Historical and Traditional Use of Nettle.
- Basic Botanical Information of Nettle.
- Botanical Description of Nettle species.
- Phytochemicals and Constituents of Nettle species.
- Actions,Indications,Mechanism,General Use and Applications of Nettle.
- Historical and Traditional Use of Nettle.
- Nettle Findings,Biological Activities,Clinical Research and Practical Uses.
Historical and Traditional Use of Nettle.
Nettle has a long history of use. The tough fibers from the stem have been used to make cloth and cooked nettle leaves were eaten as vegetables. From ancient Greece to the present, nettle has been documented for its traditional use in treating coughs, tuberculosis, and arthritis and in stimulating hair growth.
Fibre made from the stems of the stinging nettle has been found in Bronze Age sites, and was used in some northern countries until the 17th century to make rope, cloth and fishing line. Paper was also made from the pulped fibres. Indigenous Americans treated aches and pains by lashing the surrounding skin with nettle stalks.
Urtica is rich in iron and vitamin C, making it a useful remedy in anaemia and other debilitated states, the presence of the vitamin C ensuring that the iron is properly absorbed. The herb has an important effect on the kidney and on fluid and uric acid excretion, so is of benefit in gout and other arthritic conditions, particularly if there is an element of anaemia. The painful, irritant effect of the sting is lost on drying or heating with water, but if preserved in cold alcoholic tincture the irritant action is preserved. A tincture of the fresh leaf applied locally to an inflamed joint will induce counter-irritation and produce reddening over the joint. Blood is thus flushed through the area and out to the surface of the skin, where the toxins may even be taken off in the fluid of a burst blister.
A preliminary trial reported that capsules made from freeze-dried leaves reduced sneezing and itching in people with hay fever. Further studies are needed to confirm this finding, however.
The historical practice of intentionally applying nettle topically with the intent of causing stings to relieve arthritis has been assessed by a questionnaire in modern times. The results found intentional nettle stings safe, except for a sometimes painful, sometimes numb rash that lasts 6 to 24 hours. Additional trials are required to determine if this practice is therapeutically effective.
Urtica is also of benefit in chronic skin conditions such as eczema, helping to cleanse the body of accumulated toxins. An infusion of the dried leaf is effective in helping to control dandruff and hair loss on the scalp. As a haemostatic and astringent, Urtica helps check wound bleeding and to treat menorrhagia; it is also used for haemorrhoids and can be taken internally to treat gastric and intestinal problems. The powdered leaves were traditionally used as a snuff to arrest nosebleeds.
Urtica is known to stimulate milk flow in nursing mothers, and is often used in this way by farmers for their stock. It has been shown experimentally to have both hypoglycaemic and hyperglycaemic properties, the hypoglycaemic component being 'urticin'.
In a clinical trial, men with benign prostatic hypertrophy (Stages I and II) were treated with a dried standardised Urtica root extract for 20 weeks. A morphologically relevant effect on the prostate adenoma cells was found that may be due to competitive inhibition by the extract of the binding capacity of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin). An increased binding capacity of SHBG to testosterone and dihydrotestosterone results in hyperplasia as a compensation for a decrease in hormones. Other clinical trials have reported improvements in urinary flow, and reduced urinary frequency, nocturia and residual urine after six months treatment.
Nettles contain calcium, iron, magnesium, and Vitamins A, B and C. Infusions of the leaves reduce the blood sugar level, and promote activity of the kidney, liver and gall bladder (they are said to expel gall bladder stones). A strong infusion can be used as a healing wash for burns and rough skin, or can be used as a scalp tonic to encourage hair growth and to eliminate dandruff. The sting of most nettles is irritating but not dangerous, whereas that of the Australian species produces such a strong reaction that death has been reported in a few cases. The juice of crushed leaves and stalks is supposed to counteract the pain of nettle stings.
History of Nettle:
Nettle has a long history of use as a food,medicine and textile fiber.Grieve states that the common name of Nettle is derived from the German noedl meaning "needle,"possibly from its sharp sting,or in reference to the fact that it once furnished thread and cloth before the introduction of flax and hemp into Europe(1971,575).'Net' is stated as being the passive participle of ne,a verb that in many Indo-European languages such as Latin and Sanskrit,means 'sew' or 'bind',respectively (Grieve 1971,575).Nettle was one time highly esteemed as a textile fiber, and is highly durable,once thought to be the only real equivalent to cotton,used by the third Reich during the second world war as a textile in manufacture of German I uniforms(Grieve 1971,575;Wood 1999,482).Beyond its importance as a fiber however,Nettle has long been regarded as an important and nutritious green vegetable,one of the first edible green growing things of spring,picked young and eaten steamed or in soups, said to be a good corrector of the bowels.The body of the famous Tibetan yogi Milarepa is said to have turned green from consuming nothing other than Nettle during his meditations.Despite being classifed as a weed in many parts of the North America,Nettle was at one time highly prized commodity in rural areas, where the English poet Campbell recounts of his travels,"In Scotland I have eaten nettles,I have slept in nettle sheets,and I have dined off a nettle tablecloth"(Grieve 1971,575).More recently Nettle has been used as a commercial source of chlorophyll,and Weiss states that this color has been used in Germany as a food coloring agent for canned vegetables(1988,262;Mills and Bone 2000,490).
