along the margin. The wingspan is 30-36 mm...

, The Gothic
Gothic (moth)
The Gothic is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is distributed in temperate Eurasia.This species has a wingspan of 36–46 mm. The forewings are broader than most other noctuids, blackish with a network of fine white lines . The hindwings are grey. The species flies at night in June and July...

, Grey Chi
Grey Chi
The Grey Chi is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is distributed throughout Europe. Although it is not present in southern Spain and Greece, as well as northern Fennoscandia...

, Grey Pug
Grey Pug
The Grey Pug is a moth of the family Geometridae. It is found throughout the Palearctic region and the Near East.The forewings of this species are grey marked with pale fascia and radial lines which give it a mottled appearance. The hindwings are much paler and plainer. Melanism is quite common in...

, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
The Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is distributed throughout southern and central Europe, and southern Sweden....

, Mouse Moth
Mouse Moth
The Mouse Moth is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is a very widespread species with a Holarctic distribution.This is a rather drab but distinctive species. The forewings are uniform dark brown with three blackish spots arranged in a triangle. The hindwings are buffish, darker towards the...

, Setaceous Hebrew Character
Setaceous Hebrew Character
The Setaceous Hebrew Character is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is found in the Palearctic ecozone. It is a common species throughout Europe. It is also found in North America, from coast to coast across Canada and the northern United States to western Alaska. It occurs in the Rocky Mountains...

 and Small Angle Shades
Small Angle Shades
The small angle shades is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is distributed throughout Europe.As the common name suggests, this species is closely related to the angle shades , and is considerably smaller , but does not especially resemble that species...

. The root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s are sometimes eaten by the larva of the Ghost Moth
Ghost Moth
The Ghost Moth , also known as the Ghost Swift, is a moth of the family Hepialidae. It is common throughout Europe except for the far south-east...

 Hepialus humuli.

Medicinal uses



As Old English Stiðe, nettle is one of the nine plants invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm
Nine Herbs Charm
The Nine Herbs Charm is an Old English charm recorded in the 10th century Lacnunga manuscript. The charm is intended for treatment of poison and infection through the preparation of nine herbs. The numbers nine and three are mentioned frequently within the charm and are significant numbers in...

, recorded in the 10th century. Nettle is believed to be a galactagogue
Galactagogue
A galactagogue is a substance that promotes lactation in humans and other animals. It may be synthetic, plant-derived, or endogenous.-Herbal:The most commonly cited galactagogues are herbal...

.

Urtication, or flogging with nettles, is the process of deliberately applying stinging nettles to the skin in order to provoke inflammation. An agent thus used is known as a rubefacient
Rubefacient
A rubefacient is a substance for topical application that produces redness of the skin e.g. by causing dilation of the capillaries and an increase in blood circulation. There is limited evidence as to their efficacy ; and as of 2010 the best evidence does not support using gels and creams...

 (something that causes redness). This is done as a folk remedy for rheumatism
Rheumatism
Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is a non-specific term for medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissue. The study of, and therapeutic interventions in, such disorders is called rheumatology.-Terminology:...

, providing temporary relief from pain. The counter-irritant action to which this is often attributed can be preserved by the preparation of an alcoholic tincture
Tincture
A tincture is an alcoholic extract or solution of a non-volatile substance . To qualify as a tincture, the alcoholic extract is to have an ethanol percentage of at least 40-60%...

 which can be applied as part of a topical preparation, but not as an infusion
Infusion
An infusion is the outcome of steeping plants with desired chemical compounds or flavors in water or oil.-History:The first recorded use of essential oils was in the 10th or 11th century by the Persian polymath Avicenna, possibly in The Canon of Medicine.-Preparation techniques:An infusion is very...

, which drastically reduces the irritant action.

Nettle leaf is a herb that has a long tradition of use as an adjuvant remedy in the treatment of arthritis
Arthritis
Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints....

 in Germany. Nettle leaf extract contains active compounds that reduce TNF-α and other inflammatory cytokine
Cytokine
Cytokines are small cell-signaling protein molecules that are secreted by the glial cells of the nervous system and by numerous cells of the immune system and are a category of signaling molecules used extensively in intercellular communication...

s. It has been demonstrated that nettle leaf lowers TNF-α levels by potently inhibiting the genetic transcription factor
Transcription factor
In molecular biology and genetics, a transcription factor is a protein that binds to specific DNA sequences, thereby controlling the flow of genetic information from DNA to mRNA...

 that activates TNF-α and IL-1B in the synovial tissue that lines the joint
Synovial joint
A Synovial joint, also known as a diarthrosis, is the most common and most movable type of joint in the body of a mammal. As with most other joints, synovial joints achieve movement at the point of contact of the articulating bones....

.

Nettle is used in shampoo to control dandruff and is said to make hair more glossy, which is why some farmers include a handful of nettles with cattle feed.

Nettle root extracts have been extensively studied in human clinical trials as a treatment for symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
Benign prostatic hyperplasia also known as benign prostatic hypertrophy , benign enlargement of the prostate , and adenofibromyomatous hyperplasia, refers to the increase in size of the prostate....

