All About Nettle

Botanical Name
Urtica dioica
Common Name(s)
Nettle, Common Nettle, Stinging Nettle
Urticaceae (50 species)
Native to
Europe, Asia, Northern Africa, Western North America
Geographical Distribution
free nettle

Botanical Description

Nettle is a flowering perennial that is both dioceious (separate male and female plants) and monoecious (both male and female flowers on the same plant) (Shannon 2006) (Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide). It grows nearly everywhere, likes nutrient-rich soil, and can reach as high as 6 feet in height. Nettle prefers full sun to partial shade and spreads by both seeds and rhizomes. The stems are unbranched, usually square and hairy. Nettle leaves sit opposite each other with serrated or toothed sides and pointy tips. Under the leaves are hairs or stingers that inject formic acid into whatever brushes up against them. The flowers are greenish brown in color and protrude from the leaf axils. The female flower has 4 to 5 sepals but no petals. The ovary contains one carpel which matures into a single seed. The male flower has 4 to 5 stamens that produce pollen for fertilizing the female flowers.  Seeds are harvested from the female flowers which hang down while the male flowers gesture up.

Harvesting Guidelines

Collect 4 to 6 leaves before flowering from the tops of each plant no more than 4 inches– late spring to early summer. Cutting just above the leaf nodes can encourage further growth. Collect seeds in the summer. Take care to identify and collect the seeds from the female flowers and not the male flowers. Roots can be harvested from fall through the winter. Stems for cordage can be collected in the fall as the plants begin to rest. Stingers – gloves and care should be used when harvesting any part of this plant

No sustainability issues to note. Nettle reseeds easily even after mowing and has a network of rhizomes underground. BIPOC cultures such as mine believe in only foraging what you will use or need and giving thanks for that. Assuring that there is enough left for others plus enough to sustain the patch for the next year and beyond.

Parts Used

Stem, Leaf, Root, Seed, Stingers/Hairs


Vitamins – A, B Complex, C, E, K, folic Acid, histamine, acetylcholine, formic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, coumadin, tannins, volatile oils, flavonoids, carotenes, fatty acids, chlorophyll, glucoquinine, iron, serotonin, protein, fiber, silica, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, sodium, albuminoids



Nettle root is used, especially in Europe, as a tonic for the kidneys and bladder. It is used specifically to support healthy prostate gland function associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).  Nettle root supports prostate size, frequency of urination and the post-void residual urine in the bladder by preventing the conversion of androgens to estrogens and suppressing prostate cell metabolism. This action provides significant improvement in BPH symptoms. Nettle root is also useful in estrogen-related diseases such as breast cancer, PCOS, and hair loss. For these conditions, nettle root can reduce symptoms associated with these diseases by reducing testosterone levels – the opposite of the support provided for BPH symptoms (Composed Nutrition, 12/2019). Nettle root contains ursolic acid. When made into a cosmetic cream and used externally, it can inhibit the degrading enzymes responsible for loss of elasticity in skin and prevent wrinkles from occurring.


Nettle seed works to support the adrenal glands resulting in increased energy, improved sleep, and improved thyroid function (in cases of hypothyroidism). Ingesting the seeds also works through the adrenal glands to help with chronic exhaustion and adrenal fatigue. Two neurotransmitters in nettle seed, acetylcholine and serotonin, are largely responsible for these effects.


Nettle is famous for the irritation caused by bare skin touching the stinging hairs of the plant. Surprisingly, those same stingers applied externally to the skin also bring pain relief. The hairs containing the chemicals histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin that cause inflammation and pain can also be used deliberately in the treatment of arthritis pain. (Randall 2000) Traditional European use includes urtication or flogging, which is beating the skin with nettle to reduce pain and inflammation.


