Stinging Nettle (Uritica dioica)

"American Stinging Nettle
Uritica dioica L.

AY considered this to be the "good kind" of [stinging nettle], whereas poison-ivy was the "bad kind". JK used the name only for stinging nettle, whereas MJ also applied it to poison-ivy. The last term, given by Steedman was for a small kind of nettle growing on the high mountains. It is probably a stunted form of U. lyallii..." AY said that the tops of young nettle greens were eaten as a potherb only after the Chinese came; formerly it was just for twine and for medicine. MJ also said that nettle greens could be cooked as a green vegetable. She said one could also make tea from the leaves and tops, but this was apparently medicinal. The stem fibre of nettle was used by the Thompson of the Spuzzum area for twine and fishnets, when Indian-hemp fibre was not available. Nettle string is said to be very strong. AY described th euse of nettle fibre:

What they use too is the nettles... they gather the nettle tops after it dies [in fall] and take the leaves off and then they do it the same way too [like Indian-hemp, beating it], and the bark came off, then they twisted it and it makes the finest string. And that's what they use for everything. They use it for thread, they use it for making these scoop nets with...

Nettle leaves and stalks were used as a counter-irritant poultice for paralyzed limbs (AY). The plant was "teased up," dipped in water, and rubbed on stiff and sore joints and muscles. Any of "the nettles" (but not poison ivy) were made into a wash which was poured on the body after a sweatbath. A decoction of the roots was used as a hair tonic, for growing long, silky hair. This was also used as a soaking solution for bleeding hemorrhoids, in the same way as a decoction of mock-orange stems (AY). LP-RB said that nettle tops were used to cure skin disease.
MJ said that recently a neighbouring woman who had arthritis went where there was lots of stinging nettle, and hit her skin all over with nettles. Her hands had been so badly afflicted with arthritis that she could scarcely move them. Also, she could barely walk from the arthritis in her legs. Within two months, after the stinging nettle treatment, she was getting strong and healthy again...
JK also described the use of stinging nettle for arthritis. She commented that although the plant stings, it is good, too. When her grandmother was young, her legs were so stiff and sore that she had to use crutches. She could hardly walk. She went home to her aunt. Her granny's aunt instructed JK's mother, who would have been herself a young girl, to go and get as much stinging nettle as she could carry from beside the railway at Shulus, where there a large patch of it growing. Then, [the aunt] constructed a sweathouse for JK's grandmother. She put hot rocks inside, and told JK's grandmother, "Go in now. Bath with warm water first before you go in." KL's grandmother bathed, then crawled over to the sweathouse. The aunt tied the stinging nettle in four bundles and handed one inside to JK's grandmother and told her, "Rub your bone all over, over here, and shake int on your back, over here, your legs. But you finish this before you come out". When her grandmother came out, she was kind of red and spotted all over her body. The aunt told her "Okay, bath in the warm water [for] a little while and you go in again". She repeated the treatment four times, with four different bundles of stinging nettle. When she came out the last time, the aunt said "Okay, bath and go home". she went home, and the next morning, she said, "Gee, I feel good!" She would walk a little better. Soon, apparently after just a fw days, she was walking again and no longer needed her crutches. JK's mother told her this story. She had watched the whole treatment."

- pp. 289 - 290, Thompson Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia by Nancy J. Turner, Laurence C. Thompson, M. Terry Thompson & Annie Z. York for Royal British Columbia Museum (1990)

Stinging Nettle Illustration
Stinging Nettle Photograph