 (BPH). These extracts have been shown to help relieve symptoms compared to placebo both by themselves and when combined with other herbal medicines.

Because it contains 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran
3,4-Divanillyltetrahydrofuran
3,4-Divanillyltetrahydrofuran is a lignan found in a Urtica dioica subspecies. This same compound may also be found in other lignan-containing plant sources such as Linum usitatissimum ....

, certain extracts of the nettle are used by bodybuilders in an effort to increase free testosterone
Testosterone
Testosterone is a steroid hormone from the androgen group and is found in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands...

 by occupying sex-hormone binding globulin

Food



Stinging nettle has a flavour similar to spinach
Spinach
Spinach is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant , which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions...

 when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Young plants were harvested by Native Americans
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 and used as a cooked plant in spring when other food plants were scarce. Soaking nettles in water or cooking will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without incidence of stinging. After Stinging Nettle enters its flowering and seed setting stages the leaves develop gritty particles called "cystoliths"
Cystolith
Cystolith is a botanical term for the inorganic concretions, usually of calcium carbonate, formed in a cellulose matrix in special cells, generally in the leaf of plants of certain families, e.g. Ficus elastica, the Indian rubber plant of the family Moraceae...

, which can irritate the urinary tract. In its peak season, stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The young leaves are edible and make a very good pot-herb
Leaf vegetable
Leaf vegetables, also called potherbs, green vegetables, greens, leafy greens or salad greens, are plant leaves eaten as a vegetable, sometimes accompanied by tender petioles and shoots...

. The leaves are also dried and may then be used to make a tisane
Tisane
A herbal tea, tisane, or ptisan is a herbal or plant infusion and usually not made from the leaves of the tea bush . Typically, herbal tea is simply the combination of boiling water and dried fruits, flowers or herbs. Herbal tea has been imbibed for nearly as long as written history extends...

, as can also be done with the nettle's flowers.

Nettles can be used in a variety of recipes, such as polenta
Polenta
Polenta is a dish made from boiled cornmeal. The word "polenta" is borrowed from Italian.-Description:Polenta is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal , which can be ground coarsely or finely depending on the region and the texture desired.As it is known today, polenta derives from earlier...

, pesto
Pesto
Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy , and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano and Fiore Sardo...

 and purée
Purée
Purée and mash are general terms for cooked food, usually vegetables or legumes, that have been ground, pressed, blended, and/or sieved to the consistency of a soft creamy paste or thick liquid. Purées of specific foods are often known by specific names, e.g., mashed potatoes or apple sauce...

. Nettle soup
Nettle soup
Nettle soup is a soup prepared from stinging nettles. It is eaten principally during spring and early summer, when young nettle buds are collected. It is often served with sliced boiled eggs. The dish is traditionally eaten in the Nordic countries and Eastern Europe....

 is a common use of the plant, particularly in Northern and Eastern Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. In Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

 and the Kumaon
Kumaon Division
For Kumaoni/Kumauni People see Kumauni PeopleKumaon or Kumaun is one of the two regions and administrative divisions of Uttarakhand, a mountainous state of northern India, the other being Garhwal. It includes the districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Nainital, Pithoragarh, and Udham Singh Nagar...

 region of Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Stinging Nettle is known as Shishnu. It is a very popular vegetable and cooked with Indian spices.

Nettles are sometimes used in cheese making, for example in the production of Yarg
Yarg
Yarg is a semi-hard cow's milk cheese made in Cornwall, United Kingdom from the milk of Friesian cows. Before being left to mature, this cheese is carefully wrapped in nettle leaves to form an edible, though mouldy, rind. The texture varies from creamy and soft immediately under the nettle coating...

 and as a flavouring in varieties of Gouda.

Competitive eating


In the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, an annual Stinging Nettle Eating Championship draws thousands of people to Dorset, where competitors attempt to eat as much of the raw plant as possible. Competitors are given 60 cm (23.6 in) stalks of the plant, from which they strip the leaves and eat them. Whoever strips and eats the most stinging nettle leaves in a fixed time is the winner. The competition dates back to 1986, when two neighbouring farmers attempted to settle a dispute about which had the worst infestation of nettles.

Drink


Nettle leaves are steeped in a concentrated sugar solution so the flavour is extracted into the sugar solution. The leaves are then removed and a source of citric acid (usually lemon juice) is added to help preserve the cordial and add a tart flavour.

Commercially produced cordials are generally quite concentrated and are usually diluted by one part cordial to ten parts water – thus a 0.5 litres (1.1 US pt) bottle of cordial would be enough for 5.5 litres (11.6 US pt) diluted. The high concentration of sugar in nettle cordial gives it a long shelf life.

There are also many recipes for alcoholic nettle beer, which is a countryside favourite in the British Isles.

Nettle sting treatment



Anti-itch drugs
Antipruritic
Antipruritics, also known as anti-itch drugs, are medications that inhibit the itching that is often associated with sunburns, allergic reactions, eczema, psoriasis, chickenpox, fungal infections, insect bites and stings like those from mosquitoes, fleas, and mites, and contact dermatitis and...

