Nettle – characteristics, cultivation and use


Almost everyone knows stinging nettle, and there is hardly anyone who does not sooner or later come in contact with their burning properties. Therefore, it is also often avoided. But due to its important medicinal properties the pant should have a place of honor in each garden. Most of the time, however, it gets this place itself, because it is very persistent and undemanding and grows almost everywhere it is allowed to grow.

Profile of nettle:

Scientific name: Urtica dioica

Plant family: nettle family (Urticaceae)

Other names: common nettle, stinging nettle (although not all plants of this species sting), nettle leaf, nettle, stinger

Sowing time / Planting time: March – April

Flowering period: June – October

Harvest time: June – September

Useful plant parts: leaves, seeds, shoots, roots

Location: partially shaded to sunny

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and moist soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: urinary complaints, irritable bladder, rheumatism, itching of the skin, gout

Use as aromatic herb: suitable as a vegetable

Plant characteristics and classification of nettle

Origin and occurrence of the nettle

Both large and small stinging nettles have their origins in Central Europe. Since both have a fairly high ecological tolerance range, they are today widespread far into Asia, Northern Europe and North America.

Nettles are found everywhere on nutrient-rich or nitrogen-rich soils with sufficient moisture. The plant is considered a nitrogen indicator. It is often found at forest edges, nitrogen-rich fallow land, on edges of cultural parks or near ponds and river edges. There they usually form huge nettle corridors, which usually occur together with ashweed. ,

Plant order of Urtica dioica

The large nettle (Urtica dioica) forms with other species and genera an own plant family. The family of nettles (Urticaceae) comprises more than 2,500 species, which are divided into 56 genera. In Central Europe, however, it is rather the stinging and the dwarf nettle (Urtica urens) as well as the Roman nettle which can be found wild.

Characteristics of the nettle


The stinging nettle is a perennial herbaceous plant. Depending on the location quality and nitrogen supply, it reaches heights of growth between 40 and 320 cm (16 in and 10 ft). In the ground, the herbaceous plant is anchored by a strong and usually brownish-red rhizome, from which many smaller yellowish-white to brown and branched roots go off.


The most characteristic feature is the leaves. The leaves are up to 20 cm (8 in) long and up to 15 cm (6 in) wide and strikingly sawn, slightly heart-shaped and pointed. The leaf surface is strongly structured. The leaf nerves are conspicuous and run in half-bow from leaf side to leaf side. Both the leaves and the stems contain the notorious fungal hair, which consists of silicic acid and contains formic acid. Young nettle leaves can sometimes be confused with the leaves of purple or white deadnettle.


The flowering period usually begins at the end of June and extends well into October. There, the stinging nettle produces subtle flowers that are arranged in a panicle. The flower color can vary between creamy white, green to light brown. Stinging nettles are always separated sexually. The female flowers usually hang, whereas the male flowers stand upright. The individual flowers themselves are visually difficult to perceive, since they usually do not become larger than 1.5 mm (0.06 in).


After flowering, the nettle forms about 1 mm (0.04 in) long green nut fruits, each containing one seed. The seeds are usually egg-shaped.

stinging nettle
stinging nettle

Why are stinging nettles burning when touched?

The stinging nettle contains fine stinging hairs, which are filled with silicic acid and formic acid. Microscopically, these hairs look like fine needles. If a living being touches these needles, they break off and dig into the skin. At the same time, the formic acid gets into the skin, which is responsible for the burning and the formation of the typical red wheals. The amount of acid that gets into the skin is generally harmless and is quickly broken down by the body.

Nettle – cultivation, sowing and care


Stinging nettle feels well in both half-shady and sunny locations, avoiding full sun.


Nutrient-rich, humus-rich and moist soils appear optimal. However, A soil that tends to waterlogged is not suitable for the nettle, otherwise the root system would rot.


Nettle can be sown directly into the garden bed. The optimal time for sowing is from late March to mid-May. It is also possible to apply the seeds to the bed in late autumn. However, as many birds like the seeds, the spring months are preferable. In addition, at least 10 ° C / 50 ° CF is needed for the seeds to germinate. The seeds can lie directly on the ground or only be lightly pressed into the ground. A distance of at least 25 to 35 cm (10 to 14 in) should be kept between the plants. After sowing, the seeds usually appear after about 10 to 14 days.

