Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica)
Urtica Dioica
Urtica Dioica


General Information


The Stinging Nettle is a perennial flowering plant that can grow up to 7ft tall. Known for its soft green serrated leaves with many stinging hairs protruding outward, the nettle is a plant most associated with discomfort. The stinging hairs cause great irritation when placed in contact with human skin, creating an intense itch and rash that can last for days.

Additionally, the Stinging Nettle is also used for various medicinal and nutritional remedies. It is a very good source of essential vitamins and minerals and can be consumed in various ways.







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Scientific Information

external image 14051nettle.jpg
A member of the Urticaceae family, the Stinging Nettle’s scientific name of Urtica Dioica is of Latin and Greek origin. The genus name comes from the Latin root for “burn” and the species name is Greek for “two houses”. The burn is associated with the feeling of pain that comes with touching the plant and the two houses refers to the fact that the male and female parts appear on different flowers (6).


The Stinging Nettle has greenish-yellow and sometimes white flowers that form in clusters between the stem and leaf petioles (9). These flowers bloom in the summer months from June to September (5).
Nettle Flowers
Nettle Flowers
Additionally, they produce a fruit that is an achene and have angled unbranched stems (9)

Kingdom
//Plantae// – Plants
Subkingdom
//Tracheobionta// – Vascular plants
Superdivision
//Spermatophyta// – Seed plants
Division
//Magnoliophyta// – Flowering plants
Class
//Magnoliopsida// – Dicotyledons
Subclass
//Hamamelididae//
Order
//Urticales//
Family
//Urticaceae// – Nettle family
Genus
//Urtica// L. – nettle
Species
//Urtica// //dioica// L. – stinging nettle




Geographic InformationURDI.png


Originating in Europe, the Stinging Nettle has long since migrated to other regions of the world, North America being one of the more common places it is grown. In Europe it is commonly found growing around buildings and structures whereas in other regions it is more commonly found in woodland areas (6).

It is extremely abundant in North America being found in every state/territory except for Hawaii. It is so prevalent in North America due to its ease of growth. It is most commonly found in areas of high moisture soil or locations with large annual rainfall amounts (6).







Nettle Rash
Nettle Rash
Harmful Effects


The power of the Nettle lies in the hairs protruding from its leaves. These hairs cause much discomfort for humans because of their syringe-like qualities. Much like the medical instrument, when a hair penetrates the skin, chemicals (histamine) are injected into the human skin producing swelling and redness (1). This swelling is soon followed with itchiness and a rash that in severe cases may take treatment to cure.

Seen in the picture on the right, a rash resulting from an encounter with the nettle plant. The red bumps seen on the skin are the result of the chemical injection the hairs provide.






Treatment
Jewelweed
Jewelweed


If you are unfortunate enough to cross paths with the Stinging Nettle, there are various treatments you can use to cure the pain. One type of treatment you can use is Jewelweed (Impatiens Capensis). The oils from this plant fight against the chemicals in the Stinging Nettle and effectively combat the discomfort.(2)


Additionally, other forms of treatment that are used are rubbing mud, baking soda, or assorted oils on the infected area (6).








Medicinal Information – Domestication


Stinging Nettles are contradictory plants. While they have the ability to cause much discomfort to humans who come in contact with their hairs, they also have multiple positive medicinal uses ranging from nutritional value to a key fighter in the battle against BPH or enlarged prostate (6).
The nettle has many beneficial qualities. In addition to medicinal uses, it is highly nutritious and edible. Nettle is high in Vitamin A, C, D, and K and provides vital nutrients in the form of iron, calcium, and sulfur. It is very good for you and one of the common ways to digest Nettle’s is through nettle tea or soup as demonstrated in the video on the right (10).
In addition to nutrition, Stinging Nettle is a known diuretic and has the ability to treat urinary retention problems caused by an enlarged prostate (7).








While teas and soups are more common ways of consumption, Stinging Nettle leaves can be eaten raw. While more difficult to avoid the irritation caused by the stinging hairs when picking the leaves, they can be a nutritional snack when out for a day trek or hike.


If done properly, you are able to avoid all discomfort and can enjoy the healthy food source.









Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)external image Stinging-Nettle-cn.jpg


Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH is a condition that affects prostate size in middle aged men. It is an increase in the size of the prostate which leads to many symptoms:
  • reduced urine flow
  • incomplete bladder emptying
  • post urine drip
  • increased urge to urinate. (6)

Stinging Nettle is commonly used as a natural remedy for BPH and can help reduce the symptoms that affect patients affected by the condition (4).





World Championship Stinging Nettle Eating Competition


Every year since 1986 in Dorset, England, the Stinging Nettle Eating Championship is held. In this contest, competitors are given 24 inch stalks of nettles and they must strip and eat the leaves. Whoever strips and eats the most leaves in the given hour time limit is considered the winner. The event was formed because of an argument between two farmers who wanted to figure out who was responsible for disposing of the weed(6).

In this year's event, the winner, Mike Hobbs, consumed over 48ft of nettles in the hour. While impressive it was still not enough to break the world record of nettle eating set by Simon Slee who ate an astounding 78ft of nettles (11).






Poisonous and Allergenic Plants Curare Poison Ivy Ragweed Stinging Nettle Water Hemlock



References


1. Levetin, Estelle, and Karen McMahon. Plants and Society. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2007.

2. "Jewelweed" Altnature. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. http://www.altnature.com/jewelweed.htm

3. "PLANTS Profile for Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) | USDA PLANTS." Welcome to the PLANTS Database | USDA PLANTS. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. <http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=URDI>.

4. "Stinging nettle - Alternative Medicine Report." Health Information, Savings, Blogs and Support Groups. 3 Feb. 2009. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. <http://www.qualityhealth.com/health-encyclopedia/alternative-medicine/stinging-nettle>.

5. "Stinging Nettle - Urtica dioica." Blue Planet Biomes. 2000. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. <http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/stinging_nettle.htm>.

6. "Stinging nettle -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stinging_nettle>.

7. "Stinging nettle." Phytochemicals. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. <http://www.phytochemicals.info/plants/stinging-nettle.php>.

8. "Stinging nettle" About. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. http://landscaping.about.com/od/weedsdiseases/p/stinging_nettle.htm

9. "Stinging Nettle" Virgina Tech Web. 07 Dec. 2009.http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/urtdi.htm

10. "Stinging Nettle Tea" Bikusa. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. http://www.bukisa.com/articles/184344_stinging-nettle-tea

11. "World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship attracts record crowd - Telegraph." Telegraph.co.uk: news, business, sport, the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Sunday Telegraph - Telegraph. 14 June 2009. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5525806/World-Stinging-Nettle-Eating-Championship-attracts-record-crowd.html>.