One of things I love most about nettle is its role in reducing inflammation in diseases such as arthritis and gout. Studies show that its anti-inflammatory actions inhibit the activation of cytokines thought to be responsible for the inflammation and swelling consistent with rheumatoid arthritis, gout and other muscle and joint ailments. This anti-inflammatory action also helps to alleviate symptoms of hay fever or allergic rhinitis by reducing the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen. Nettle also contains silica which is a mineral that contributes to the regeneration of the body’s connective tissues and can assist with painful conditions like tendonitis.

Nettle also produces hypotensive effects by acting as a vasodilator and increasing nitric oxide production which dilates blood vessels. Some of the compounds in nettle may act as calcium channel blockers which relax the heart muscles making it easier to pump. The plant contains substances that mimic insulin by lowering the body’s blood sugar. Like the root, the leaves contain anti-oxidants that help the body to combat aging by lowering free radicals. In a 2004 study, nettle exhibited anti-microbial activity against 9 common bacteria and yeast populations that frequently infect humans including staph, strep, candida, and e-coli.

Primarily, nettle is used as a tonic or nutritive. Both oral traditions and numerous articles describe nettle as a holistic, nutritious food and drink with multiple benefits including clearer skin, more energy, improved hair condition, and greater health. This is most likely due to the abundance of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other needed compounds contained within the plant. Nettle is also nearly non-toxic to humans though there are those that develop allergic reactions to the plant.


Nettle stems can be eaten and used with the leaves while young. The best time to harvest nettle stems is after a few months’ growth. These older stems are tough and fibrous and can be used like hemp or spun into yarn. Many of us use nettle yarn in weaving.

ActionsAstringent                                            tonic/nutritive

antiseptic                                           trophorestorative

diuretic                                               antihistamine

alterative                                            decongestant

anti-inflammatory                          anti-oxidant

anti-microbial                                  anti-ulcerative

anti-fungal                                        analgesic


Leaf and root (fresh or dried) used for tea, tincture, or encapsulated

Young leaves and plants eaten or juiced

Seeds eaten fresh or dried or added to food.

Seeds can be tinctured as well.

Dosage and Safety


Tea- Infuse for 10 to 15 minutes 1 to 3 tsp dried per cup of hot water. Can drink up to 3 times a day. Some sources say to decoct the nettle for more than 20 minutes rather than infuse to release more minerals (Lindsey Goodwin, 2019 and The School of Evolutionary Herbalism, Issue 2, pg.20 – links in reference section).

Tincture – For dried nettle – 1:5 in 40% alcohol, 2.5 to 5 ml three times a day (Hoffman 2003). For fresh leaves – 1:3 in 75% alcohol, 1 to 3 ml per day (Country Grind Quarterly)


Sold in capsule form as supplements with the recommended dose of 300 to 900 mg. Tincture – 1:5 in 45% alcohol, 2 to 6ml three times a day (Hoffman 2003)


Start with small amounts of fresh seeds up to one teaspoon a day.

TasteSalty and astringent (tastes like grass!)

Some report that Dwarf Nettle (urtica urens) has a sweet taste. (Upton 2012)



Neutral – Some herbalists describe nettle as cooling (when used to reduce inflammation, for example) while other herbalists describe nettle as warming (as when boosting the circulatory system).


Gulcin, Ilhami,,Antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiulcer and analgesic activities of nettle (Urtica dioica L.), Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 90 (2004), 205-215.

Upton, Roy, Stinging nettles leaf (urtica dioica L.): Extraordinary vegetable medicine, Journal of Herbal Medicine, 3 (2013), 9-38.

Borchers, Andrea T., et al., Inflammation and Native American medicine: the role of botanicals, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72 (2000), 339-47.

Rayburn, Keith, et al., Stinging Nettle Cream for Osteoarthritis, Alternative Therapies, 15 (2009), 60-1.

Yang, Cindy L.H., et al., Scientific Basis of Botanical Medicine as Alternative Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Clinic Rev Allergy Immunol, 44 (2013), 284-300.