Pot cultures

It is also possible to keep stinging nettles in pots to cultivate them on the balcony or on the terrace. For this, however, wide and deep pots should be chosen, as the nettle is quite high and the roots need space.


If a rich harvest is to be achieved, a good nitrogen supply must be ensured. If available, compost can be mixed into the soil in spring. If possible, an organic nitrogen fertilizer with long-term effects should be incorporated. Good fertilizers, beside compost, are horn shavings or horn meal. In potted cultures, a nitrogen-stressed organic fertilizer should be administered approximately every three to four weeks.


A good water supply must be paid attention to urgently. Nettles love damp locations and have only a short tolerance to drought. The soil should always be slightly moist, but waterlogging is to be avoided. A good way to store water, is the addition of expanded clay.


The nettle is hardy and has a high frost tolerance. No action required.


If you want to use stinging nettles as a kitchen herb or medicinal herb, you will harvest the leaves best if you sweep from the bottom to the top. If harvested in the opposite direction, there is a risk that the burning hair leaves a painful experience. Wearing gloves is also very helpful.

The nettle as a helper in the garden

The nettle is a wonderful fertilizer plant. You make a manure, a natural super fertilizer for strong-consuming plants.

Preparation of nettle manure

You need:

  • Stinging nettles, the entire above-ground herb
  • a large bucket or other metal-free vessel
  • a lid, a board or fleece to cover
  • a stick as a stir bar
  • Rainwater (or tap water if not available)

This is how it works:

  • place the container in as sunny a place as possible. If the place is shadier, then the manure needs a little longer. Since it smells unpleasant, it is important to choose the place so that it does not come to the odor nuisance.
  • Cut stinging nettles with gloves and scissors or mow with a scythe and place in the bucket.
  • Fill the vessel three-quarters with stinging nettles.
  • Pour water over it until all the herb is covered.
  • Leave the first few days open and cover with the lid only when the smell becomes unpleasant.
  • Stir every 1-2 days as oxygen is important for decomposition.
  • The nettle slurry is ready in 2-3 weeks and can be used as a fertilizer throughout the growing season.
  • If the manure develops too strong an odor, it can be sprinkled with odor-binding rock flour.

Use of the manure

  • use only for strong-consuming plants
  • herbs, root vegetables and legumes can not tolerate any liquid manure
  • in young plants, add about 1 liter slurry to 10 liters of water (33 fl oz to 330 fl oz / 2.6 gal)
  • always pour the roots, not on the leaves

It is a great fertilizer for tomatoes, cucumbers, paprika, pumpkin, potatoes, broccoli, and leek.

Other use of nettles in your garden

Stinging nettles under fruit trees improve the harvest. If it is in the way, the nettle can be easily pulled out or mowed and placed as a gentle fertilizer around the trunk.

Nettle tea helps with mildew, fungal infestation and lice on plants.

If nettles grow in the vicinity of medicinal herbs, they produce more essential oils.

Green tomatoes can be placed in a dark box or paper bag along with fresh nettles. They ripen really well within 4-6 weeks.

The nettle is also a pointer plant for nitrogenous soil.

a flowering nettel
a flowering nettel

Nettle and its use

The nettle is much more than just a weed and can be used both as a medicinal herb and as a culinary herb.

Nettle as a kitchen herb

If you only know the stinging nettle as a weed, it’s hard to believe that it’s an excellent herb. It can be processed in soups, as a vegetable or as a juice and tastes very good when properly prepared.

A well-known recipe is nettle soup, which is easy to prepare and is often eaten in spring against spring tiredness. It consists of stinging nettle leaves, red onions, potatoes, broth, crème fraiche and butter. The leaves are first briefly sautéed with the onions in butter and then added to the soup pot. In addition to salt and pepper, herbs such as wild garlic, tarragon and parsley can provide a tasty highlight.

If you like to eat spinach, you can also try some nettle leaves instead. The leaves can be prepared in exactly the same way and taste the same as spinach. If desired, the nettle spinach can also be mixed with milk, cream or coconut milk to give it a creamy note. It is a delicacy with potatoes and scrambled eggs.

Lovers of pasta can also try a nettle pesto. In addition to pine nuts or walnuts, a high-quality oil, salt, lemons and crushed nettle leaves are needed. Such herbal pesto is very popular in wild herb lovers.

The aching stinging hair is made harmless by cooking, steaming or drying. Even pureeing in a blender destroys it so that smoothies or juices can be prepared without any problem.