Its erect stalk, two to three feet in height, bears dark green leaves with serrated margins and small, inconspicuous flowers. Botanists now designate it Urtica dioica L. and place it in the family Urticaceae. The American material differs from the typical European Urtica dioica subspecies dioica primarily in that it has male and female flowers on the same plant. Some botanists treat the varieties of U. dioica subspecies gracilis as separate species. The four Urtica species (with two subspecies and six varieties) that occur in North America have stinging hairs. (After accidental contact with it, people usually refer to the nettle by various uncomplimentary titles.)
The entire plant, collected just before flowering, has had a lengthy reputation in folk medicine as a specific for asthma. Nettle has also been given as an expectorant, antispasmodic, diuretic, astringent, and tonic. Applying nettle to the scalp, especially in the form of the fresh juice, was said to stimulate hair growth. Cases of chronic rheumatism have been treated by placing nettle leaves directly on the afflicted area. Roman soldiers, facing the inhospitable climate in Britain, reportedly used the same irritation produced by nettle leaves to keep their legs warm. The tender tops of young, first growth nettles are believed especially palatable when cooked; Gibbons gives a number of recipes that use them, including nettle pudding and nettle beer.
It is a strange fact that the juice of the Nettle proves an antidote for its own sting, and being applied will afford instant relief: the juice of the Dock, which is usually found in close proximity to the Nettle, has the same beneficial action.
'Nettle in, dock out.
Dock rub nettle out!'
is an old rhyme.
If a person is stung with a Nettle a certain cure will be effected by rubbing Dock leaves over the part, repeating the above charm slowly. Another version is current in Wiltshire:
Out 'ettle in dock,
Dock zhail ha' a new smock;
'Ettle zhant ha' narrun! (none)
Revenge Close Encounters with Nettles.
Another unpleasant plant that you may enounter out on the trail is Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). The long range effects of Nettles aren't nearly as pronounced as Poison Ivy, but it can cause pretty intense short-term annoyance. Nettles have little prickly hairs that stick in your skin and sting and itch like crazy. Again, don't touch the exposed area. You won't have any trouble recognizing when you have just walked through Nettles. As soon as you can find water, wash the exposed area and the discomfort should vanish almost immediately.
Aside from the stinging factor, the Nettle is a very useful plant with uses as food and many medicinal applications. Its constituents include Formic acid, histamines, acetylcholine, glocoquinones, minerals including iron, silica, potassium, manganese and sulphur and vitamins A C.
Nettles can grow just about anywhere. The fresh green leaves may be cooked and eaten like spinach, or made into soup or tea. (The sting is not present in the cooked or dried plant form.) In spring, a tea made from the leaves is a powerful tonic that provides many important vitamins and minerals. The vitamin C content works to help the iron be absorbed by the body. There are many folk and homeopathic medicinal uses for nettles.
Tribal and Herbal Medicine Uses.
In folk medicine nettle plants have been used as a diuretic, to build the blood, for arthritis and rheumatism. Externally it has been used to improve the appearance of the hair, and is said to be a remedy against oily hair and dandruff.
The plant has been widely used by herbalists around the world for centuries. In the first century, Greek physicians Dioscorides and Galen reported the leaf of nettle had diuretic and laxative properties and was useful for asthma, pleurisy and spleen illnesses. Bandages soaked in a leaf and stem infusion were used in early American medicine to stop the bleeding of wounds; an account of this use was recorded by Dr. Francis P. Procher, a surgeon and physician in the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War. Nettle leaves were also recommended as a nutritious food and as a weight loss aid by the famous American plant forager and naturalist, Euell Gibbons.
In Brazilian herbal medicine the entire plant is used for excessive menstrual bleeding, diarrhea, diabetes, urinary disorders and respiratory problems including allergies. Externally, an infusion is used for skin problems. In Peru nettle is used against a variety of complaints such as muscular and arthritis pain, eczema, ulcers, asthma, diabetes, intestinal inflammation, nosebleeds and rheumatism. Externally it is used for inflammations, sciatica, wounds and head lice. In Germany today stinging nettle is sold as an herbal drug for prostate diseases and as a diuretic. It is a common ingredient in other herbal drugs produced in Germany for rheumatic complaints and inflammatory conditions (especially for the lower urinary tract and prostate). In the United States many remarkable healing properties are attributed to nettle and the leaf is utilized for different problems than the root. The leaf is used here as a diuretic, for arthritis, prostatitis, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure and allergic rhinitis. The root is recommended as a diuretic, for relief of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and other prostate problems, and as a natural remedy to treat or prevent baldness.
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