Stinging Nettle - Urtica dioica


"Stinging nettle in British Columbia is represented by two subspecies: 1) Urtica dioica spp. dioica (which is an introduced taxon in North America) and Urtica dioica ssp gracilis (which is the native stinging nettle). Urtica dioica ssp gracilis is found throughout most of North America, while subspecies dioica is found mainly in the eastern and western states and provinces (AK, AL, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WA, WV and BC, NB, NF, NS, ON, PE, QC), but is absent from the mid-west and prairie provinces (USDA 2010). In BC, the native subspecies is widespread, while the distribution of the introduced subspecies is not fully known. There are confirmed observations from the Greater Vancouver area (Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Coquitlam), it is to be expected on Vancouver Island, and it may be present in the BC interior (Frank Lomer pers. com. 2010). It is confirmed on Valdes Island... Further work is needed to clarify its extent of occurrence in the province. The two subspecies are separated by flower morphology, and the presence of stinging hairs on either one or both leaf surfaces. See the identification key below for more details." [E-flora]


Edible Uses

The Nettle, so far as I know, is not used for food in America, but it has long been used for that purpose in Europe.[EWP]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"An infusion of the plant is very valuable in stemming internal bleeding[4], it is also used to treat anaemia, excessive menstruation, haemorrhoids, arthritis, rheumatism and skin complaints, especially eczema[238]. Externally, the plant is used to treat skin complaints, arthritic pain, gout, sciatica, neuralgia, haemorrhoids, hair problems etc[238]. The fresh leaves of nettles have been rubbed or beaten onto the skin in the treatment of rheumatism etc[257]. This practice, called urtification, causes intense irritation to the skin as it is stung by the nettles. It is believed that this treatment works in two ways. Firstly, it acts as a counter-irritant, bringing more blood to the area to help remove the toxins that cause rheumatism. Secondly, the formic acid from the nettles is believed to have a beneficial effect upon the rheumatic joints. For medicinal purposes, the plant is best harvested in May or June as it is coming into flower and dried for later use[4, 238]. This species merits further study for possible uses against kidney and urinary system ailments[222]." [PFAF]

"The primary use of stinging nettle herb among a sampling of traditional herbalists in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom is as a tonic or nutritive agent, alterative, and for arthritic conditions." [Upton,2013]



"Urtica dioica has been used traditionally in Morocco, Turkey, Brazil, Jordan, Iran and many other countries." [Mehri et al.,2011]


"The blood sugar lowering effect of Urtica dioica has been mentioned in old script such as those written by Avicenna. There have been other reports indicating the benefits of using the infusion or the extract of the leaves or other parts of this plant for the use in diabetes (Ramos et al., 1992; Swanston-Flatt et al., 1989). Moreover, it is used internally and externally as supportive therapy for prostatic hyperplasia (Hirano et al., 1994; Krzeski et al., 1993; Kayser et al., 1995), inflammation (Obertreis et al., 1996), rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension and allergic rhinitis (Mittman, 1990)." [Mehri et al.,2011]

"In conclusion, considering all available evidences, the integration of chemical drugs with Urtica dioica may be possible and recommendable for management of diabetes. As a matter of fact, antioxidant composition of Urtica dioica should be noted as an excellent influencing element in management of diabetes and its complications (Rahimi et al., 2005; Momtaz and Abdollahi, 2010; Sarkhail et al., 2007; Mohseni-Salehi-Monfared et al., 2009; Milani et al., 2005; Malihi et al., 2009)." [Mehri et al.,2011]


The tender leaves are astringent, pungent and slightly bitter. The quality is "Unctuous", the potency cold, dosha effect is PK-, V+. The actions are "Astringent, hemostatic, diuretic, galactagogue, expectorant, tonic, nutritive". [Verotta CIWWS] The parts used are the aerial parts of the young plants (roots & seeds also used). The taste is astringent, post digestive is pungent, potency is cooling. [McIntyre AHTC]


Flowering Plant:
In the stings of the fresh plant: histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, formic acid, leukotriens (LTB4, LTC4, LTD4) [PDR]
Flavonoids (0.7-1.8%): including rutin, isoquercitrin (0.02%), astragalin, kaempferol-3-O-rutinoside [PDR]
Silicic acid (1-4%): partially water-soluble [PDR]
Volatile oil: chief components are ketones, including, among others, 2-methylhept-2-en-6-on [PDR]
Potassium-ions (0.6% in the fresh foliage) Nitrates (1.5 to 3%)'' [PDR]

