(redirected from nettles)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.


nettle, common name for the Urticaceae, a family of fibrous herbs, small shrubs, and trees found chiefly in the tropics and subtropics. Several genera of nettles are covered with small stinging hairs that on contact emit an irritant (formic acid) which produces a skin rash sometimes called urticaria (see hives). The tropical American genus Urera is very powerful and sometimes dangerous, as are some members of the Australasian genus Decndrocnide. Stinging nettles in the United States include species of Urtica, widely distributed, and Laportea canadensis, the Canada nettle or wood-nettle, a characteristic plant of eastern forests. Dendrocnide excelsa, the Australian nettle tree, reaches 90 ft (27.4 m) in height, though it is less toxic than the smaller stinging bush or gympie gympie, D. moroides, which may grow to 10 ft (3 m). Various plants of the family supply fiber, e.g., ramie, or China grass (Boehmeria nivea), native to SE Asia. Its valuable fiber is extremely strong, silky, and durable, but very difficult to extract. Because of the high quality of its various products (e.g., fabric, paper, and cordage) it has been cultivated experimentally in the United States and other countries. The young foliage of many temperate nettles supplies edible greens that are cooked like spinach. Various unrelated plants are sometimes also called nettles, e.g., the Old World nettle trees of the elm family and the prickly horse nettle of the nightshade family. The nettle family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Urticales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Enlarge picture


One of the SUPER PLANTS. The whole plant is edible. You can live off this stuff. Jaggedy pointy leaves in pairs opposite each other on a vertical stem with clumps of little seeds in between the layers. Called “Stinging Nettles” because one side of the leaf has little hairs that sting when touched. But this sting is not bad, in fact, it is injecting us with good healing medicine- usually a combination of formic acid, serotonin, histamine, choline and silica. You can roll up the leaf with the hair on the inside and eat it. Saliva neutralizes the sting. Nettles are one of the richest sources of protein and minerals, especially calcium, iron, silica, vitamin C (which improves calcium and nutrient absorption), improves immune function, prevents free radical damage, and builds collagen. The vitamin K in nettle strengthens bones. Removes lactic acid and uric acid in gout. Supports the growth of beneficial intestinal flora (probiotics). Great for relieving mucus in colon. Source of Serotonin, supports proper adrenal function, A steroidal anti-inflammatory to reduce prostate inflammation and excellent source of nutrition for prostate health. Lowers blood sugar, increases insulin sensitivity due to chromium content and protects blood vessels from insulin damage. A, complete B complex, C, D, calcium, chromium, copper, high iron source, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sulfur, zinc, bioflavonoids, saponins, acetylcholine and serotonin. Antidepressant, antibiotic and anti-fungal, Helps dissolve kidney stones, regulate thyroid, reduces body fat, increases energy, treats anemia, ulcers, strengthens tissues, mild laxative. Helps adrenals, kidney, liver and thyroid. If you have arthritis or spot on head losing hair, hit the area with the stinging part of the leaves so the medicine can be injected… it will sting, swell up, but many people have found it eliminated arthritis pain for the entire season and made hair start to grow again because of the increased circulation and herbal “injection”. Can also use nettle tea to rub on head, as well as drink it, using it both externally and internally to stimulate healing. Nettle is the only known plant that contains formic acid, which is used to dissolve cholesterol. Nettle also contains a protein molecule called UDA which attacks fungus in the body. (Great for candida sufferers) Nettle blocks lactic acid cycle which starves the cancer cells. Leaves have seaweed-type flavor because it's very rich in minerals. If a property has lots of stinging nettle, buy that property because the ground there is very rich. Eat the seeds like hemp seeds. They are very high in protein and have healthy oils. Use the seeds fresh in pancakes, porridge, cereals etc. Sprout in winter as great free superfood. There is only one known species of nettle (of course in Australia and New Zealand) where the sting is too strong and dangerous, called Urtica Ferox..
Edible Plant Guide © 2012 Markus Rothkranz
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Urtica) a genus of perennial or annual herbaceous plants of the family Urticaceae. The opposite leaves are dentate or have deep lobes and are usually covered with stinging hairs, as are the stems. The blossoms are very small, unisexual, tetramerous, and gathered in axillary, branchy, spicate inflorescences. The fruit is nutlike.

There are 40-50 species in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere and, more rarely, in the southern hemisphere, as well as in the tropics. There are ten species in the USSR, found almost everywhere in shady and moist forests and shrub thickets and as a weed near dwellings and in gardens. The most widely distributed species are the perennial common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and the annual monoecious small nettle (U. urens).

The leaves of the common stinging nettle and, to a lesser degree, of the small nettle, contain vitamins C, K, B2, carotene (provitamin A), and the glycoside urticine and yield a green dye used in the pharmaceutical and food industries. Both species have therapeutic properties: the liquid extract of the leaves is used internally as an antihemorrhagic. The young shoots of the plant are used for soups and salads, as well as for fodder for cattle and domestic fowl. The stems are used to obtain fiber for making cord and coarse fabrics.


Atlas lekarstvennykh rastenii SSSR. Moscow, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A prickly or stinging plant of the family Urticaceae, especially in the genus Urtica.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


symbol of vanity and pride. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 176]
See: Conceit
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any weedy plant of the temperate urticaceous genus Urtica, such as U. dioica (stinging nettle), having serrated leaves with stinging hairs and greenish flowers
2. any of various other urticaceous plants with stinging hairs or spines
3. any of various plants that resemble urticaceous nettles, such as the dead-nettle, hemp nettle, and horse nettle
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Rather than munching through the nettles, stalk by stalk, he packed them into a weed sandwich, the nonstinging side of the leaves facing upward.
All except two of about 20 chrysalides I found on the nettles had one or more holes in them where wasps had emerged.
Apparently this would make my immune system concentrate on nettles and forget about the pollen...To my wife's horror and the amusement of the fellow walkers in parks and forests, I soon started the "therapy".
Currently, Nettles sits on multiple boards of directors and trustees for organizations ranging from the Southern Education Association and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education to the Peddie School and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.
After vigorous testing and profiling we decided to dig up some nettles. They specifically grew the nettles for this project.
"That stuff was on lock down," Nettles joked of the collaboration called "Babe," which is now sitting in the Top 30 of Billboard's Hot Country chart.
It seems there might be a cure on the horizon but it's pretty extreme - rubbing yourself in nettles.
There is actually some science behind why nettles prevent hay fever - they are thought to be able to reduce the amount of histamine in the body caused by allergies.
Graig and Jim Nettles and Bret and Aaron Boone accomplished the feat twice during their careers.
TABC commissioners picked Adrian Bentley Nettles, a decorated military officer and practicing lawyer, to head the Texas liquor agency after a closed-door session on Tuesday.