Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been used for many things by many cultures in history. Food, medicine, beer, paper, fabric…and even magic. Nettle can be used as an anti-aging tonic that can purify the blood. It is also thought to help break curses and spells.
The healing powers of stinging nettle are steeped in folklore. In the fairy tale of “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Andersen, the heroine must weave a coat of nettle to save her brothers from a curse that turned them into swans. It has been said that stings from the nettle can prevent sorcery. Nettle is a good protective plant that is considered good at breaking spells and jinxes.
According to the Anglo-Saxon “Nine Herbs Charm“, recorded in the 10th century, nettle was used as a protection against “elf-shot” (mysterious pains in humans or livestock caused by the arrows of the Elvin folk) and “flying venom” (believed at the time to be one of the four primary causes of illness). In Norse myth, nettle is associated with Thor, the God of Thunder; and with Loki, the trickster god, whose magical fishing net is made from this plant. In Celtic lore, thick stands of nettle indicate that there are fairy dwellings close by, and the sting of the nettle protects against fairy mischief, black magic, and other forms of sorcery.
Stinging nettle is used in potions designed to transition a difficult situation into a nurturing one. The leaves can be burned to drive out negative energies or break curses.
Even J. K. Rowling was inspired by this herb. According to the Harry Potter Wiki, nettle was used in Potion-making: dried nettle was used in the Boil-Cure Potion and nettle was presumably the main ingredient of beverages like nettle wine and nettle tea. Nettle could also be made into a soup and was rumored to improve the glossiness of one’s hair. Nettle was covered in the Herbology lessons at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone film was released to cinemas in the United Kingdom and the United States on 16 November 2001. Exactly 20 years ago!
“In some parts of the world you can sleep between nettle sheets, eat off a nettle tablecloth, dine in nettle-enriched steaks and eggs ordered from a nettle-paper menu, in an emergency fish with a nettle line, and in the springtime especially revel with delectable nettle dishes washed down with nettle beer. In fact, this is only a portion of this wild edible’s capabilities”. ~ Angier
Nettle is among those plants – beside bamboo, eucalyptus, cedar and Indian lotus – in the world that has several areas of use. It is not only a common herb that you can make tea of, but nettle kept generations alive and healthy by providing food, drink, paper, clothes and other equipment for surviving in the wild (e.g. fishing net).
Prehistoric textiles were made of nettle, started to spread in the Bronze Age and were popular again during the World Wars, mostly because it was the only available material for clothes. It was widely presumed that production of plant fiber textiles in ancient Europe, especially woven textiles for clothing, was closely linked to the development of agriculture. Researchers discovered that ancient people were conscious users of wild plants too, they not only used cultivated flax and hemp to make clothes. They even trade nettle textiles in the continent. The nettle cloth found in Denmark – tells a surprising story about long-distance Bronze Age trade connections around 800 BC – was made in Austria.
The royals favoured the finest nettle in their clothes and home textiles, the use of which was forbidden from the rest of the citizens! The nettle fibres were a highly respected fibres among the people.
Today, the world population is on increase, but land doesn’t. The demand for sustainable textiles is increasing, which is great news. By converting nettle stalks into a linen-like fabric, some companies have started to create an eco-fabric out of natural rather than synthetic materials and employ thousands of artisans across the globe. Their project has benefits beyond the current generation. With the success in nettle eco-fiber production, they will reduce the need for conventional fiber and in turn the amount of greenhouse gases produced during conventional fiber production.