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Urtica dioica - L.

Common Name Stinging Nettle, California nettle
Family Urticaceae
USDA hardiness 3-10
Known Hazards The leaves of the plants have stinging hairs, causing irritation to the skin[21, 200]. This action is neutralized by heat or by thorough drying, so the cooked leaves are perfectly safe and nutritious[200]. However, only young leaves should be used because older leaves develop gritty particles called cystoliths which act as an irritant to the kidneys[172]. Possible interference with allopathic drugs for diabetes mellitus, hypertension. Central nervous system depression drugs (e.g. morphine, alcohol) may also interact with nettle. Avoid during pregnancy [301].
Habitats Waste ground, hedgerows, woods etc, preferring a rich soil and avoiding acid soils[4, 9].
Range Temperate regions throughout the world, including Britain. The plant has become naturalized at higher elevations in the Tropics.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (5 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Urtica dioica Stinging Nettle, California nettle

Urtica dioica Stinging Nettle, California nettle


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Urtica dioica is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf from March to November, in flower from May to October, and the seeds ripen from June to October. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Urtica galeopsifolia

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Meadow; Hedgerow;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil  Shoots
Edible Uses: Colouring  Curdling agent  Drink  Oil

Young leaves - cooked as a potherb and added to soups etc[1, 2, 9, 12, 13, 36, 183]. They can also be dried for winter use[12]. Nettles are a very valuable addition to the diet[244], they are a very nutritious food that is easily digested and is high in minerals (especially iron) and vitamins (especially A and C)[4, 201, 238]. Only use young leaves (see the notes above on toxicity) and wear stout gloves when harvesting them to prevent being stung. Cooking the leaves, or thoroughly drying them, neutralizes the sting, rendering the leaf safe to eat[4, 244]. The young shoots, harvested in the spring when 15 - 20cm long complete with the underground stem are very nice[85]. Old leaves can be laxative[5]. The plants are harvested commercially for extraction of the chlorophyll, which is used as a green colouring agent (E140) in foods and medicines[238]. A tea is made from the dried leaves, it is warming on a winters day[21, 183]. A bland flavour, it can be added as a tonic to China tea[238]. The juice of the leaves, or a decoction of the herb, can be used as a rennet substitute in curdling plant milks[183]. Nettle beer is brewed from the young shoots[200].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiasthmatic  Antidandruff  Antirheumatic  Antiseborrheic  Astringent  Diuretic  Eczema  Galactogogue  
Haemostatic  Hypoglycaemic  Stings  Tonic  Urinary

Nettles have a long history of use in the home as a herbal remedy and nutritious addition to the diet[K]. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used as a cleansing tonic and blood purifier so the plant is often used in the treatment of hay fever, arthritis, anaemia etc[254]. The whole plant is antiasthmatic, antidandruff, astringent, depurative, diuretic, galactogogue, haemostatic, hypoglycaemic and a stimulating tonic[4, 9, 21, 36, 165, 238]. An infusion of the plant is very valuable in stemming internal bleeding[4], it is also used to treat anaemia, excessive menstruation, haemorrhoids, arthritis, rheumatism and skin complaints, especially eczema[238]. Externally, the plant is used to treat skin complaints, arthritic pain, gout, sciatica, neuralgia, haemorrhoids, hair problems etc[238]. The fresh leaves of nettles have been rubbed or beaten onto the skin in the treatment of rheumatism etc[257]. This practice, called urtification, causes intense irritation to the skin as it is stung by the nettles. It is believed that this treatment works in two ways. Firstly, it acts as a counter-irritant, bringing more blood to the area to help remove the toxins that cause rheumatism. Secondly, the formic acid from the nettles is believed to have a beneficial effect upon the rheumatic joints. For medicinal purposes, the plant is best harvested in May or June as it is coming into flower and dried for later use[4, 238]. This species merits further study for possible uses against kidney and urinary system ailments[222]. The juice of the nettle can be used as an antidote to stings from the leaves and an infusion of the fresh leaves is healing and soothing as a lotion for burns[4]. The root has been shown to have a beneficial effect upon enlarged prostate glands[254]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves[4]. It is used in the treatment of rheumatic gout, nettle rash and chickenpox, externally is applied to bruises[4]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Urtica dioica Stinging Nettle for rheumatic ailments (internal use of leaf), irrigation therapy, for inflammatory disease of the lower urinary tract and prevention of kidney 'gravel' formation, urination difficulty from benign prostatic hyperplasia (root) (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Compost  Dye  Fibre  Hair  Liquid feed  Oil  Repellent  Waterproofing

