If you've been stung by a nettle (Urtica dioica), you probably haven't forgotten the experience, and you may have avoided this notorious weed ever since. But over the centuries, the nettles has been a valuable wild herb. Next time you see a nettle, say "thank you."
Nettles in Your Garden /
The Medicinal, Cosmetic Nettle /
The Edible Nettle /
The Fiber Nettle
Nettles in Your Garden
As liquid compost, nettles make a great fertilizer. Pick them in spring and pack them into a bucket with a lid, adding one-half gallon of water to each pound of nettles. Let sit for 2-3 weeks, stirring occasionally. Strain out the nettles and put them on the compost heap. Use the liquid as a fertilizer (1 cup nettle liquid to 10 cups water), on container and garden plants. In a stronger mixture (1 cup to 5 cups water), you can use it to spray aphids and black fly. The nettle itself is a food plant for butterflies.
Some tips on growing nettles in your garden (yes, on purpose!), plus a recipe for nettle soup
"Friendly Stinging Nettles"—more growing tips, plus information on how the nettle "stings"
The Medicinal, Cosmetic Nettle
Nettles have been used for centuries to treat osteoarthritis, eczema, prostate problems, and dandruff. The leaves contain a natural histamine that may be useful in treating allergies. And yes, it's true that the leaves of the dock, which often grows companionably with nettle, contain chemicals that neutralize nettle sting and cool the skin. Nettle in, dock out, as the old saying goes! And nettle is said to make your hair shine and feel thicker and smoother. To make a hair rinse, collect 2-3 cups of nettle leaves (wear gloves!). Cover with water in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and cool for use as a rinse after washing your hair.
Nettle medicinal uses, plus instructions on brewing nettle tea
More nettle medicines
The Edible Nettle
The nettle is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamins. The young plants have been used in soups, stews, and as a spinach-like vegetable. In Scotland, oats and nettles were cooked as a porridge, and nettles were used to flavor and color cheese.
Got lots of nettles? Make beer!
Make Susun Weed's Nettle Stir-Fry
Make nettle lasagna (and watch a movie on harvesting nettles—for those with fast download!)
Stir up a nettle frittata, fettuccini with nettles, or potato-nettle soup. Yum!
The Fiber Nettle
The nettle contains long, pliable fibers that can be twisted and used as cordage or spun and woven to make smooth, supple nettle cloth. Nettles are also cooked and processed as paper. The leaves are used to make a green dye; a yellow dye is made from the roots.
Making nettle cordage, with instructions on using other cordage plants.
A history of nettle and hemp as fiber plants, with strong documentation
Making nettle paper, with photographs and plenty of details. Nettle fiber is not "blender friendly," the papermaker says.
Clothing made from nettles