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OUCH!
When a human brushes by the plant and it touches their skin, the tiny hollw hairs break off and release an acid which irritates the skin and causes white itchy spots to appear. The degree and length of itchiness depends on the individaul's skin sensitivity. Some people suffer for as long as 24 hours, while others only have the sensation for an hour or so. 
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Tromping through the forest
In central Alabama where I was born and raised, the forest was just full of stinging nettle.  I was always the first one to go tromping through the woods without a care in the world.  When I returned home, I always returned with the whelps on my legs where the stinging nettle raked across my legs.  Oh my goodiness what a burning itch it was!  Did it ever stop me from rambling through the woods?  Nope!  I would just spit and rub the spit into the burning area and believe it or not your spit actually helps take the sting away.  For years I was curious as to what this strage plant was that made me scratch and wiggle so much.  As a young adult, plants were a great interest to me as it was for my grandmaw.  I went to school for Horticulture and there I learned more about plants and herbs.  It was there where I learned the acid in the stinging nettle is called formic acid, the same acid ants have in their saliva glands.  Wow!
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Organic Pesticide:
Stems and leaves steeped raw in a bucket of water for 24 hours to 3 weeks releases the formic acid into the water. The stems were then removed and the water used as an organic pesticide and applied to plants with mites, thrips or aphids.

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Religious:
Sprinkle nettle around the room to protect it. It is also burned during ceremonies for exorcism.  Stuffed in a poppet and sent back to the sender of a curse or bad spell, it will end the negativity. Nettles gathered before sunrise and fed to cattle is said to drive evil spirits from them.
http://www.gaiagarden.com/products/nettle/?source=google&gclid=
CKXn-KDO7IcCFRNlYQod5wY-hA

incantation -  Ritual recitation of verbal charms or spells to produce a magic effect - a ritual recitation of words or sounds believed to have a magical effect.

Find more definitions at:
thefreedictionary.com
encyclopedia.com
allnatural.net
wikipedia.org
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Herbal Medicine
stinging nettle (Urtica dioica/Urtica urens)

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RECIPES
Nettle Pudding
To 1 gallon of young Nettle tops, thoroughly washed, add 2 good-sized leeks or onions, 2 heads of broccoli or small cabbage, or Brussels sprouts, and 1/4 lb. of rice. Clean the vegetables well; chop the broccoli and leeks and mix with the Nettles. Place all together in a muslin bag, alternately with the rice, and tie tightly. Boil in salted water, long enough to cook the vegetables, the time varying according to the tenderness or other vise of the greens. Serve with gravy or melted butter. These quantities are sufficient for six persons.
read more at:
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nettle03.html

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Making herbal tea
The young shoots are used for making the brew.
The standard way to make an infusion, unless otherwise specified, is to pour a cup of boiling water over the material to be infused, let it stand for 5 minutes, strain it, and drink it.


General warning when using herbal infusions Urtica dioica

Read more at:
http://www.ageless.co.za/stinging_nettle.htm
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NOTE: The information contained within the web site is for educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified physician and/or naturopathic doctor, and the information given within is not meant to replace modern medicines or established medical treatments without the proper guidance of a qualified health practitioner. It is only meant for educational purposes. Gone-ta-pott.com and its representatives make no claims as to the ability of plants and their derivitives to cure you or treat you of any ailment known to man. Before using any plants and their derivitives you should seek the advice and training of a qualified professional and your personal physician. DO seek guidance if you do not know how to use these plants and their derivitives properly. Gone-ta-pott.com and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper ingestion or other improper uses of plants and their derivitives. By use of this web site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Gone-ta-pott.com and its suppliers, heirs, employees and affiliates and you agree to the terms contained within the privacy and site use policy.
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Stinging Nettle:  Medicine & Food Source
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Description
Stinging nettle is a dioecious herbaceous perennial, 1 to 2 m (3 to 7 ft) tall in the summer and dying down to the ground in winter. It has widely spreading rhizomes and stolons, which are bright yellow as are the roots. The soft green leaves are 3 to 15 cm (1 to 6 in) long and are borne oppositely on an erect wiry green stem. The leaves have a strongly serrated margin, a cordate base and an acuminate tip with a terminal leaf tooth longer than adjacent laterals. It bears small greenish or brownish numerous flowers in dense axillary inflorescences. The leaves and stems are very hairy with non-stinging hairs and also bear many stinging hairs (trichomes), whose tips come off when touched, transforming the hair into a needle that will inject several chemicals: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes, and possibly formic acid. This mixture of chemical compounds cause a painful sting or paresthesia from which the species derives its common name, as well as the colloquial names burn nettle, burn weed, burn hazel.

Distribution
Stinging nettles are abundant in northern Europe and much of Asia, usually found in the countryside. It is less widespread in southern Europe and north Africa, where it is restricted by its need for moist soil. In North America it is widely distributed in Canada and the United States, where it is found in every province and state except for Hawaii and also can be found in northernmost Mexico. It grows in abundance in the Pacific Northwest, especially in places where annual rainfall is high. In North America the stinging nettle is far less common than in northern Europe. The European subspecies has been introduced into North America as well as South America.

In Europe stinging nettles have a strong association with human habitation and buildings. The presence of nettles may indicate that a building has been long abandoned. Human and animal waste may be responsible for elevated levels of phosphate and nitrogen in the soil, providing an ideal environment for stinging nettles.

Ecology
Nettles are the exclusive larval food plant for several species of butterfly, such as the Peacock Butterfly or the Small Tortoiseshell, and are also eaten by the larvae of some moths including Angle Shades, Buff Ermine, Dot Moth, The Flame, The Gothic, Grey Chi, Grey Pug, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Mouse Moth, Setaceous Hebrew Character and Small Angle Shades. The roots are sometimes eaten by the larva of the Ghost Moth Hepialus humuli.

