I don’t know if you have ever encountered a nettle while out on a walk, but I certainly have, and there is one experience in particular that leaps to mind. While out with friends on a botanizing excursion, I managed to stick my hand straight into a huge patch of nettles (Urtica dioica). A big mistake, as you can probably guess.
We spent the rest of the walk searching fruitlessly for broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) to relieve the itching, swelling, and burning caused by the nettle’s stinging hairs. My arm was on fire. But the glassy hairs themselves were not the driving force behind this irritation, nasty as they are. That blame lies squarely with the formic acid and histamine released as the spiny hair pierces the skin.
Luckily, there are several wild cures to the nettle’s sting that the natural world offers. Weeds can be useful, even though gardeners view them (often rightly so) as a nuisance. Broad-leaved dock is just one example. To counter the effects of nettles, the dock’s leaves can be collected, torn into pieces, and pulverized until they produce a green sap. This juice will offer near-instant relief from the nettle’s sting.
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