Stinging Nettle

Scientific name: Urtica chamaedryoides, U. dioica, U. urens
Abundance: common
What: leaves and young stems
How: cooked greens, tea
Where: woods, borders, abandoned areas, woods, sunny and shady areas
When: spring, early summer
Nutritional Value: Rich in vitamins A,C,D,K, many minerals, and high in protein.
Dangers: can cause skin irritations, handle while wearing leather gloves. Cook to remove stingers before consuming.

Medicinal Summary
Leaves - anti-inflammatory; antihistamine; diuretic; local anesthetic; anti-diarrheal; hemostat (tisane, tincture)

Leaf Arrangement: Opposite; leaves directly facing each other on the stem.

Leaf Shape: Heart-shaped to ovate; broadly rounded with pointed tips, typically 1-2 inches long and wide. Margins may have shallow teeth or be entire.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate; veins branching off a central midvein.

Leaf Margin: Shallowly toothed to entire; some variation may occur within the same plant.

Leaf Color: Bright green, sometimes with a paler underside.

Flower Structure: Insignificant, greenish to whitish flowers clustered in leaf axils (crotches). Male and female flowers occur on separate plants.

Flower Color: Greenish-white, inconspicuous and easily overlooked.

Fruit: Tiny, dry achenes enclosed within the persistent flower bracts. Achenes are about 1mm in diameter and light brown in color.

Seed: Single seed per achene, small and brown.

Stem: Erect and slender, typically growing 6-24 inches tall. Stems are often square-sided and may be tinged with purple.

Hairs: Densely covered with stinging hairs (trichomes) containing histamine and formic acid, causing an itchy sting upon contact.

Height: 6-24 inches.

Texas heart-leaf stinging nettle (Urtica chamaedryoides) at flowering stage.

Close-up of heart-leaf stinging nettles (Urtica chamaedryoides).

Patch of heart-leaf stinging nettles (Urtica chamaedryoides).

Young heart-leaf stinging nettles (Urtica chamaedryoides). They are tender and tasty while still this small.

Common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is much taller and has longer leaves than heart-leaf nettle.

Common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) can be over 5 feet tall, growing in thick stands.

Texas distribution, attributed to U.S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Stinging nettles are known throughout the world as a very nutritious and highly medicinal plant though you must be careful when harvesting them. The stem and leaves are covered with tiny hollow needles filled with formic acid, oxalic acid, tartaric acid, histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine. Touching any of these needles will inject you with these, which causes an extremely painful burning sensation.

These plants are easy to identify by their hairy, square stems and the burning sensation they cause when grabbed with the bare hand. Sidenote: don't grab them with your bare hand, it really hurts! If you do grab them with your bare hand the sting can be soothed by rubbing curled dock, plantain, or other astringent leaves on the area.

The young stems and leaves should be placed in boiling water for approximately sixty seconds to remove the stinging agents before eating young nettle plants. Alternatively, steeping the leaves in hot water creates a very healthy tea loaded with vitamins and minerals. Dried plants can be incorporated into pasta dough.

Homemade stinging nettle-infused ravioli.

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