Despite their bad reputation, nettles are very useful but don’t give them to someone. According to flower giving symbolism, you will be saying that the receiver breaks your heart, that they are cruel, that they are slanderous. It is bad luck to give nettles to a woman and I can see that they might not be well received… I was going to say that no one wants to receive a plant that can harm them but we give roses all the time… Something to ponder!
One belief is that a nettle in your pocket will keep you safe from lightening and give you courage. Channelling the nettle’s fiery energy can help you break free from stagnant emotional states and situations you feel tied to. It can also help to connect you with the warrior within.
According to Worts and Cunning, nettles are associated with the planet Mars, with the astrological sign Aries and are a strengthening herb. Mars is commonly said to be about war but it is also about asserting yourself, about action and drive. Aries echoes this with forceful, outgoing, headstrong traits. This is a powerful, active plant which encourages movement and get up and go.
In terms of medicinal aids, they are said to have a lot of uses including helping nosebleeds, lung inflammation, rashes, stings, colds, rheumatism, earache and anaemia. As they are rich in iron, the latter is likely a good cure. They contain a range of vitamins and minerals and are said to help with cramping and muscle spasms. It is said that if you have joint and muscle pain and you intentionally sting the affected area, the pain will decrease.
But how to enjoy your medicinal dose of nettles? You surely don’t want to just pick them and eat them, I can’t think of another plant who’s identity is so wrapped up in it’s sting. You should blanch them first, or make a tea from them. But they adsorb pollution from the environment very easily so its best to pick them away from roads and busy areas.
Their strong fibres have been used to make cord and cloth and apparently nettle oil was used before paraffin oil. I’ve done a bit of dyeing using plants recently and I got a lovely warm grey when I used nettles although other people report getting browns and greens!
Nettles also provide a home for a number of butterflies and moths who can find sanctuary on the plant because the sting keeps predators away. Understandably we focus a lot on the pain that nettles cause us, blinding us to their benefits. They are vigorous plants, survivors, healers and protectors and we must see the plant as a whole rather than just seeing one part of it.
None of the above should be considered medical advice, do not eat anything unless you’ve done your research. Plants go by different names in different places and have different properties at different times of year. Some of the possible uses of this plant have come from folklore and should not be taken as fact.