Nettle, more commonly Stinging Nettle, is an herb that most people face with trepidation. Almost everyone has heard of her sting, but not nearly as many know of her kindness. She is the ultimate mothering herb, steeped in healing properties both physical and magickal. You may not be inclined to grow Nettle in your garden, but after reading this latest installment of Magickal and Medicinal Herbs, you might find yourself a wee bit braver about incorporating her into your life.
Other Names: Stinging nettle, garden nettle, common nettle, wild spinach, Indian spinach, bee sting nettle, devil’s leaf, devil’s claw, burn hazel, burn weed, hidgy-pidgy, and hoky-poky
Since at least the Bronze Age, people have been harvesting nettle as a fiber plant for weaving cloth, linen, and paper. It makes such a strong fiber that tombs dating back 2,000 years have been found to contain clothing made from nettle that is still intact! This speaks to the strength and power of nettle to weave health and resiliency into our very own cells.
Utilizing a plant called Stinging Nettle in a beneficial way sounds a little counter-intuitive, but call me crazy, this is a powerhouse of a plant ally. Yes, nettle will sting you if you casually brush against it. This sting is caused by hypodermic needle like hairs along the stem and undersides of the leaves. These hairs inject an irritating substance consisting of histamine, formic acid, and acetylcholine acid that causes the burning, itching, and even blistering response that this plant is known for. Strangely enough, if an area of the body that is already in pain is exposed to the same substance, it eases the original pain. Traditionally stinging nettle was used in this manner, called urtication, to treat arthritis. Amazingly, this remedy is still used today.
The ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated more acres of nettle than any other crop, and they used it extensively as food and medicine as well as in clothing. Roman soldiers even used nettle to flog their legs after marching long hours in cold climates to relieve their sore muscles and warm their skin. The Roman writer Caius Petronius said that a man’s virility was improved if he was whipped with nettle below the kidneys.
Parts Used: Nettle refers to the fresh or dried parts of the plant, both above and below the ground, including leaves, seeds, roots, and young tops.
Tip: Drying or cooking nettle will remove its sting.
Habitat and Distribution
Native to Eurasia, and also growing wild all across the United States and Canada, nettle is a common invasive weed that inhabits the edges of woodlands, ditches, fields, waste places, and neglected gardens. It grows in temperate regions worldwide. In fact, it is present in every state in the United States except Hawaii.
Easy to identify by touch, it is preferable to identify this perennial with your eyes first.
Intertwining networks of spreading rhizomes form dense patches that give rise to 3-7ft tall plants. The leaves, stems, and flowers are covered in stinging hairs that are visible up close to the naked eye. The stems are both squarish and fibrous with opposite, 2-3in long lance-shaped, oval, or heart-shaped serrated leaves along their unbranched length.
Separate male and female flowers can be found on the same plant. Flowers can be yellow, purple, green, and white. The female flowers usually grow closer to the top of the plant and, after pollination, they develop into tiny greenish seeds that ripen in the summer months. After that, the plant dies back for winter until it is time to reemerge in spring.
This dormant period is the perfect time to think about moving nettles for future harvests. It is easy to establish new colonies by digging up the rhizomes and transplanting them in late autumn or winter.
Cut three to four inches off the early spring plants and continue until they begin to flower. Seeds can be collected in the early fall when plants are brown. Dig the dormant roots and rhizomes after the tops die back.
- amphoteric (on milk supply)
- blood tonic
- circulation stimulant
- thyroid tonic
Constituents: Amines (acetylcholine, histamine, serotonin), ascorbic acid, flavonoids, minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, silica, sulfur, vitamin B, C, E, K, silicon, manganese, zinc, magnesium, chromium, protein, tannins.
Tissue State: Cold/Depression, Damp/Stagnation
Organ System Affinity
The Reproductive System
The Immune System
The Emotional System
Like Yarrow, Nettles has an affinity for the blood. It moves stagnant blood, stimulates circulation, and is a good source of iron. It is also helpful in balancing blood pressure and lowering blood sugar. The herb helps alleviate heavy or especially long periods as well as nosebleeds and really any excessive bleeding both inside and out. This combined with its high vitamin C levels and other nutritive properties makes Nettle an excellent remedy for anemia and general weakness. Nettle also stimulates sluggish kidneys, generally cleansing the fluids of the body.