, usually in the form of creams
Cream (pharmaceutical)
A cream is a topical preparation usually for application to the skin. Creams for application to mucus membranes such as those of the rectum or vagina are also used. Creams may be considered pharmaceutical products as even cosmetic creams are based on techniques developed by pharmacy and...

 containing antihistaminics or hydrocortisone may provide relief from the symptoms of being stung by nettles. But due to the combination of chemicals involved other remedies may be required. Calamine lotion may be helpful. Many folk remedies
Home remedy
A home remedy is a treatment to cure a disease or ailment that employs certain spices, vegetables, or other common items. Home remedies may or may not have medicinal properties that treat or cure the disease or ailment in question, as they are typically passed along by laypersons...

 exist for treating the itching including horsetail (Equisetopsida
Equisetopsida
Equisetopsida, or Sphenopsida, is a class of plants with a fossil record going back to the Devonian. They are commonly known as horsetails...

spp.), leaf of dock (Rumex
Rumex
The docks and sorrels, genus Rumex L., are a genus of about 200 species of annual, biennial and perennial herbs in the buckwheat family Polygonaceae....

spp.), Jewelweed, (Impatiens capensis
Impatiens capensis
Impatiens capensis, the Orange Jewelweed, Common Jewelweed, Spotted Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-me-not, or Orange Balsam, is an annual plant native to North America. It is common in bottomland soils, ditches, and along creeks, often growing side-by-side with its less common relative, Yellow Jewelweed...

and Impatiens pallida
Impatiens pallida
Pale Jewelweed or Yellow Jewelweed is a flowering plant native to the United States. It grows in moist to wet soils, generally alongside the closely related Impatiens capensis, producing flowers from midsummer through fall...

), the underside of a fern (the spores), mud, saliva, or baking soda, oil and onions, and topical use of milk of magnesia. Lemon juice also works for treatment.

Influence on language and culture


In Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 the stinging nettle is the only common stinging plant and has found a place in several figures of speech
Figure of speech
A figure of speech is the use of a word or words diverging from its usual meaning. It can also be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it, as in idiom, metaphor, simile,...

 in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's Hotspur
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 1 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written no later than 1597. It is the second play in Shakespeare's tetralogy dealing with the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , and Henry V...

 urges that "out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety" (Henry IV, part 1
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 1 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written no later than 1597. It is the second play in Shakespeare's tetralogy dealing with the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , and Henry V...

, Act II Scene 3). The figure of speech "to grasp the nettle" probably originated from Aesop
Aesop
Aesop was a Greek writer credited with a number of popular fables. Older spellings of his name have included Esop and Isope. Although his existence remains uncertain and no writings by him survive, numerous tales credited to him were gathered across the centuries and in many languages in a...

's fable "The Boy and the Nettle". In Sean O'Casey
Seán O'Casey
Seán O'Casey was an Irish dramatist and memoirist. A committed socialist, he was the first Irish playwright of note to write about the Dublin working classes.- Early life:...

's Juno and the Paycock
Juno and the Paycock
Juno and the Paycock is a play by Sean O'Casey, and one of the most highly regarded and oft-performed plays in Ireland. It was first staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1924...

 one of the characters quotes Aesop "Gently touch a nettle and it'll sting you for your pains/Grasp it as a lad of mettle and soft as silk remains". The metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

 may refer to the fact that if a nettle plant is grasped firmly rather than brushed against, it does not sting so readily, because the hairs are crushed down flat and do not penetrate the skin so easily.
In the German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, the idiom
Idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

 "sich in die Nesseln setzen", or to sit in nettles, means to get into trouble.

Textiles


Nettle stems contain a bast fibre
Bast fibre
Bast fibre or skin fibre is plant fibre collected from the phloem or bast surrounding the stem of certain, mainly dicotyledonous, plants. They support the conductive cells of the phloem and provide strength to the stem...

 that has been traditionally used for the same purposes as linen
Linen
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather....

 and is produced by a similar retting
Retting
Retting is a process employing the action of micro-organisms and moisture on plants to dissolve or rot away much of the cellular tissues and pectins surrounding bast-fibre bundles, and so facilitating separation of the fibre from the stem...

 process. Unlike cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, nettles grow easily without pesticides. The fibres are coarser however.

In recent years a German company has started to produce commercial nettle textiles.

Nettles may be used as a dye-stuff
Dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

, producing yellow from the roots, or yellowish green from the leaves.

Gardening


As well as the potential for encouraging beneficial insects, nettles have a number of other uses in the vegetable garden.

The growth of stinging nettle is an indicator that an area has high fertility (especially phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

) and has been disturbed.

Nettles contain a lot of nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 and so are used as a compost activator or can be used to make a liquid fertiliser which although somewhat low in phosphate
Phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

 is useful in supplying magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

, sulphur and iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

. They are also one of the few plants that can tolerate, and flourish in, soils rich in poultry droppings.

Recent experiments have shown that nettles may have some use as a companion plant.

Stinging nettle can be a troubling weed, and mowing can increase plant density. Regular and persistent tilling will greatly reduce its numbers, the use of herbicides such as 2,4-D and Glyphosate, are effective control measures.

External links