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Common Nettle

Urtica dioica

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Urticaceae (Nettle)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fens, fields, gardens, grassland, hedgerows, meadows, mountains, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, scrub, towns, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

Green, 4 petals
The Common Nettle, Urtica dioica, in the UK, produces small, inconspicuous flowers that form in clusters known as inflorescences. These flowers are greenish or yellowish and are arranged in long, slender, drooping clusters called catkins. The individual flowers are not showy, and they lack petals but have sepals. They tend to appear from early spring to early autumn and are wind-pollinated.
The Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) in the UK produces small, round fruits known as achenes. These fruits are dry, single-seeded, and are often enclosed within the persistent sepals of the flower. The achene is small, hard, and typically dark in color, containing the seed of the plant.
The leaves can be either light or dark green. They grow in opposite pairs along the stems and have saw-tipped margins. The shape of their leaves are oval or narrowly egg-shaped and they have pointed tips. The bases of their leaves are rounded and stipules are present. The leaf stalks of the Stinging Nettle reach about 3 inches in length. The surfaces of their leaves are smooth on both sides. Their surfaces have small hairs on them which sting you if you touch them. The sting is caused by the formic acid which is present in the leaves. The formic acid is destroyed on cooking the leaves.
The Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) in the UK has a distinctive, slightly earthy, and herbaceous aroma. When crushed or bruised, the leaves emit a green, grassy scent with hints of freshness, reminiscent of cut grass or young vegetation.
Other Names:
American Stinging Nettle, Big Sting Nettle, California Nettle, Common Perennial Nettle, Common Stinging Nettle, Devil's Apron, Devil's Leaf, European Nettle, Giant Nettle, Greater Nettle, Heg-beg, Hoky-poky, Jenny-nettle, Naughty Man's Plaything, Scaddie, Slender Nettle, Stinging Nettle, Sting-leaf, Tall Nettle, Tall Wild Nettle, Tanging Nettle, Wild Nettle.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Urtica dioica, commonly known as stinging nettle, is a perennial herb that belongs to the Urticaceae family. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and along roadsides. The plant can grow up to 1.5 meters tall and has green, heart-shaped leaves that are serrated on the edges and covered in small, stinging hairs. The small, greenish-white flowers are arranged in clusters. The stinging hairs on the leaves and stems can cause a painful rash on contact. Despite this, the plant has a long history of medicinal use and has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, including allergies, arthritis, and eczema. The leaves and stems can also be cooked and eaten as a vegetable, and the plant is also used as a source of fiber for textiles.


Common Nettle, also known as Urtica dioica, is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Despite its reputation for causing skin irritation, it has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and food source.

Appearance and Habitat

Common Nettle grows to a height of about 3-4 feet and has a square stem with opposite leaves that are heart-shaped and serrated. The plant produces small green flowers in the summer and early fall. It can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including meadows, forests, and along riverbanks. It is a hardy plant and can tolerate a wide range of soil types.

Medicinal Properties

Common Nettle has a long history of use as a medicinal herb. It contains compounds such as histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine that can act as anti-inflammatory agents, diuretics, and pain relievers. The leaves and roots of the plant are commonly used to treat a variety of conditions, including allergies, arthritis, and urinary tract infections.

One of the most common uses of Common Nettle is as a natural remedy for seasonal allergies. Studies have shown that the plant contains compounds that can reduce the production of histamine, which is responsible for many allergy symptoms such as itching, sneezing, and congestion.

Additionally, Common Nettle has been found to have potential benefits for the treatment of arthritis. A study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that participants who took a standardized extract of Common Nettle experienced a significant reduction in pain and stiffness.

Nutritional Value

Common Nettle is also a nutritious food source. The leaves and stems are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron, calcium, and magnesium. The plant can be cooked and eaten like spinach or used to make a tea or soup.


While Common Nettle is generally considered safe, it is important to handle the plant with care to avoid skin irritation. The leaves and stems of the plant are covered in tiny hairs that can cause a stinging sensation when they come into contact with the skin. Wearing gloves and long sleeves can help to prevent this.

