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Gathering in the meadows of Pennsylvania often puts me in close proximity to stinging nettle.  Sometimes I brush against the plant unknowingly, that is of course, before a burning sensation sets into my leg or elbow. Within minutes I feel the familiar pain of stinging nettle.  I often wondered if this was a chemical reaction beneficial to healing the body, such as bee stings are for building immunity to winter colds.

According to James D. Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy, there is such a practice involving stinging nettle.  He refers to it as Urtication.  This method, dating back to biblical times, is known to treat arthritis. The plant is not taken internally, by cooking nettle as a vegetable, but as an external remedy, using the prickly leaves to numb and heal swollen joints.  Here is what Dr. Duke states on the subject: 

"Urtication often provides considerable relief. Sometimes the stuff works pretty fast; I have seen arthritic swelling subside within minutes after the stings were administered. I'm open to the notion that nettle's anti-arthritic action is based on distraction, meaning that the irritation of the sting simply takes people's minds off their arthritis pain. That's an explanation you might hear from doctors. But as a botanist, I have to say that I think what's going on is more chemical than psychological."

In my opinion, nettle is worth giving a try especially if you have arthritic swelling.  Remember the prickly leaves of stinging nettle burn for hours (hence the name) and please be mindful of any allergies or unwanted reactions you may have to the plant.  My favorite remedy for relieving stinging nettle is crushed Jewelweed, which often grows nearby, and will soothe skin if needed.

I'm considering planting this medicinal herb in my garden. My Amish friend, whose family has used this plant's beneficial properties for many generations, has large groves of nettle growing outside her summer kitchen door. I think that proves how important nettle is to healing the body.

Health to all,