Nettle also has an affinity for the reproductive system all the way from fertility in both men and women to pregnancy and lactation to the challenges that come in later years. Nettle’s nutritive properties can help nourish the body while trying to conceive as well as serving as an excellent prenatal vitamin when combined with other herbs like raspberry leaf. Postpartum, nettle is adept at addressing anemia. It is also useful in dealing with lactation issues due to its amphoteric effect on the milk supply. Basically, nettle will help the body create more or less milk depending on the need. During menopause, Nettle can be combined with Sage to address night sweats. The root can even be taken to reduce prostate enlargement.
Of course reproductive issues aren’t the only thing that can weigh a body down. Nettle is an excellent choice for convalescence as well. It strengthens constitution, increases energy, and combats fatigue. This wonderful little plant will also nourish an overwhelmed emotional system. What I find absolutely fascinating is that on top of all this, Nettle actually strengthens cell walls making them less prone to inflammation and allergic reactions.
Because Nettle is harvested young in the spring, they’re a great herb to help get us going after a long, cold winter. Adding it to your morning tea routine, drinking it as a concentrated herbal infusion, or even incorporating it into your meals anywhere you use spinach, is a great way to add Nettle to your life.
- hay fever
- food allergies
- general weakness and debility
- excessive bleeding
- sluggish kidneys
- lactation issues
- pregnancy (vitamin)
- vaginal discharges
- low libido
- erectile dysfunction
- general sexual anxiety
- prostate enlargement
- weak constitution
- weak digestive system
- sluggish metabolism
- excess mucus
- diaper rash
- brittle nails
- Nettle stings
- arthritic joints
- muscle weakness
- growing pains
Alexis Cunningfolk, at Worts+Cunning, gives a good summary of the psychological profile of Nettles. “The Nettles personality struggles to live in the moment. They are often dazed, brain-fogged, and worn down. Many are simply going through the motions of their day, the little pleasant details of life are simply a blur, and pass by unappreciated. There can be a lingering feeling of sadness, wariness, and uncertainty. The blur and sameness of it all can make a Nettles person feel like their are boundary-less but not in an expansive and blissful sort of way. They can get walked all over by others and begin to feel resentful for not being appreciated. Fortunately, Nettles helps to bring us rapidly back to the moment (think about how their sting does just that when you accidentally stumble upon them). For the muddled and unmoored a healthy re-centering can go a long way in helping them to feel better. In addition to re-centering, Nettles also helps us to set boundaries with our selves which, in turn, allows us to set healthy boundaries with others. With the heat and stimulation of Nettles, the fog can lift and the excitement of life come rushing back in.”
Tea, Syrup, Juice, Herbal Infusion, Infused Oil, Tincture, Fresh Plant Matter (stings for arthritis), and Food
There are safety guidelines and dosages given below, but remember that our bodies recognize this plant as food. We evolved together with this plant. That makes it easy to digest and its components easy for our bodies to assimilate. For some ailments like anemia it needs to be taken over long periods of time, sometimes months. Do not be afraid of this plant. Despite its sting, it is a strong ally.
Nettle can be used anywhere that spinach can be used. Just remember to steam or saute them for about five minutes to remove their sting. Think warm salads, ravioli, pesto, soup…even smoothies! If you have a juicer that can handle wheat grass, it can also juice nettles.
As always, start with the smallest effective dose which may be less than those given below.
- Herb or Seed Tea – 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of water in a standard infusion, up to 5 times per day
- Root Tea – standard decoction, up to 3 times per day
- Infusion – 25g dried nettle leaf in 500ml of boiled water, let steep at least 1 hour and even overnight. Strain and enjoy throughout the day.
- Root or Herb Tincture – 30-60 drops, up to 5 times per day
- Seed Tincture – 30-60 drops, up to 3 times per day
Despite its sting, Nettle is generally considered safe. In fact, it is a good choice for anemic children as a tea, due to its nutritive value as an herb and its high levels of iron, silicon, and potassium.
Do not take ROOT during pregancy.
Nettle Seed can be too stimulating for some.
Avoid over-straining the kidneys by using Nettles for 3 weeks on and 1 week off.
Use with caution with blood thinners.
