Most of us know stinging nettle by its sting, which is caused by small hollow, silica tipped hairs that release a histimine and formic acid, painful skin irritants, when touched. Why would anyone purposefully grow this plant?? Well, first, it's a delicious green that when steamed, loses its sting but retains a spinach like flavor, rich in iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, silica and chlorophyll. Add a bit of balsamic vinegar, and enjoy! Use it in place of any recipe that calls for steamed spinach.
Stinging nettle has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and current medical research indicates that some of these ancient uses are validated. People suffering from painful joints were whipped with the branches to relieve the soreness. Sounds strange, but stinging nettles are a counterirritant, so the histimine actually reduces the pain. You can find stinging nettles in many over the counter cremes for arthritis, eczema and insect bites. It is also a diuretic and used as a tea for relieving hay fever and allergy symptoms.
Grow in a moist area, out of the way, and keep cut back so it doesn't go to seed. Very invasive, especially near streams and waterways. I can't say enough wonderful things about this plant, but if you aren't going to use it for medicine making, tea or cooking, it will quickly become a nuisance.
Grows to 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Stinging nettle is commonly used in biodynamic gardening.
Stinging nettle can cause miscarriage, so do not use during pregnancy. It also affects milk production, so lactating mothers should not use this herb.