Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stinging Nettle

I took this picture in Tuskegee national Forest about 2 months ago. It was blooming everywhere in the Long Leaf pine areas. It mush relish or at least tolerate the periodic burning needed to maintain these forests. The flowers are so stark white that they are difficult to photograph because they turn out so white it is difficult to see the detail. The flowers are beautiful, but the hairs (trichombs) that cover the plant is the part to take special note of. If you touch them, you will get a sensation not unlike a bee sting and it will continue for a long time. to me it has an itching component that is particularly painful.
The internet is filled with advice for the treatment of interactions with stinging nettle, but I can only recount how I have treated them. I would go to the nearest stream or puddle, grab up the wet mud or sand from the bottom of the stream, and scrub the area affected. This was a kid's remedy and it provided quick and lasting relief if the process was continued several minutes. Sand was my preferred scrub substance and it worked to some extent even without water. I believe it scrubbed off the painful trichombs that were stuck in the flesh. Water helps wash away the formic acid and other noxious chemicals that are on the trichombs.
The nettle greens are of both nutritional and medicinal value to hear the internet tell it. You can buy all sorts of preparations for whatever ails you, from  arthritis, hay fever, kidney problems, to prostate cancer. Nettles as a green are high in vitamins A and C and can be cooked and eaten like any other green. The nettles are destroyed by the cooking. They are eaten world-wide.  But you need to be a pretty stalwart individual to pick them, and better come prepared with gloves and clippers.

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