Bichu, Common Nettle, Feuille d’Ortie, Graine d’Ortie, Grande Ortie, Great Stinging Nettle, Nettle, Nettle Leaf, Nettle Seed, Nettle Worth, Nettles, Ortie, Ortie Brûlante, Ortie des Jardins, Ortie Dioïque, Ortie Méchante, Ortiga, Small Nettle, Stinging Nettles, Urtica, Urtica dioica, Urtica urens, Urticae Herba et Folium, Urticae Radix.
Europe, North America, Asia, and North Africa
Ariel parts and roots.
Perhaps the oldest evidence of Nettle being used for medical purposes is in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians prepared a Nettle infusion for arthritis and lumbago pains as well as using the sting of Nettle in urtification (the practice of flogging with nettles). This was believed to help with rheumatism, lethargy, coma, paralysis, and even typhus and cholera. This was also practiced by Roman soldiers to stimulate circulation on cold days in Northern Europe and when their legs were tired from marching. The ancient Greeks also knew of Nettle with Hippocrates (460-377) having around 61 different Nettle preparations. The Greek medical scripture ‘De Simplicibus’ suggests Nettle for ‘a diuretic and laxative, for dog bites, gangrenous wounds, swellings, nose bleeding, excessive menstruation, spleen-related illness, pleurisy, pneumonia, asthma, tinea, and mouth sores.’ Later additions included Nettle mixed with Hemp plant for relief from shock as well as Nettle on its own being used for shingles and constipation. Later the 17th century Herbalist Culpeper recommended Nettle for “bladder stones or gravel, worms in children, an antiseptic for wounds and skin infections, gout, sciatica, joint aches, and as an antidote to venomous stings from animals.” Rolling into the 19th century Phelps Brown used Nettle tonic for dysentery, haemorrhoids, bladder and kidney stones, and used the seeds and flowers in wine for fevers.
There have been a number of studies carried out on Nettles to see whether any of the traditional remedies hold true. Evidence suggests that Nettle has had success for people suffering from Osteoarthritis, Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH or enlarged prostate), hay fever and inflammation. Nettle roots are now being observed to see whether they can raise levels of free testosterone in the body through chemicals called isolectins. Free testosterone helps in reducing hair loss, the enlargement of the prostate in men and might also help in bodybuilding. NOTE: It must be remembered that Nettle leaf works well for inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) and other inflammation whilst the Nettle root is much better for BPH (BPH or enlarged prostate) and free testosterone.
Used as a tea from the leaf and root. Taken also in powdered root form for medical purposes. The young shoots are used in cooking and for dying cloth while the fibre was used to make cordage.
Nettles are represented in folklore from Europe, Africa and Asia and give this plant a very prehistoric feel as being one of the first plants that might have been used for a great many purposes. In Norse legend the god Thor is often represented by Nettles and it is said that if you burn Nettles during a thunder storm you will be protected from lightening. The Tibetan Saint Milarepa is said to have eaten nothing but Nettles during his meditations which subsequently turned his body green. With such rich cultural meaning it’s no wonder that Nettle is has been utilised fully throughout history. Whilst the Egyptians were using the Nettle for medical purposes, around the same time in Bronze Age Denmark, shrouds were being made from Nettle fibres. Within Europe Nettle has always had multifaceted uses whether for food, drink, clothes and medicine. From the 18th century all these uses subsided as Nettle became to be seen as a plant only fit for those couldn’t afford more expensive medicine or cloth. In both World War I and II Nettle was used either for its dye or fibre with the British government ordering 100 tons of the plant because it was a good dye for camouflage.