Urtica Dioica

AKA Nettles. Stinging Nettles. Xun Ma. סִּרְפָּד

Family | Urticaceae

Where it grows | It is a native plant to the Old World but now grows all over the place! It grows around septic systems, outhouses, and manure piles, demonstrating its utility in dealing with protein waste products. It is one of the plants highest in protein and helps all protein pathways in the body – digestion, immune response, liver metabolism, skin reactions and kidney elimination. 

Herbal Actions | Decongestant, Antihistamine, Anti-inflammatory, Diuretic, Immune Enhancing, Alterative, Nutritive Tonic, Astringent, Rubefacient,

Body Systems | Almost all: Lymphatic, Glandular, Respiratory, Skin, Urinary and Cardiovascular

Parts Used | Root, leaf, seed

Energetics |Cooling, Drying, Stimulating  

Medicinal Uses

Body: builds blood, strengthens adrenals, kidneys and lungs; elasticizes veins and arteries; supports immune strength and recovery from allergies and debilitating chronic conditions 

Iron tonic during pregnancy; digestion and absorption of protein; helps liver build up proteins; Remedy in gout, arthritis, muscular soreness, tissue acidity and kidney disease; used to bring back function to parts that have become paralyzed (in the olden days, they would whip you with it to bring sensation back); good for weakness in muscles of the inner thighs of middle aged women; suggested for impotence 

Mind: Sharpens focus

Hearts: Opens it to fierce love

Soul: supports self-respect on the deepest level

 “When in doubt, give nettles!” – David Hoffman 

“It is herbal health insurance!” – Robin Rose Bennett

 Contraindications | Avoid using the leaf in people with hemochromatosis and hyperkalemia 

Preparation Methods | The fresh picked plant can be used directly on parts that are paralyzed and inactive. Pick the young shoots in the spring as a medicine or food (see some fun recipes here). It is best to preserve them by immediate freeze-drying or tincturing. Extract fresh in alcohol. Dry the leaves for nutritive use. The taste of the tea can be improved by adding peppermint or lemon balm (Earthwise Herbal)

Dosing Guidelines | 

Dried leaf: 6 to 10g a day

Capsules: 600 – 1200 mg a day

Tea (root): Steep 1 to 2 tsp dried root in 8 oz of hot water for 30 to 40 minutes; take one to two cups daily

Tea (leaf): Steep 1 to 2 tsp dried herb in 8 oz of hot water for 20 to 30 minutes; take two to four cups daily

Tincture (root): 40 to 60 gtt three times a day

Tincture (leaf): 60 to 100 gtt three times a day 

Jewish take on it | In Jewish text, there are several verses that use Nettles to represent something bad. I will discuss one here, but see below for another one. In Isaiah, Chapter 55, we read, " Instead of the briar, a cypress shall rise, and instead of the NETTLE, a myrtle shall rise..." This verse is often referred to during Purim where Haman is the briar, Mordechai the cypress, Vashti the NETTLE and Esther the myrtle. Rather than focus on why the sages call Vashti "bad" (that's for another time), I would like to bring our attention to how the characteristics of nettles are similar to those of Vashti.

Nettles are prickly. They let you know who is boss. They are warriors. They impact your entire system. They support self respect and the creation of healthy boundaries. I could go on, but I think we get the picture. Vashti was a woman who stood up for herself and her values, even if it meant being cast out of her home and her community. She was fierce, had clear boundaries and a strong sense of self. Some, like our sages, feared her prickles and felt threatened by her power. They considered her harmful and were challenged by her strength.

Nettles, like Vashti, is a plant that stands out and calls our attention. Rather than succumbing to our immediate reaction if fear and concern (they really do sting), we need to take the time to get to know and understand them. Because let me tell you, they are one of the most healing plants on this planet... and perhaps Vashti was too!

 Other place where nettles are mentioned: “Therefore, as I live-says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel-for Moab shall be like Sodom, and the children of Ammon like Gomorrah; a rattling of nettles, and a salt mine, and desolation forever.” – Zephaniah Chapter 2

References | 

Medical Herbalism, David Hoffmann 

The Gift of Healing Herbs, Robin Rose Bennet 

The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood 

Herb Rally

Evolutionary Herbalism


*For some more amazing information about nettles, check out Evolutionary Herbalism’s materia medica