Urtica urens

Botanical Name : Urtica urens
Family: Urticaceae
Genus:     Urtica
Species: U. urens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Rosales

Synonyms: Common Nettle. Stinging Nettle.
Common Names :Annual nettle, Dwarf nettle, Small nettle, Dog nettle or Burning nettle

Habitat : Urtica urens is native to Eurasia and it can be found in North America and New Zealand as an introduced species. It is not only to be found in distant Japan, but also in South Africa and Australia and in the Andes.

Description:
Urtica urens is an annual herb, growing to a height of 4 to 20 inches.Stem is ascending–erect, often branching, 4-edged, with stinging hairs.

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Flower: Staminate and pistillate flowers separate, but on the same plant, flowers very small. Staminate flower: tepals 4, with sepals, hairy, translucent. Stamens 4, filaments curled inwards as buds. Pistillate flower: tepals 4, with sepals, in different-sized pairs, hairy, larger tepals usually with one stinging hair each. A single carpel, stigma brush-like. Inflorescence catkin-like, 1–2 cm (0.4–0.8 in.) long, shorter than leaf-stalks.

Leaves: Opposite, stalked, stipulate. Blade elliptic–quite round, with wedge-shaped–blunt base, short-tipped, deeply serrated, both sides with few stinging hairs, light green. Blade approx. 1.5 times as long as broad, stalk approx. 2/3 length of blade.

Fruit: Elliptic–drop-shaped, flat, yellowish brown, achene protected by tepals.
Cultivation:    
Prefers a nitrogen-rich soil. The best fibre is produced when plants are grown on deep fertile soils. Dislikes shade.

Propagation:   
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame.

Edible Uses:   
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Oil.
Edible Uses: Drink;  Oil.

Young leaves – cooked and used as a potherb. A very nutritious food, high in vitamins and minerals, it makes an excellent spinach substitute and can also be added to soups and stews. Only use the young leaves and wear stout gloves when harvesting them to prevent getting stung. Although the fresh leaves have stinging hairs, thoroughly drying or cooking them destroys these hairs. Nettle beer is brewed from the young shoots.

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Medicinal Uses:.

Parts  Used: The whole herb, collected in Mayand June, just before coming into flower, and dried in the usual manner prescribed for ‘bunched’ herbs.
Constituents: The analysis of the fresh Nettle shows the presence of formic acid, mucilage, mineral salts, ammonia, carbonic acid and water.

It is the formic acid in the Nettle, with the phosphates and a trace of iron, which constitute it such a valuable food medicinally.

When the herb is collected for drying, it should be gathered only on a fine day, in the morning, when the sun has dried off the dew. Cut off just above the root, rejecting any stained or insect-eaten leaves, and tie in bunches, about six to ten in a bunch, spread out fanwise, so that the air can penetrate freely to all parts.

Hang the bunches over strings. If dried in the open, keep them in half-shade and bring indoors before there is any risk of damp from dew or rain. If dried indoors, hang up in a sunny room, and failing sun, in a well-ventilated room by artificial heat. Care must be taken that the window be left open by day so that there is a free current of air and the moisture-laden, warm air may escape. The bunches should be of uniform size and length, to facilitate packing when dry, and when quite dry and crisp must be packed away at once in airtight boxes or tins, otherwise moisture will be reabsorbed from the air.

The seeds and flowers are dried in the sun, or over a stove, on sheets of paper.

Nettles have a long history of use in the home as a herbal remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used as a tonic and blood purifier. The whole plant is antiasthmatic, antidandruff, astringent, depurative, diuretic, galactogogue, haemostatic, hypoglycaemic and a stimulating tonic. An infusion of the plant is very valuable in stemming internal bleeding, it is also used to treat anaemia, excessive menstruation, haemorrhoids, arthritis, rheumatism and skin complaints, especially eczema. Externally, the plant is used to treat arthritic pain, gout, sciatica, neuralgia, haemorrhoids, hair problems etc. For medicinal purposes, the plant is best harvested in May or June as it is coming into flower and dried for later use. This species merits further study for possible uses against kidney and urinary system ailments. 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. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh plant, gathered when in flower. A useful first-aid remedy, it is used in the treatment of ailments such as bites and stings, burns, hives and breast feeding problems.

The Nettle is still in demand by wholesale herbalists, who stock the dried and powdered herb, also the seeds. Homoeopathic chemists, in addition, employ the green herb for the preparation of a tincture.

Other Uses:
A strong flax-like fibre is obtained from the stems. Used for string and cloth, it also makes a good quality paper. It is harvested as the plant begins to die down in early autumn. An essential ingredient of ‘QR’ herbal compost activator, the leaves are also an excellent addition to the compost heap and they can be soaked for 7 – 21 days in water to make a very nutritious liquid feed for plants. This liquid feed is both insect repellent and a good foliar feed. The growing plant increases the essential oil content of other nearby plants, thus making them more resistant to insect pests. A hair wash is made from the infused leaves and this is used as a tonic and antidandruff treatment. A green dye is obtained from the leaves and stems. A yellow dye is obtained from the root. An oil extracted from the seeds is used as an illuminant in lamps.

Known Hazards:  The leaves of the plants have stinging hairs, causing irritation to the skin. This action is neutralized by heat so the cooked leaves are perfectly safe and nutritious. However, only young leaves should be used because older leaves develop gritty particles called cystoliths which act as an irritant to the kidneys.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Urtica+urens
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nettle03.html#lesmed
http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/kukkakasvit/annual-nettle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urtica_urens

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