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Author Topic: Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?  (Read 65192 times)

Offline GlentoranMark

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« on: 04/07/2010 15:24:26 »
Hi all, as an Astrogeek I know next to nothing about plants (except how to grow and eat them.) After doing some weeding a stinging nettle brushed against my skin and hurt for several hours if not a full day.

What I want to know is how and why does it hurt? What is on the plant that irritates your skin? Are all animal suspect to this or is it just humans? What is the best way to treat a sting?

Please tell me all things stinging about this plant. I want to destroy every stinging nettle on the planet so I need as much info as possible.


 

Offline RD

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #1 on: 04/07/2010 15:47:45 »
Hi all, as an Astrogeek I know next to nothing about plants (except how to grow and eat them.) After doing some weeding a stinging nettle brushed against my skin and hurt for several hours if not a full day.

What I want to know is how and why does it hurt? What is on the plant that irritates your skin?


Stinging nettle




The surface of a stinging nettle leaf. The large stinging hairs are hollow tubes with walls of silica making them into tiny glass needles. The bulb at the base of each hair contains the stinging liquid, which includes formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine and 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin). The tips of the glassy hairs are very easily broken when brushed, leaving a sharp point, which can pierce the skin to deliver the sting.


« Last Edit: 04/07/2010 15:59:10 by RD »
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #2 on: 04/07/2010 21:15:45 »
Some species have been found to have oxalic and tartaric acid in them. People suggest that rubbing a dock leaf on the sting gives relief but I think it is a placebo and whilst you are looking for a dock leaf it takes your mind of the sting. A good cup of tea to drink and some calamine lotion applied to the area is my cause of action. You are however lucky you don't live in Java as nettles from there can give you a rash that lasts a year and can cause death.
 

Offline GlentoranMark

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #3 on: 06/07/2010 21:51:24 »
Is it the acid released from those broken spikes that creates the allergy or do they have to break the skin?

What is the best cure for a sting? (docking leaves aren't always at hand but thanks for the camomile lotion  ::))
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #4 on: 08/07/2010 22:18:02 »
I guess any alkaline substance would give some relief. Toothpaste is worth a try.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #5 on: 08/07/2010 22:18:59 »
I've also heard that nettle juice works but haven't given it a go.
 

Offline tangoblue

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #6 on: 18/07/2010 03:23:04 »
thats spooky: i was just explaining how a nettle stings to explain how a jellyfish stings a min. ago.

and animals with fur are not effected by nettles as the hairs cannot get to their skin. Lucky sods. If you are killing all of the nettles in the world you can come to my garden and kill mine if you want!
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #7 on: 18/07/2010 11:18:41 »
If we killed all the nettles we would also wipe out some rather pretty butterflies.


Calamine lotion is a crushed rock in water.
I think the fact that dock leaves, calamine lotion etc. all work is a combination of the placebo effect and the fact that they are wet so they cool the affected area and that provides some relief.

Tangoblue,
I usually find that wearing clothes affords a great degree of protection from nettles.
 

Offline chris

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #8 on: 18/07/2010 11:48:50 »
Just as others have correctly outlined above, stinging nettle leaves and stems are festooned with tiny, hollow silica hairs, at the base of which are reservoirs of serotonin, histamine and other nerve-activating chemicals. Brushing past the plant breaks the hairs producing a sharp edge that scores the poisonous cocktail in through the skin surface.

Once in the skin the poison agents directly stimulate pain-conveying nerve fibres, which themselves then also activate mast cells (via an axon reflex) leading to the discharge of more histamine and other pain-provoking inflammatory mediators.

The result is an inflammatory wheal that takes several hours to settle.

This means that the most effective remedies are likely to be those that directly impact on the inflammatory process itself. Hence anti-histamines and steroid creams are probably the most likely to bring relief.

The benefit of rubbing with a dock leaf is probably less to do with anything in the dock plant and more to do with the gate theory of pain, whereby rubbing an affected area helps to suppress transmission of painful signals up the spinal cord.

And as an incidental aside, I'm told by a plant scientist colleague that the stingers to avoid are those in areas frequented by herbivores; there is evidence that the plants growing in these environs, surrounded by cows, sheep, goats and so on, make significantly more leaf hairs and hence deliver a significantly more potent sting than nettles growing in a more unchallenged environment...

Chris
 

Offline tangoblue

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #9 on: 20/07/2010 00:57:35 »
I found out that you get lots of types of 'dead nettle' which is obviously in the nettle family, but does not sting.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #10 on: 20/07/2010 20:10:34 »
The nettle family
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urticaceae
isn't the same as the dead nettle family.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamiaceae
 

Offline Geezer

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #11 on: 20/07/2010 20:54:52 »
The nettle family
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urticaceae
isn't the same as the dead nettle family.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamiaceae


Also, should not be confused with heavy nettle
 

Offline tangoblue

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Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #12 on: 22/07/2010 02:01:28 »
Too many nettles, too many nettles! :(
 

Offline NettlePowrHouse

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Re: Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #13 on: 08/06/2014 16:57:34 »
Hi all;  I know stinging nettle can be annoying to the unprepared gardener, or outdoors person, but it is power packed with an amazing array of nutrients  ... so all you who said you wanted to kill it all, please READ THIS and please don't ...

[SPAMMY LINK REMOVED!]

don't forget to wear your gloves & appropriate clothing when handling nettle... & enjoy it's Benefits!  [O8)]
« Last Edit: 16/05/2016 22:17:50 by chris »
 

Offline chris

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Re: Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #14 on: 16/05/2016 22:19:35 »
We revisited this topic recently on the radio show / podcast:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/questions/question/1000474/

We also looked at whether dock leaves are a good nettle-sting remedy:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/interviews/interview/1001591/
 

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Re: Why and how does a stinging nettle hurt you?
« Reply #14 on: 16/05/2016 22:19:35 »

 

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