Why do nettles burn?

The stinging nettle is an all-rounder and much more than a weed.
When a human or animal comes into contact with a stinging nettle, it can cause a rather violent burning or stinging sensation. This is caused by the many small stinging hairs that grow all over the stem and leaves of the plant. They release a form of liquid acid that feels like a sting or burn to the skin. The skin burns, swells slightly for a short time, but usually heals quickly. It is important not to scratch or rub the area. The nettle fibres penetrate deeper into the skin and prolong the pain, which can last for several days. Running cool water over the affected area will significantly dull the initial pain.

What does the stinging nettle do?
The nettle defends itself. It uses its stinging sap to protect itself from being eaten by large animals. Smaller animals, however, are clever enough to only eat the leaves around the stinging hairs. Some nettle species serve as a vital food source for other animals, especially for the caterpillars of around 50 butterfly species.

Are stinging nettles healthy?
For humans, stinging nettles are tasty and healthy. Young nettle shoots contain about twice as much vitamin C as an orange and more protein than soybeans. Naturopathy classifies nettles as metabolism-stimulating, blood-cleansing and diuretic. Stinging nettle is used, among other things, to relieve rheumatic pain. The young shoot tips, seeds and flower buds are suitable for consumption. Stinging nettle is used in many ways as a seasoning in various dishes, or as an ingredient in salads. Classics are nettle spinach, nettle dumplings and nettle as a filling for the traditional "Schlutzkrapfen". A particularly hearty dish is nettle pesto. Nettle is also a popular ingredient in omelettes, egg dishes and soups. In addition, nettle is used as an ingredient in drinks, for example vegetable in juices, smoothies and – once dried – as a herbal infusion.

Super fertiliser for the garden
Nettles also provide a free super fertiliser for the garden. To make it, put the nettles in a bucket of water, cover and leave for 14 days at a ratio of 1:10 to 1:20. The nettle brew has a fertilising effect. It strengthens the plants and increases their resistance to pests.

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