A strong flax-like fibre is obtained from the stems[200]. Used for making string and cloth[1, 4, 6, 13, 36], it also makes a good quality paper[115]. It is harvested as the plant begins to die down in early autumn and is retted before the fibres are extracted[4, 99]. The fibre is produced in less abundance than from flax (Linun usitatissimum) and is also more difficult to extract[4]. The plant matter left over after the fibres have been extracted are a good source of biomass and have been used in the manufacture of sugar, starch, protein and ethyl alcohol[4]. An oil obtained from the seeds is used as an illuminant[4]. An essential ingredient of 'QR' herbal compost activator[32]. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost[K]. The leaves are also an excellent addition to the compost heap[12, 18, 20] and they can be soaked for 7 - 21 days in water to make a very nutritious liquid feed for plants[54]. This liquid feed is both insect repellent and a good foliar feed[14, 18, 53]. The growing plant increases the essential oil content of other nearby plants, thus making them more resistant to insect pests[18, 20, 54]. Although many different species of insects feed on nettles, flies are repelled by the plant so a bunch of freshly cut stems has been used as a repellent in food cupboards[4]. The juice of the plant, or a decoction formed by boiling the herb in a strong solution of salt, will curdle milks and thus acts as a rennet substitute[4]. This same juice, if rubbed into small seams of leaky wooden tubs, will coagulate and make the tub watertight again[4]. A hair wash is made from the infused leaves and this is used as a tonic and antidandruff treatment[172, 201]. A beautiful and permanent green dye is obtained from a decoction of the leaves and stems[4, 115]. A yellow dye is obtained from the root when boiled with alum[4, 115]. A dynamic accumulator gathering minerals or nutrients from the soil and storing them in a more bioavailable form - used as fertilizer or to improve mulch.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming  Dynamic accumulator  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Hay  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein

Prefers a soil rich in phosphates and nitrogen. Plants must be grown in a deep rich soil if good quality fibre is required[4, 115]. Nettles are one of the most undervalued of economic plants. They have a wide range of uses, for food, medicines, fibres etc and are also a very important plant for wildlife. There are at least 30 species of insects that feed on it and the caterpillars of several lepidoptera species are dependant upon it for food[30]. Especially when growing in rich soils, the plant can spread vigorously and is very difficult to eradicate. It is said that cutting the plant down three times a year for three years will kill it[4]. It is a good companion plant to grow in the orchard and amongst soft fruit[53, 54]. So long as it is not allowed to totally over-run the plants, it seems to improve the health of soft fruit that grows nearby and also to protect the fruit from birds, but it makes harvesting very difficult. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 10 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a runner spreading indefinitely by rhizomes or stolons [1-2]. The root pattern is fibrous dividing into a large number of fine roots [1-2]. The root pattern is rhizomatous with underground stems sending roots and shoots along their length [1-2].

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Fiber  Clothing, rugs, sheets, blankets etc. Currently, almost none of our fiber are produced from perennial crops but could be!
  • Management: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Protein  (16+ percent protein, 0-15 percent oil). Annuals include beans, chickpeas, lentils, cowpeas, and pigeon peas. Perennials include perennial beans, nuts, leaf protein concentrates, and edible milks.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame, only just covering the seed. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and plant them out in the summer. Division succeeds at almost any time in the growing season. Very easy, plant them straight out into their permanent positions.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Achoka, Bichhu booti, Bichhua, Bichua, Chichru, Irhawurhawu, Kopriva, Korvenoges, Krapiva, Noges, Patle sishnu, Pokrzywa, Polo, Raudnoges, Sishnu, Sisnu, Tall nettle, Zara, Zastisod, Zocha, american stinging nettle, brandnetelwortel, brennessel, brennesselblätter, brennesselwurzel, brennnesselwurzel, brännässelrot, brännässla, brännässleblad, brændenælderod, california nettle, chalkan, chayan oot, chhoku, chichicaste, chule, chutle, common nettle, common stinging nettle for homoeopathic preparations, csalángyökér, csalánlevé, dhyo, european nettle, european stinging nettle, folia urticae, gazanda, gazaneh, gazgazuk, giant nettle, grande ortie, great nettle, greater nettle, grosse brennessel, große brennessel, gherq il-hurrieq, haarnesselwurzel, hanfnesselwurzel, hhurrayq, horeig, hyo, jhaduk, kajyang, kichitki oot, kopriva, koprivový koren, korenina koprive, korzen pokrzywy, krapiva dvudomnaya, nelau, neslerot, nesselwurzel, nettle, nettle herb, nettle leaf, nettle root, nettle stinging, nhyakan, nokkonen, juuri, nõgesejuur, natru saknes, ortica, ortica maschio, ortica radice, ortie, ortie (feuille d’), ortie (racine d'), ortie brulante, ortie dioïque, ortiga, ortiga mayor, ortiga, hoja, ortiga, raíz de, pokrzywa, polo, pulu, prhlavový koren, qurrays, racine d'ortie, radix urticae, raiz de ortiga, radacina de urzica, satu, sikya, sisna, sisnu, slender nettle, stinging nettle, stinging nettle herb, syak, tall nettle, tsuknida, urtica dioica, urtica dioica ad praeparationes homoeopathicas, urtica dioica ad praeparationes homoeopathicas, urticae folium, urticae herba, urticae radix, urtiga, urtiga, raiz, urtiga-maior, urtiga-mansa, urtiga-vermelha, urtigão, yi zhu qian ma, za-chhag, zwa, zwyczajna, isirgan.