Nettle leaves are very healthy. They contain plenty of vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium and protein.

Nettle as a medicinal herb

Many of today’s applications have long been known in the Middle Ages. As the stinging nettles were often found in nature, they were a much sought after home remedy for many everyday ailments.

Stinging nettles have been used for many external and internal complaints. Brewed nettle leaves were an everyday life remedy for complaints as side engraving. The crushed flowers were also heated in a broth and used for urinary obstruction. A medicinal wine from nettle leaves or crushed seeds, which were boiled in honey or a fruit purée are said to have helped with hard stomach and intestinal discomfort.

Externally, crushed nettle leaves blended with salt served as a patch for skin injuries or dog bites and were also recommended for bumps and skin swelling.

Hildegard von Bingen also described the nettle in her book Physica. There the medicinal herb was recommended almost exclusively as a vegetable, which helps clean the stomach and removes the mucus from the stomach. However, due to the roughness of the nettle, Hildegard did not think much of the raw consumption.

Today’s medicinal use of nettle

The stinging nettle is an excellent metabolism plant. Especially as a spring cure, it works miracles to purge your body. You can drink them as nettle tea, in salad, in soup and eat like spinach. Well seasoned and mixed with other herbs it all tastes wonderful and gives fresh powers.

Stinging nettle tea is a popular tea for purifying and stimulating the metabolism.

Preparation of a nettle tea

  • put one tablespoon of dried nettle leaves or 2-3 fresh leaves in a tea strainer in a cup
  • dash with boiling hot water
  • leave to draw for 10 minutes

Preparation of a nettle tincture

From nettle root an excellent remedy for prostate problems can be made. For this purpose, a strong tincture is made from the fresh, cleaned and chopped root. Furthermore, can you massage the nettle tincture against hair loss on the scalp

This is how you go about:

  • put the root pieces in a glass jar and fill with 45-50% alcohol
  • let it rest for three weeks, shake now and then
  • strain and place in a dark bottle
  • take 20 drops three times a day

Take 20 drops three times a day.

Bath additive

In order to promote blood circulation as well as for allergies of the skin, a decoction of the herb can be given in the bath water. For a full bath, pour three handful of stinging nettles into two liters (67 fl oz) of boiling water and leave for 15 minutes.

Further use of nettle

In addition, dried nettle leaves do very well in kidney blister tea blends. It also helps against rheumatism and gout because it flushes the toxins out of the body.

Particularly courageous rheumatic patients can be hit with the whole plant to take advantage of the irritant effect of nettle poison. However, with this method one should be careful, because it can also lead to overreactions to the nettle poison.

The nettle seeds give strength and work well in states of exhaustion.

The nettle root can also be used as a medicinal herb.

Stinging nettle can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • constipation
  • diabetes (supportive)
  • diarrhea
  • gout
  • high blood pressure
  • kidney weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • menstrual cramps
  • promotes hair growth
  • promotes metabolism
  • rheumatism
  • shed
  • spring fever
  • stomach weakness
  • urinary tract

Medicinal properties

  • analgesic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antispasmodic
  • diuretic (aquaretic)
  • immune system stimulant

Scientifically, the use of stinging nettle in the treatment of prostate cancer is discussed. It has been observed in laboratory experiments that nettle extracts can induce cell death of tumor cells of adenocarcinoma.

Side effects

As a rule, no side effects are to be expected. In case of known histamine intolerance, the intake of nettle products should first be discussed with a doctor or pharmacist. In rare cases, taking nettle tea may cause a lighter stomach ache. When taking it, always pay attention to an additional liquid intake.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Nettle – What to Consider?

There are some online retailers selling seeds and even fresh plants, so that the plant can easily be cultivated in the garden. The price per pack of seeds is about 2 EUR/$, for a fresh plant about 3 to 5 EUR/$.

If you want to make your own nettle tea or mix it with other herbs, you can already buy dried leaves from your herbalist or online. The herbs should come from controlled cultivation and be packed accordingly airtight. Prices is 2.5 to 8 EUR/$ per 100 grams.

In addition to tea, a press juice from nettles can be bought, but the taste is not very special. The juice is mainly to help with rheumatic complaints and fore purification.

For the production of its own nettle jumbo or broth, there are some producers offering ready-made nettle powder. Such powders are especially suitable for those who want to produce a broth quickly and without harvest.

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