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Urtica

Fascinating Facts about the Nettle

Urtica dioica, near Bruges, Belgium
Urtica dioica, near Bruges, Belgium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nettle plants (Urtica spp.) have been used for centuries due to their fantastic health benefits, and excellent healing powers, which people have utilized over the years. This fascinating plant is part of the Urticaceae family, which is made up of over 30 different species. Many of these plants and vines have incredible medicinal properties, which can help with a huge array of ailments.

There are specific male and female flowers on these plants, rather than a mix of both, and they are mostly herbaceous plants. Many of the different nettles, which you will find, have stinging hairs on the stem and leaves. These hairs will burn your skin when you touch the plant; however, they do not affect you when eaten.

The most common species of the nettle plant is the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), which is found in North America, Africa, Asia and Europe. This is also the oldest form of nettle, and the one that is used the most for medicine and healing properties. Many gardeners do not like to have this form of plant in their garden, however, if correctly handled, it can be a huge asset to grow.

The plant will lay dormant throughout the winter months, and return with a flourish in spring. You will find the nettles where there is an abundance of water, as they love moisture such as spring holes and lakes.

Healthy nettles can reach up to 2m in height, and will take over the area if allowed to grow freely. However, you need to be careful when gathering the plant, as they can irritate your skin. Wearing long trousers and sleeves are advised, alongside gloves to gather the plants before use. You will need to cut the nettles at the stem, and try to keep as much distance as possible.

 

homemade nettle soup
homemade nettle soup (Photo credit: H is for Home)

As food and drink, there are several different methods, which are effective, and can produce healthy alternatives to your daily diet. The flavor of the nettle is incredibly similar to spinach and cucumber; however, the leaves will need to be soaked before use. This will remove the chemicals, which cause the stinging effect.

During the peak season for nettles, the leaves contain over 25% of protein in their dry form, which is incredibly high for a green vegetable. Once the leaves have been soaked, you can handle them like any other herb, placing them in tea, soup or dressings. You will be surprised how many different recipes you can use the nettle leaves within, and how amazing they taste.

Nettles can be consumed in several different forms, including as soups, stews, or drunk as tea. The leaves of the plant are incredibly nutritious and contain high levels of potassium, iron, vitamin K, C and A. The vitamin K, which is found in the plant, will also help to stop wounds bleeding, and some people have used nettles as a laxative.

 

As more people than ever before are searching for alternative medicines, and natural remedies for everyday ailments, the popularity of the nettle has risen. Rising costs of drugs, and the uncertainty of what is included in them has sparked an interest in herbal medicine. People look at the ancient ways of healing, and utilizing what plants they have in the garden.

The humble leaf of the plant isĀ astringent, galactagogue, diuretic, and hemostatic. This is an impressive list that many plants cannot offer, therefore, making the nettles an incredibly useful plant. Some people feel that the incredible tales that have been told are only folklore. However, as more people study nettles, there is now scientific research to back the tales.

Scientists have studied these amazing plants for centuries, to determine what they are useful for, and the best methods to use the plants. There have been studies carried out for hypertension, rheumatic diseases, diarrhea, kidney issues, constipation, cancer, skin disease and asthma. All of which benefit from the use of nettles either applied or consumed, therefore, this plant is considered to be incredibly useful.

The nettles have also been proven to help with dandruff and are often used in shampoos, it can make your hair glossy, and many farmers feed this plant to their cattle to produce an excellent coat.