Medicinal uses
Nettle leaf is a herb that has a long tradition of use as an adjuvant remedy in the treatment of arthritis in Germany. Nettle leaf extract contains active compounds that reduce TNF-α and other inflammatory cytokines. It has been demonstrated that nettle leaf lowers TNF-α levels by potently inhibiting the genetic transcription factor that activates TNF-α and IL-1B in the synovial tissue that lines the joint.
Nettle is used in shampoo to control dandruff and is said to make hair more glossy, which is why some farmers include a handful of nettles with cattle feed.

Nettle root extracts have been extensively studied in human clinical trials as a treatment for symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). These extracts have been shown to help relieve symptoms compared to placebo both by themselves and when combined with other herbal medicines.

Because it contains 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran, certain extracts of the nettle are used by bodybuilders in an effort to increase free testosterone by occupying sex-hormone binding globulin
As Old English Stiðe, nettle is one of the nine plants invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm, recorded in the 10th century. Nettle is believed to be a galactagogue, a substance that promotes lactation.

Urtication, or flogging with nettles, is the process of deliberately applying stinging nettles to the skin in order to provoke inflammation. An agent thus used is known as a rubefacient (something that causes redness). This is done as a folk remedy for rheumatism, providing temporary relief from pain. The counter-irritant action to which this is often attributed can be preserved by the preparation of an alcoholic tincture which can be applied as part of a topical preparation, but not as an infusion, which drastically reduces the irritant action.

Food
Stinging nettle has a flavour similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Young plants were harvested by Native Americans and used as a cooked plant in spring when other food plants were scarce. Soaking nettles in water or cooking will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without incidence of stinging. After stinging nettle enters its flowering and seed setting stages the leaves develop gritty particles called "cystoliths", which can irritate the urinary tract. In its peak season, stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The young leaves are edible and make a very good pot-herb. The leaves are also dried and may then be used to make a tisane, as can also be done with the nettle's flowers.
Nettles can be used in a variety of recipes, such as polenta, pesto and purée. Nettle soup is a common use of the plant, particularly in Northern and Eastern Europe. In Nepal and the Kumaon & Garhwal region of Northern India, stinging nettle is known as Shishnu and Kandeli respectively. It is a very popular vegetable and cooked with Indian spices.

Nettles are sometimes used in cheese making, for example in the production of Yarg and as a flavouring in varieties of Gouda.

Drink
Nettle leaves are steeped in a concentrated sugar solution so the flavour is extracted into the sugar solution. The leaves are then removed and a source of citric acid (usually lemon juice) is added to help preserve the cordial and add a tart flavour.

Commercially produced cordials are generally quite concentrated and are usually diluted by one part cordial to ten parts water – thus a 0.5 litres (0.11 imp gal; 0.13 US gal) bottle of cordial would be enough for 5.5 litres (1.2 imp gal; 1.5 US gal) diluted. The high concentration of sugar in nettle cordial gives it a long shelf life.

There are also many recipes for alcoholic nettle beer, which is a countryside favourite in the British Isles.

Nettle sting avoidance
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to touch stinging nettles without being stung. As the hairs grow in one direction (upward along the stalk, or outward along the leaves), one simply needs to make sure not to grasp in a way that rubs against the direction of growth.

Nettle sting treatment
Anti-itch drugs, usually in the form of creams containing antihistaminics or hydrocortisone may provide relief from the symptoms of being stung by nettles. But due to the combination of chemicals involved other remedies may be required. Calamine lotion may be helpful. Many folk remedies exist for treating the itching including Dandelion, horsetail (Equisetopsida spp.), leaf of dock (Rumex spp.), Greater Plantain, Jewelweed, (Impatiens capensis and Impatiens pallida), the underside of a fern (the spores), mud, saliva, or baking soda, oil and onions, and topical use of milk of magnesia. Lemon juice also works for treatment. Alternatively, one can simply ignore the stinging sensation and let it run its (harmless) course. Simply washing with water (immediately after stinging) also helps.

Gardening
As well as the potential for encouraging beneficial insects, nettles have a number of other uses in the vegetable garden.
The growth of stinging nettle is an indicator that an area has high fertility (especially phosphorus) and has been disturbed.
Nettles contain a lot of nitrogen and so are used as a compost activator or can be used to make a liquid fertiliser which although somewhat low in phosphate is useful in supplying magnesium, sulphur and iron. They are also one of the few plants that can tolerate, and flourish in, soils rich in poultry droppings.
Recent experiments have shown that nettles are a beneficial weed, having use as a companion plant.
Stinging nettle can be a troubling weed, and mowing can increase plant density. Regular and persistent tilling will greatly reduce its numbers, the use of herbicides such as 2,4-D and Glyphosate, are effective control measures.

Taxonomy
The taxonomy of stinging nettles has been confused, and older sources are likely to use a variety of systematic names for these plants. Formerly, more species were recognised than are now accepted. However, there are at least five clear subspecies, some formerly classified as separate species:
Other species names formerly accepted as distinct by some authors but now regarded as synonyms of U. dioica include U. breweri, U. californica, U. cardiophylla, U. lyalli, U. major, U. procera, U. serra, U. strigosissima, U. trachycarpa, and U. viridis. Other vernacular names include tall nettle, slender nettle, California nettle, jaggy nettle, burning weed, fire weed and bull nettle (a name shared by Cnidoscolus texanus and Solanum carolinense).
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References
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The historical information presented here is for educational purposes only. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Stinging nettle or common nettle, Urtica dioica, is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant, native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and North America, and is the best-known member of the nettle genus Urtica. The plant has many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals. The plant has a long history of use as a medicine and as a food source.


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