Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
A herbaceous perennial flowering plant, 1 to 2 m (3 to 7 ft) tall in the summer and dying down to the ground in winter. It has many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals.
It is possible to touch stinging nettles without being stung. As the hairs grow in one direction (upward along the stalk, or outward along the leaves), one simply needs to make sure not to grasp in a way that rubs against the direction of growth.
- Extremely Common (wild growth): These plants are found across the territories -- Saint John, Halifax, and other human-based areas are ideal for stinging nettles; they have a strong association with human habitation and buildings. The presence of nettles may indicate that a building has been long abandoned.
- Anti-inflammatory: Nettle leaf is a herb that has a long tradition of use as an adjuvant remedy in the treatment of arthritis.
- Fur and Hair: Nettle is used in shampoo to control dandruff and is said to make hair more glossy, which is why some farmers include a handful of nettles with cattle feed.
- Nettle is believed to be a galactagogue, a substance that promotes lactation.
- Urtication, or flogging with nettles, is the process of deliberately applying stinging nettles to the skin in order to provoke inflammation. It provides temporary pain relief.
- Stinging nettle has a flavour similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and is rich in vitamins minerals. Young plants can be harvested in spring when other food plants are scarce. Soaking nettles in water or cooking will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without incidence of stinging.
- Nettle leaves are steeped in a concentrated sugar solution so the flavour is extracted into the sugar solution. The leaves are then removed and a source of citric acid (usually lemon juice) is added to help preserve the cordial and add a tart flavour.
It has been recommended, among other uses, for respiratory issues, epilepsy, asthma, skin diseases and eczema. Extracts from the plant are anti-microbial.