TEMPERATE ASIA: Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Ciscaucasia, Cyprus, Dagestan, Eastern Siberia, Gansu Sheng (east), Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Qinghai Sheng, Russian Federation, Russian Federation-Ciscaucasia, Russian Federation-Eastern Siberia, Russian Federation-Western Siberia, Sichuan Sheng (northwest), Syria, Turkey, Western Siberia, Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu (west), Xizang Zizhiqu,Afghanistan. TROPICAL ASIA: Bhutan, India (north), Nepal, Pakistan, NORTHERN AMERICA: Canada, Northwest Territories (southwest), Yukon, Québec, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, St. Pierre and Miquelon, United States, Alaska, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Alabama (northeast), Delaware, Georgia (north), Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi (west), North Carolina (west), Tennessee, Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Mexico, Sonora, Baja California (Norte), EUROPE: Denmark, Finland, United Kingdom (U.K.), Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Russian Federation-European part, European part, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine (incl. Krym), Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Italy (incl. Sardinia, Sicily), North Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, France (incl. Corsica), AFRICA: Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

ravenchortle   Wed May 3 2006

A few years ago I rooted stems by sticking cuttings taken in the spring in a jar of water in the window with indirect sunlight. Roots formed at the end of the cutting rather quickly. I was delayed with sticking them in a growing medium and they eventually died off, so I do know about the viability of these rooted cuttings. If I remember correctly, the roots all formed at the base of the stem, right at the cut. I tried again later in the season with older, harder stems with no success. I will try again this spring with fresh shoots.

Hugh Green   Sun Jun 4 2006

In Glasgow by the River Kelvin we have noticed nettles with stunted growth and white leaves and some purple discolouration. Does anyone know what causes this?

Paul   Wed Aug 30 2006

I suffer from gout and a friend of mine told me to wip the affected area with stinging nettles...i thought this was a wind up, but i thought i'd give it a go anyway...to my utter amazement after a few hours the gout subsided, i tried it again when i had gout in my foot, it worked yet again..

Lynnette   Sat Oct 14 2006

Freeze dried Stinging Nettle capsules are a wonderful, fast acting and with no side effects for asthma and hayfever.It acts very quickly, within a few minutes, to relieve itchy watery eyes and sneezing , stuffy noses. At last a no druggy feeling remedy for hayfever!

P.L.H.   Wed Oct 18 2006

I have lived in back pain for nearly ten years now,and seen several various doctors to no avail.My hips are out of place due to a fall and I live with constant muscle spasms.I tried rubbing on fresth stinging nettle and to my surprise it produces a great numbing effect and gives great relief for hours.I use to hate this plant,but now with winter quickly approaching I dread seeing it die out,and have no idea how to save it for the coming months.No doctor,chiropractor,or physical theropist has given me as much relief as this plant.I really don't care if people think this ia crazy,because I know how hard it is to live in a constant state of pain.Oct 17,06

keith wheeler   Fri Jan 19 2007


Peter Van der Ven   Sun Mar 4 2007

Are there any known risks to exposure of large areas of the body to nettle stings or to their repeated use? I.e., can you "over do it," when treating a painful area or if you have several painful areas? Thank you.

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Mon Mar 5 2007

I can find no records of anyone 'overdosing' on urtication. You cannot 'over do it' when treating a single joint or painful area such as the knuckles of the hand, and I cannot see that there could be a problem when treating a larger area of the body. The two constituents of the nettle sting that are believed to be responsible for the pain relief are histamine and serotonin. The doses received from urtication are very small. I think it is more a matter of how much discomfort you are able to tolerate as you apply the stings. I believe that it is also true to say that, whilst urtication can be very effective in the short-tern, in the long-term actually eating the nettles is going to have a more beneficial effect. The stinging hairs are completely neutralised by cooking and steamed leaves make an excellent and very nutritious greens that is packed full of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial constituents. These nutrients help to remove toxins from the joints and, over a period of time, can bring about a real improvement in conditions such as arthritis.