Riehemann, Kristina, et al., Plant extracts from stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), an antirheumatic remedy, inhibit the proinflammatory transcription factor NF-kB, Federation of European Biochemical Societies Letters, 442 (1999), 89-94.

Broekaert, Willem F., et al., A Chitin-Binding Lectin from Stinging Nettle Rhizomes with Antifungal Properties, Science, 245 (1989), 1100-1102.

Gulcin, Ilhami, et al., Antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiulcer and analgesic activities of nettle (Urtica dioica L.), Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 90 (2004), 205-215.

Chrubasik, Julia E., et al., A comprehensive review on nettle effect and efficacy profiles, Part I: Herba urticae, Phytomedicine, 14 (2007), 423-435.

Chrubasik, Julia E., et al., A comprehensive review on nettle effect and efficacy profiles, Part II: Urticae radix, Phytomedicine, 14 (2007), 568-579

Randall, C., et al., Randomized controlled trial of nettle sting for treatment of base-of-thumb pain, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 93 (2000), 305-309.

Hoffman, David, Medical Herbalism: the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, Healing Arts Press, ochester, VT (2003).

Hoffman, David, The Complete Illustrated Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, NY (1999).

Meredith, Leda, Northeast Foraging, Timber Press, Portland, OR (2014).

Falconi, Dina, Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook, Botanical Arts Press, LLC, Accord, NY (2013)

Internet Sources

Award-winning Canadian Author Claims that Dartmouth Indians are Really Nipmuc?

A hot topic among First Nations Peoples in Canada this month is the claim of a well-known Canadian writer that he is Indigenous and therefore eligible to represent Indigenous People and even to accept award money on behalf of his ‘Nativeness.’ Specifically, the author claims that he has “Nipmuc roots from Dartmouth, Massachusetts on my father’s side and Ojibwe roots … on my mother’s side.” While I cannot comment on his Ojibwe roots, I can explore his claim to Nipmuc, the tribe I belong to, and that Nipmuc equals Dartmouth. It seems that the novelist is referring to the 1861 Earle Report in which a family with his father’s surname in listed under “Dartmouth Indians.” But are Dartmouth Indians Nipmuc?

The 1861 Earle report was written by John Milton Earle who was the Massachusetts Indian Commissioner at that time. He was charged with investigating the “condition” of the state’s Indigenous population and to make a recommendation on whether the Indigenous people of the commonwealth should cease to be wards of the state and be allowed citizenship. The Nipmuc tribe, historically and today, consists of several autonomous bands. The Nipmuc bands included in the Earle Report were the Hassanamisco, Natick, and Dudley. The Dartmouth Indians were also included in the report. This is Earle’s description of the Dartmouth Indians.


As you can plainly see above, Earle is stating that the Dartmouth Indians were Wampanoag. Other evidence of this includes the location of the Dartmouth’s homelands as compared to Nipmuc homelands. Dartmouth, Westport, and New Bedford are coastal southeastern Massachusetts locations. Nipmucs still occupy the same central Massachusetts, NW Rhode Island, and NE Connecticut areas that our ancestors have for thousands of years.

The Dartmouth Indian Map –


The Nipmuc Map –


Two completely different and separate areas for two different tribes. Below is a popular rendition of southern New England traditional homelands.


As you can see, the area that includes Dartmouth and the other coastal areas are labeled Wampanoag.

But perhaps some may think that in 1861, there were Nipmucs living in Dartmouth, MA as in they just happened to move there. The Earle Report lists families and individuals that are part of a tribe under their tribal heading regardless of where they live. But, for the sake of research, let’s check the Dartmouth Indian listings because Earle also included tribal affiliations for each person listed.


Though not indicated on this page, the column headings for the 4th and 6th columns are “Tribe or Race” and “Residence”. As you can see, Dartmouth is indicated as the Tribe for all of the individuals listed save Jerusha Ann Coles. Listed residences for these Dartmouth Indians are confined to Westport, Dartmouth and Providence (RI).