Stinging Nettle Root:
Steroids: sterols, including beta-sitosterol (0.03 to 0.06%), beta-sitosterol-3-O-beta-glucoside (0.03 to 0.5%), (6'-Palmitoyl)-sitosterol-3-0-beta-D-glucoside (0.003%), 7alphahydroxysitosterol (0.001%), 7eta-Hydroxysitosterol (0.001%), stigmasterol, campesterol, stigmast-4-en-3-one [PDR]
Lectins (0.1%): UDA (Urtica dioica Agglutinin, isolectine mixture) [PDR]
Polysaccharides: glucans, glucogalacturonans, acidic arabi-' nogalactans water-soluble with immunostimulating effect) Hydroxycoumarins: scopoletin [PDR]
Lignans: including secoisolariciresinol-9-O-glucoside (0.004%), neo-olivil (0.003%), neo-olivil-4-O-glucoside (0.004%)[PDR]
Ceramides [PDR]


"Its water extract was tested for antimicrobial activity against several bacteria, showing a good effectiveness in inhibiting Micrococcus luteus, Staphylococcus epidermis, E. coli, Proteus mirabilis, Citrobacter koseri, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Enterobacter aerogenes (Gülçin et al. 2004)." [Tardio MWEP]



100g of the fresh leaves contain an average of; 82.9g water, 5g carbs (246mg glucose, 284mg fructose, 317mg sucrose, 462mg starch), 2.96g dietary fibre(1.32 insoluble, 1.79 soluble), 4.29g protein, 0.86g lipids, 1.54g ash, 391mg vitamin K, 14.9mg Na, 625mg Ca, 171mg Mg, 111mg P, 5mg Fe, 350Ug Cu, 1698Ug Mn, 839Ug Zn, 3Ug Se, 20Ug Vitamin B1, 230Ug Vitamin B2, 620Ug Vitamin B3, 70Ug Vitamin B6, 285mg vitamin C, 5.72mg B-carotene, 14mg Vitamin E(a-tocopherol).[Tardio MWEP]


"In the past, nettle fibres were widely used to make rope, string, and cloth. For example, nettle thread was used in Poland from the 12th to the 17th century when it was replaced by silk [3]. During World War I, the Germans used nettle fibres to make tents, rucksacks, undershirts, socks; 85% of their clothes were made out of nettle fibres. The green colour of unbleached nettle fibres was valued by the army for camouflage equipment [4]." [bodros,2008]

"Unfortunately, the nettle fibre textile industry was abandoned for technical and cost-effectiveness reasons. Indeed, the fibre extraction could not entirely be mechanized and as soon as the cost of labour increased, farming nettles was not profitable, and the cultivation ceased [3]." [bodros,2008]

Case studies

France (Brittany region) Stems "...cut and dried for two days before being retted in water for 7 days at the end of September. They were then dried at room temperature for several weeks. The fibres were manually extracted (with a great deal of care not to damage the fibre).... The fibres' average diameter is 19.9 µm (±4.4).... Stinging nettle and flax fibres can be considered as high performance fibres since they have a low density." [bodros,2008]


"Both species of stinging nettle (U. dioica & U. urens) prefer to grow in soil that is nitrogen rich and it is common to find them growing in areas high in inorganic nitrates and heavy metals. Heavy metals are poorly processed by the plant and tend to accumulate in the leaves.... The leaves can contain 10–20% of the nitrate stored by the stems, the physiologically older leaves containing less than the younger leaves...". [Upton,2013]

Herb Cultivation: "Second-year plantings are reported to provide the highest yields....A higher yield is possible if the harvest cut is taken just before flowering occurs. ...transplantation increased stinging nettle stand establishment compared to direct seeding and increased dry weight yields by a factor of 3 or more". [Upton,2013]

Fungal Associations: "Leptosphaeria acuta fruits in abundance in spring at the base of overwintered, decorticated stems of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)." [IntrotoFun3] "...Stropharia species are commonly found on nutrient-rich sites (e.g. compost heaps) and colonize Urtica dioica rhizomes and other small woody and non-woody litter..." [FIE Cambridge]


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Page last modified on Saturday, February 9, 2019 9:58 AM