James Witt   Sat May 12 2007

I had no idea there were so many uses to this plant that I have come across so many times when I used to work in the woods and have felt their stings more times than I really cared too. Well me and my friend just bought some wooded land in Washington State and we now have 15 acres of these plants. He told me they were a usable plant but didn't know exactly what it was. So know how does one haverest these plants and where would a person find a buyer for them. Hope somebody can give a lead for this. Thanks for any response for any help I can get.

   Thu Aug 31 2006

cut them back then till the yard several times then re-seed the grass and they will go away

P.L.H.   Wed Oct 18 2006

I have lived in back pain for nearly ten years now,and seen several various doctors to no avail.My hips are out of place due to a fall and I live with constant muscle spasms.I tried rubbing on fresth stinging nettle and to my surprise it produces a great numbing effect and gives great relief for hours.I use to hate this plant,but now with winter quickly approaching I dread seeing it die out,and have no idea how to save it for the coming months.No doctor,chiropractor,or physical theropist has given me as much relief as this plant.I really don't care if people think this ia crazy,because I know how hard it is to live in a constant state of pain.

nicole   Thu Apr 5 2007

i have done some research and find that nettle is good for hair growth along rosemary is there any other know herb that the two mix well with for hair growth thanx nicole

   Sat Aug 4 2007

Thankyou for this - up until today I had no idea what I was going to do with all the "weeds" in my side yard - now i will dry them and cook them - what a great resource!

Christine   Tue Jan 15 2008

How do you make fibre from stinging nettle stems? I know you soak them but what then? Can anyone help?

Boniface   Mon Jan 28 2008

Can you please tell me how stinging nettle can be used to treat a chronic sneezing problem.Please give some elaborate dosage whether of leaves or roots.Thank you.Iam in the tropics, KENYA.

Maria Wells -Burr   Tue Apr 15 2008

Thank you for these very informative facts about Stinging Nettles. Some of beneficial properties of this much under-rated weed were known to me before hand. I have used Stinging Nettle infusion as a Hair Tonic for quite some time and I strongly believe that it is very good for your scalp as well as for your hair. The recipe for the Stinging Nettle Infusion is publicized with a step-by-step photographic guide on my website, listed below. I have created various photographic recipes on this site... I look forward to your visit... Kind regards, Maria

Giovanni   Fri Apr 25 2008

The powerful effect of stinging nettles certainly gives me the idea we have much to learn and discover. I noticed that when I've been stung by it the area tends to go white, which suggests to me that the sting acts as a vasoconstrictor or in any case stems blood flow in that area. This in turn suggests to me that it might be a useful remedy or component for persons with psoriasis of the scalp.... I wonder whether you would actually sting the area or simply brew up tea and rinse your hair. This ties up with it's common use for dandruff I suppose. Any comments or knowledge in this sphere, as well as its use in ancient times would be most welcome. Thanks Gio (in Rome, Italy).

Syed Taffazull Hussain   Fri Jun 20 2008

It is said that Rennet like substance is made by boiling Urtica leaves in strong salt solution.Is urtica Rennet an Enzyme?Is it heat stable?

Ian liston   Wed Jul 9 2008

does nettle water used as a plant fertiliser contain appreciable amount of potash? I am hoping to use it as a tomato feed. Ian L, Telford

Patty Fiorella   Tue Jul 15 2008

I blanche top 3-4 inches gathered in early spring, stems and all. Rinse in cold water, drain/lightly squeeze out excess. Place about 8 ounces in freezer Zip-Loc bags, pounding out air and flattening package. Freeze. I have frozen packages from 1994 that still do not have freezer burn and taste as good as fresh. I substitute in any recipe calling for spinach, pizza being a favorite.

Jack   Sun Oct 5 2008

In responce to the cordage question see www.naturessecretlarder.co.uk as the guy who runs the site, Kris Miners has a tutorial on the subject.

Natures Secret Larder Wild Food, secret uses, bushcraft, plansts and trees.

John   Fri Oct 17 2008

I have Lyme Disease and found that light urtication (so that it begins to itch where the nettle touched) relived most of my pain. I found that a light sting to the hand relives pain in my legs too. I have gotten more relief from urtication than from all the medicines and other herbs I have taken.

Chris Sames   Sat Sep 5 2009

I have recently started adding nettles to the Irish potato dish "champ" I read somewhere that champ with added nettles was fed to children in the late afternoon (teatime), now I have read more on the subject I am amazed that it is not a major part of our european diet. Chris France

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Subject : Urtica dioica  
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