Urtica dioica, nettle.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: stinging nettle?
From: hck1.cornell.edu (LC Krakowka)
Date: Thu, 09 Jun 1994 11:14:40 -0500


I'm here on and off and lurk about sometimes. I have a question for you knowledgeable folk...what is the "normal" human reaction to an encounter with stinging nettle? I think I came across some the other day in the field by my house...I was walking along and all of a sudden I felt all these little pricks and my whole leg started to hurt like hell. When I got back to the house there were dozens of what looked like little bug bites on my leg. They were white-ish and stayed for about an hour (stinging all the while) then disappeared without a trace. I looked up nettle in my herb book and the picture looks like the plant I saw...but I am reluctant to trust my interpretations of a picture.


Lisa (who now wears jeans in the field)

From: j0m1742.venus.tamu.edu (MANHART, JAMES)

> what is the "normal" human reaction to an encounter with stinging nettle?

Your reaction sounds like my response when I encounter stinging nettles. Members of the genus Urtica are rather nondescript but it helps to learn what they look like so you can prevent any future encounters. I have never heard of anyone having a serious reaction to nettles so it is really more of a nuisance than anything.

From: dww5.email.cac.psu.edu (Dale Woika)

>I'm here on and off and lurk about sometimes. I have a question for you

This is pretty much a typical reaction to the organic acids which the nettle subjected you to. Cool water helps, & aloe vera helps. Next time this happens in the field, look for our good friend Jewel Weed, which has been the subject of many threads on this group recently.

Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, makes a pretty tasty cooked green. Gather the plants by cutting off the most bushy parts (wear gloves!) & simmer or steam for 10-15 mins until tender, & serve w/lemon & sugar or honey. Source of vitamins A & C as well as iron & protein, & pretty good chow too.

The latin genus & family names, FYI, come from the Latin uro, or "I burn". (no kidding...)

From: rkjb.cix.compulink.co.uk (Ken Brown)

> what is the "normal" human reaction with stinging nettle?

This is indicative of the difference between Europe & North America. Stinging Nettles grow out of the cracks in the pavement here... it's hard to imagine anyone over the age of 3 not recognising them.

On the other hand I've never seen poison ivy in my life.

As to the notmal reaction - it hurts like hell for about ten minutes, you go bright red, you do not usually get white spots although it's possible. As to whether the plant you saw was stinging nettle/urticaria, wait till it flowers. Nettles have clusters of uttlerly insignificant greenish flowers..

Of course the other approach to nettles is to pick them whilst wearing gloves & cook them. Excellent leaf vegatable - as long as it's well cooked. Raw, it is unbearable!

And as an aside, don't belive that old wive's tale about grasping a nettle firmly. I tried once. It made me cry. It really does hurt, however you touch it.

From: slc.netcom.com (Stefan Curl)

: ...what is the "normal" human reaction to an encounter with stinging nettle?

I couldn't resist adding my two bits to this thread!

  1. It HURTS. But you could test it by purposefully and LIGHTLY brushing the back of your hand or arm across a leaf. It will hurt, but won't last long, and you'd know for sure. The genus name is easy to remember - it's (H)URTica.
  2. The toxin is delivered via tiny hollow silica hairs that impale the skin and then break off. Sort of like little syringes. I think it's rather elegant in design, though painfull in effect.
  3. It tastes really good when eaten! Sort of a light nutty taste, more flavorfull than most market greens. You have to pick a lot (use gloves and long sleeved shirts). A couple shopping bags full cooked down to enough for three of us. We selected the younger looking leaves, but I don't know how much difference it makes. Steam it for a few minutes - the stinging capability disappears as soon as the leaves wilt - and serve with lemon. mmmmmMMMM. Lots of vitamin C.

It was rather funny how we cooked our meal using tongs and leather gloves, but it really is worth it. I think the revenge aspect ("Sting me, will you? Well _I'll_ show you who's boss!!") really added a lot to the experience.


From: bear.helium.Gas.UUG.Arizona.EDU (Soaring Bear)

>Hi. The survival guides, etc. for folks lost in the woods suggest changing the water on nettles three times. Yes, this reduces the amount of vitamins in the plant to nil, but also to the ingredient that causes such distress. Imagine nettle stings internally, and you'll see why they suggest it. If, OTOH, you only collect the new green leaves that haven't opened yet, they suggest that only one change of water is needed, and the taste (any wonder) is much better.

I have personally eaten Stinging Nettles many times! I NEVER used 3 changes of water. Just a couple of minutes (that's all) of quick simmer is enough to make nice, very green tasting vegetable addition to any soup or stew. Anyone talking about 3 changes is either using another species of plant or is so wrapped up in fear of nature that I wonder how they ever survived.

enjoy nature
Soaring Bear

From: cfanger.epas.utoronto.ca (Claire Fanger)

I eat boiled nettles all the time -- boiled about five minutes, or until they sort of melt, like spinach -- and have yet to suffer an adverse effect. I do not think any of the books I have which mention nettles (including the Joy of Cooking) suggest that the water needs to be changed, which is a good thing, because the broth is tasty.

In response to the original poster's question: the reaction described, including the white spots, is very likely to be from nettles I think. People's reactions vary, of course, as do the plants themselves. I don't react to nettles much anymore but did react the first few times I was stung in very much the way described.

Dock rubbed on the stings is said to help.