Nettle (Urtica dioica, U. urens) is a member of the Urticaceae (Nettle) Family. The name “Nettles” is said to be derived from the Anglo Saxon word “noedl,” meaning “needle,” which may refer to nettle’s use as a fiber/textile plant or to its sharp prickles. Other sources believe that “nettles” is from the Latin nassa, meaning “net” as its strong stems were woven into fishing nets, or that Urtica is from the Latin meaning “I burn.” The species name dioica means “two dwellings” in reference to nettles having either male or female flowers on different plants.
Milarepa, the Tibetan yogi is said to have existed upon nettles for years and his skin took on a greenish hue. He eventually developed legendary physical and psychic abilities. During the nineteenth century, nettles were recommended for people that are “constitutionally weak.” Rudolph Steiner called nettle the “Heart of the World” because it radiates healing energy to the people and plants around it.
Nettles improve the body’s resistance to pollens, molds and environmental pollutants. Nettles stabilize the mast cell walls, which stops the cycle of mucus membrane hyperactivity. Nettle leaves and roots tone and firm tissue, muscles, arteries and skin. It decreases uric acid buildup when taken internally and increases circulation to the skin’s surface. It nourishes and tones the veins, improves their elasticity, and reduces inflammation. Since nettles are energizing they help in the motivation to stay on a healthy diet.
Getting stung by fresh nettle, a process called urtication, is helpful in treatment for arthritis, cold feet, gout, lumbago, muscular weakness, multiple sclerosis, neuritis, palsy, paralysis, rheumatism, sciatica and chronic tendonitis. Direct the sting to the area needed. It greatly increases a rush of blood to the contacted area, producing a counter-irritation and thereby reduces inflammation and gives temporary pain relief. Some people keep a few nettles in pots as houseplants so that they can enjoy arthritis relief even in the winter.
Nettles were once cultivated in Europe to make sailcloth, fishing nets, lace, canvas and fine linen. Nettle as a dye plant produces a variety of colors. In Siberia, nettle has been used to make paper. In Egypt, the seeds were once pressed for their oil content.
Use nettle tea to water other plants in the garden to stimulate their growth and make them more resistant to bugs. Plants growing close to nettles tend to be stronger in their volatile oils. When added to the compost pile, it hastens its breakdown.