Additionally, people who are taking blood thinners or who have low blood pressure should exercise caution when using Common Nettle as it can have mild blood-thinning effects and may lower blood pressure.

Uses of Common Nettle

Apart from the medicinal and nutritional uses of Common Nettle, the plant has been used for various other purposes throughout history. Here are a few examples:

  1. Textiles: The fibers from the stems of Common Nettle have been used to make textiles since ancient times. The fibers are soft, durable, and eco-friendly, making them an attractive alternative to conventional textiles.

  2. Animal feed: Common Nettle can also be used as a nutritious feed for livestock, including cattle and poultry. The plant is high in protein and other essential nutrients, making it a valuable addition to animal diets.

  3. Natural dye: The leaves of Common Nettle can be used to create a natural dye that produces a greenish-yellow color. This dye has been used for centuries to color textiles and other materials.

  4. Insect repellent: The strong aroma of Common Nettle can be used as a natural insect repellent. The plant can be grown in gardens or other outdoor areas to help keep insects at bay.

  5. Fertilizer: Common Nettle can be used as a natural fertilizer for plants. The plant is high in nitrogen and other essential nutrients that can help to nourish soil and promote healthy plant growth.

Common Nettle is a versatile plant that has been used for various purposes throughout history. From textiles and animal feed to natural dye and insect repellent, the plant has many applications beyond its well-known medicinal and nutritional uses.

Potential Side Effects

While Common Nettle is generally considered safe, there are some potential side effects that should be taken into consideration. The plant can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some individuals, especially those with sensitive skin. Therefore, it is important to wear gloves and protective clothing when handling the plant to avoid any unwanted stings.

Additionally, Common Nettle may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners and diuretics. If you are taking any medications, it is recommended that you speak with your healthcare provider before using Common Nettle as a supplement.

Uses in Traditional Medicine

Common Nettle has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a wide range of ailments. In Ayurvedic medicine, the plant is used to treat conditions such as asthma, allergies, and arthritis. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to treat joint pain, menstrual cramps, and skin conditions such as eczema.

Modern research has also shown that Common Nettle may have potential benefits for other health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of the plant on these conditions.

Culinary Uses

Common Nettle can also be used as a food source. The young leaves and shoots can be cooked and eaten like spinach or added to soups, stews, and other dishes. The leaves can also be dried and used to make tea. Common Nettle is rich in nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium, making it a nutritious addition to any diet.

Environmental Benefits

Common Nettle has several environmental benefits. It is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of conditions and soil types. It can also help to prevent soil erosion and improve soil quality by adding nutrients to the soil. Additionally, the plant is a valuable source of food and habitat for insects, birds, and other wildlife.

Propagation and Cultivation

Common Nettle can be propagated by either seeds or cuttings. The plant prefers moist, fertile soil and partial shade, but it can also tolerate full sun and poor soil conditions. It is a fast-growing plant that can reach heights of up to 6 feet (2 meters) in favorable conditions.


The best time to harvest Common Nettle is in the spring, before the plant flowers. The young leaves and shoots can be harvested and used for food or medicinal purposes. However, it is important to wear gloves and protective clothing when harvesting the plant to avoid any stings.


Common Nettle can be stored in a variety of ways, depending on its intended use. The leaves can be dried and stored in an airtight container for use as a tea or seasoning. Alternatively, the leaves can be frozen or blanched and stored for later use in soups, stews, or other dishes.

In conclusion, Common Nettle is a versatile plant with many potential uses and benefits. Whether you are looking to use the plant for its medicinal properties, as a food source, or for its environmental benefits, it is important to handle the plant with care and consult with a healthcare professional before use. With proper cultivation, harvesting, and storage techniques, Common Nettle can provide a valuable addition to any home garden or natural remedy collection.


Video 1: Filmed in Adlington, Lancashire on the 14th June 2022.

Video 2: Common Nettles filmed at Carnforth, Lancashire on the 13th August 2023.


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Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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