Associations and Correspondences:
Deities and Significant Holidays: The Gods Thor, Loki, Cernunnos and Hades, the Greek Goddess Hekate and the Egyptian Scorpion Goddess Selkhet, Ostara
Ruling Element: Fire
Astrological/Zodiac Correspondence: Aries (Guardian), Scorpio (Guardian + Remedy), Capricorn (Remedy), Pisces (Remedy)
Planetary Ruler: Mars
Moon Phase: Waxing Quarter Moon
Crystals: Black obsidian, tourmaline and turquoise
Tarot: The Four of Pentacles
Nettle is very much a mothering herb. She teaches us to respect the world around us, to slow down, and to really get to know the plants we seek. And she bites us if we are too rash, overly familiar, or not paying attention to what our plant allies are telling us. Protection and Boundaries. At the same time she is nourishing, one of the most nutritive plants we come across. Healing and Love. Let’s not forget that mothers are also resilient, keeping a clean home and multiplying anything that is brought to them. Inner Strength, Purification, and Abundance.
- Brings luck to fishing
- Inner Strength
- Employ Nettle’s protective powers in in spells to reverse curses and send negative energy back to the sender.
- Carry a sachet with dried Nettle in it to remove and repel hexes.
- To remove a jinx, add Nettle tea to a floor wash or bathwater.
- Sprinkle powdered Nettle around the boundaries of the house to keep away ghosts and as a general circle of protection against any malevolent influence and energies.
- Toss Nettle into the fire to avert imminent danger.
- Toss Nettle into a fire as a protection against lightning.
- Combine with Yarrow in spells to turn away fear. An amulet is a great way to take advantage of this combination. Such an amulet will also keep negativity at bay.
- Nettle is one of the strongest magickal purifiers. Use in the bath to remove negative energy.
- Use in a wash to consecrate athames.
- Keeping Nettle in the home will keep sickness out and will bring healing energies to anyone who may be sick already. Use in conjunction with physical medical care.
- Drink Nettle tea to help you open limited ways of thinking if you are in a rut, to release any lingering doubts or stresses, or to give you the courage to see your own worth.
- Wrap a Nettle leaf in green, yellow, or purple cloth and place it in your wallet to attract abundance.
- Sewn into a sachet or carried in a pouch, Nettle can amplify courage and, in men, virility.
You can find high quality dried nettle available for purchase in the Apothecary.
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Disclaimer: Please note that I am a not medical professional and everything written here is a product of my own research. Don’t take any advice given here over that of a trained doctor. If you ingest any herbs, always make sure that you’re 100% sure that they’re safe. If you’re pregnant or giving to a child, always consult a doctor before ingesting herbs and plant you aren’t familiar with. Magickal instruction and spells are for personal entertainment purposes only. The desired result/outcome cannot be guaranteed as a result of using any magickal item, and should not be used as a replacement for medical/professional assistance.
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Cunningfolk, A. (2017) Sweet the Sting: Nettle’s Plant Profile. Worts+Cunning Apothecary. http://www.wortsandcunning.com/blog/nettles-plant-profile
Foster, S. And Johnson, R. (2006) National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine.
Washington DC. National Geographic Society
Gladstar, R. (2012) Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. Massachusetts. Storey Publishing
Hunter, C. Nettle History, Folklore, Myth and Magic. The Practical Herbalist. https://thepracticalherbalist.com/advanced-herbalism/nettle-myth-and-magic/
Kloos, S. (2017) Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants. Oregon. Timber Press
Moura, A. (2015) The Green Witch Tarot Companion. Woodbury, Minnesota. Llewellyn Publications.
Nock, J. (2019) The Modern Witchcraft Guide to Magickal Herbs. Massachusetts. Adams Media
Pollux, A. The Strong Magickal Properties of Nettles. Wicca Now. https://wiccanow.com/magickal-properties-of-nettles/
Ritchason, J. (1995) The Little Herb Encyclopedia. Utah. Woodland Health Books
Rosean, L. (2005) The Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients. New York. Paraview
The Witchipedian (2019) Stinging Nettle. The Witchipedia. https://witchipedia.com/book-of-shadows/herblore/stinging-nettle/
– Notes from my studies at Vintage Remedies: School of Natural Health.
– Additional information collected from various sources including personal experience and synthesized in my personal materia medica.