Whether the author is Nipmuc or not, I cannot really say since I only casually glanced at his genealogy. He has not to my knowledge made any attempt to engage my People. However, I hope this article has demonstrated that Dartmouth Indians are not the same People as Nipmuc so there is some confusion in his claim to be Nipmuc from Dartmouth, MA.






Our Cross Country Trip – in pieces – Prologue


We recently drove across the country and back. We drove because I don’t like to fly (air sickness). We live on the Atlantic coast and we drove to Pacific coast and back. 6000 miles of hoopla, tiredness, awesomeness, and fun. I’m going to relate out adventures here and on my other blog – For All My Relations -I’ll write about the African-American and Indigenous Peoples that occupy/or once occupied each region or state that we visited.



My Headpiece

I beadstitched a headpiece to match my new regalia. While I have used lazy stitch in the past to bead (barrettes mainly), I’ve never used that stitch for something this big. I had a bit of trouble along the way – not enough beads in the colors I started with for one. Two – I didn’t have the technique down pat,  And, three, it took forever (in my mind).

A couple of years ago, I bought some beautiful cream and chocolate beads from a bead store in Salem, MA. I didn’t have a project in mind when I purchased them but they were so pretty and perfectly matched to each other that I had to have them. And of course, I had to use them for this project.

One of my favorite patterns is the vase pattern from my ancestors’ Nipmuc wood splint baskets.

photoI decided to use this design in my headpiece (also called a crown but I don’t really like that name.) I chose the colors of my regalia from a bead soup mix at Bead Fiesta in Sterling, MA. The bead soup combined turquoise, chocolate brown, cream, and copper. The combination called my name so I naturally bought cloth to match.

crown beginningI started with the cream and chocolate beads but quickly ran out of the cream.  I called the bead store in Salem but they didn’t sell those beads anymore. I really wanted to fill in the circle around the vase with those luscious cream beads. I tried every store -bead and craft- but no one had the exact bead. So I substituted with a close color.


Then, I ran out of the turquoise beads and ended up sending my daughter to Natick for the correct beads. The night before the pauwau, I edged the headpiece with the chocolate and prayed that no one would notice how uneven my beading was. I definitely need more practice with this type of beading. Here is the finished headpiece –

photo (2) and a side view –


So lessons learned?

1. Always make sure you have enough beads to complete a project.

2. Make sure you practiced a technique enough times to make a quality object. I was very disappointed in the way my headpiece turned out.  I felt sure that people would point out the flaws at the pauwau. Of course, no one did!!

Anyway, I think it will be awhile before I tackle another headpiece like this. Meanwhile I’ll keep practicing on barrettes and medallions.

Until next time–



Busy Beader

I was a busy little beader gearing up for pauwau season. I made a headband for a dear friend from size 8 delicas. My loom has interchangeable spring coils to accommodate different size/type  beads. This was the first time I’ve loomed with beads that large and I was happy to see how fast it went. Here are some pictures but I neglected to photograph the completed project. Duh!!!!

1787_10200154693449975_1800712087_nThe headband tells the story of our different Nipmuc communities coming together as one using ceremony as the uniting force – specifically the pipe ceremony.

photo (1) You can see the pipe in this picture. I alternated men and women for both sexes are equally important in our community. I also used two different color people, white and green, to symbolize different bands of Nipmucs.

The headband was gifted to our pipe carrier. The bowl of the pipe he carries was made from cumberlandite – a very special stone that exists in only one place on this earth, Cumberland, Rhode Island. Cumberland is within Nipmuc traditional territory. Imagine a stone that only exists here in Nipmuc country!! I wanted to add the stone in some way to the headband. Keep in mind that the pictures you are seeing are of my final design. I tried a few different designs before I settled on this one.

photoWe used my Dremel to cut, shape and polish the stone and set it at the center of our ‘community’. I’ve never told a story in beads before and I’m not quite sure if the headband’s recipient actually understands the message I tried to convey….but he is a good sport and wore the headband at the Hassanamisco pauwau.

I think I will continue to tell stories through my beadwork – well, at least I’ll try.




The Chief of the Nipmuc Nation and Hassanamisco Band of Nipmuc Indians recently retired. Per our constutution (and historic precedence), the retiring chief submitted the names of three individuals whom he felt could be his successor.  The Elders of the Nipmuc Nation choose our next chief from among those names.

Guess who?


At first I was resistant (please see my post from October 2012 here). But then, I thought about how disrespectful it would be to say “no.” Our Elders and Chief believe that I am the right person to lead our Nation. I also thought about the state our small Indian Nation is in and could I really desert my people at this time?

But I believe that to lead an entire people is an incredible responsibility. How can I possibly be capable of such a thing???

While I’ve had an incredible amount of support, I also have my detractors. Mainly those who wanted to be chief or have family members who they feel should be chief. And, of course, the tribal council has not been happy with the Elders’ outcome. Our last Strawberry Moon celebration was clouded by the negativity between the Elders and the council.

The official ceremony is on July 28th at the reservation. An old enemy of the Hassanamisco Band has already stated that he’s coming to claim “his” reservation at the pauwau, plus who knows what else will happen.

My hope is that we all vow to move forward together, that cooperation and communication will be our top priorities.  I ask that anyone reading this to pray for my people and their leadership.



The Powers that Be

Folks are wondering what’s going on with this Nipmuk Unity thing. Well, some think that’s it’s a sinister plot to overthrow the current band governments and form something new. Certain Nipmuc Nation tribal council members even stated that the new “tribe” or band would be based within the Hassanamisco Indian Museum (’cause that’s how all indigenous tribes are formed – within museums). Others are fearful that people are trying to change the spelling of Nipmuc/Nipmuck to Nipmuk which is something that they just wont tolerate. Is this all paranoia? Or reasonable restraint?

The Nipmuk Unity movement seeks cooperation between the bands, it desires interaction between enrolled and unenrolled Nipmuks, but mostly it cultivates the survival of our culture, language, stories, traditions, ceremonies, and people.

Drawing by Zara CiscoeBrough

This is not a bad thing but there are those whose minds cannot contemplate peace. There are those who are afraid that if more Nipmuks participate in tribal affairs then they will lose the power they now possess. There are those who still believe that the check is in the mail and they don’t intend to share it. There are those who believe they can control the rest of us.

I feel sorrow for those Nipmuks that criticize the efforts of others to work together. I feel sorrow for those that belittle the efforts of our children to learn what they can of our traditions. But they can’t stop us.

We are free, strong and able to withstand the negative energy heaped upon us these past 400 years. After all, We Are Nipmuk.

My Soul Knows You

My Heart stings, thinking of You

The pain is deep and soon forgettable

Buried beneath work and family

Time to move forward

Pushing through Rejection.


Thoughts drift toward you and

Are quickly brushed away

Like snow on my windshield

As I drive through the day.


At night it’s more difficult

As dreams turn to you

As I awake I push

Them aside and move

Forward away from You.


How Hard is Hard?

Everything in my life is hard now. Dealing with my daughters and grandsons is hard now. Dealing with fear-filled council members is hard now. Getting money for the Museum is hard now. Dealing with a loco “friend” is hard now. My blood pressure is out of control and I really need to chill out but I am surrounded. So what can I change? Absolutely nothing except myself. I really need to walk away from all tribal stuff. The council is failing, completely failing and taking the tribe with them. I have tried unsuccessfully to move things forward but….

Time for me to walk away. I love the Museum and all it could be. But my dream of it becoming the center of learning for my People will never be. At least not as long as those in charge continue to live in fear. Fear of what they never had being taken away. Fear of the empty blue chairs they preach to now becoming more empty. Even the Unity movement has become a race to get “stuff” before the Nipmuc Nation does. It’s all a competition and I no longer wish to compete.

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