Medicinal Plants, Pacific Northwest
Stinging nettle is the name given to common nettle, garden nettle, and hybrids of these two plants. Originally from the colder regions of northern Europe and Asia, this herbaceous shrub grows all over the world today.
Stinging nettle grows well in nitrogen rich soil, blooms between June and September, and usually reaches 50 to 100 cm high. Stems are upright and rigid. The leaves are heart shaped, finely toothed and tapered at the ends. The flowers are yellow or pink.
The entire plant is covered with tiny stiff hairs, mostly on the underside of the leaves and stem, that release stinging chemicals when touched.
While the hairs of the stinging nettle are normally very painful to the touch. When they come into contact with a painful area of the body, they can actually decrease the original pain. Scientists think nettle does this by reducing levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body, and by interfering with the way the body transmits pain signals.
Stinging Nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate, for urinary tract infections, for hay fever, or in compresses and creams for treating joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites.