urticadioicaCommon name stinging nettle

Scientific name Urtica dioica

The stinging nettle is also known as Indian Spinach by both coastal and interior tribes of the Pacific Northwest.

Plant family Urticaceae

Habitat and range: The stinging nettle is found in many floodplains, wetlands, along river and stream banks as well as moist and shaded woodlands. The stinging nettle is common throughout the United States and can be located in 49 of the 50 states, Hawaii being the exception.  It will thrive in most ecosystems as long as the soil conditions are adequate.[1] 

Historical and contemporary uses: Medicinally, the stinging nettle uses range from treating colds, flus, allergies, and asthma as well as reliving mild muscle and joint pains associated with arthritis.  It is also used as a poultice to stop bleeding from wounds or menstruation bleeding, an antiseptic for wounds, a diuretic and laxative.   As for a dietary intake, the nettles can be a great source of nutrients and minerals.  Blanching or steaming the leaves removes the chemical that causes the stinging sensation that many people have when they come into contact with the leaves and becomes edible. Once boiled or steamed, the nettles can be eaten in the same manner as many other types of greens such as spinach.  Since the nettle is high in iron, vitamin C, magnesium, it is an important source of nutrients.   The nettle was and continues to be a very important for many tribes in the Pacific Northwest as a source of fiber.  Some tribes such as the Salish and the Sitka, use the fibrous tissue from the nettles to make nets for fishing as well as for fibers to make clothing and many other textile materials.[2]

[1] MacKinnon, Andy and Jim Pojar. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Vancouver: Lone Pine Publishing, 1994

[2] Legacy, Dr. Christophers Herbal. History of the Stinging Nettle. 30 October 2008. 2 October 2011 <http://www.herballegacy.com/Vance_History.html>.