Effective Remedies For Stinging Nettle

By Patricia | June 22, 2009

Stinging nettle or Urtica dioica is an herbaceous plant that is native to the US, Europe, parts of Asia and northern Africa. The leaves are full of small silky hairs and tiny hollow spikes that contain a chemical irritant. When taken orally, stinging nettle is known to treat many diseases such as arthritis, anemia, and gout. However, physical contact with the plant can cause irritation on human skin and result in stinging nettle rash. When a person comes in contact with the plant, the tips of the spines break off and the irritant is released. This irritant contains histamine and formic acid and results in an allergic reaction similar to that caused by a bee sting or a fire ant bite. Depending on a person’s sensitivity and immunity, nettle stings can cause a mild to severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include swelling, burning, itching and a painful rash that could last for a few minutes or a few days.

Treatment:

The first step in treating nettle stings is to clean the area as soon as possible and move away from the plant. After that, the following steps can be taken to reduce unpleasant symptoms such as skin rash and swelling:

  • Calamine lotion or milk of magnesia applied to the skin can provide relief from inflammation and burning.
  • Antihistamine medication may be prescribed to prevent an inflammatory reaction.
  • Over the counter creams or sprays containing corticosteroids such as hydro-cortisone help treat allergic reactions caused by stinging nettles.
  • Aloe Vera gel applied to the skin also helps cure the allergy. Aloe Vera contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help treat the symptoms caused by stinging nettles.

Home Remedies:

Before treating the allergy with medication, it may be worthwhile to try out some natural remedies instead. Following are some tried and tested home remedies that help cure the condition:

  • Wash the area with a gentle soap and cool water to alleviate the sting. If soap is not available, even plain water will do for temporary relief. In case you have no water on hand, rub your own saliva on the affected area immediately.
  • An old folk remedy to prevent stinging nettle rash is to use a mud pack for the skin.
  • Applying the spores from a fern leaf is believed to reduce the burning and itching caused by the nettle.
  • The chief irritant in stinging nettle is acidic. You can neutralize the effects of this type of sting by making a paste with baking soda and water. Apply this paste to the skin as soon as possible to soothe the rash and provide relief from pain and itching.
  • Plants such as curled dock or jewel-weed tend to grow around stinging nettle. If you do hike often or spend time outdoors, it is worthwhile to learn to recognize these plants as they can be used to treat stinging nettle allergies. Simply rub the leaves of these plants on the affected area of the skin to soothe burning and itching.
  • In some cases, the spines of the plant may attach to your skin. Check the exposed area of the skin closely and remove the spines using masking or duct tape. Press a piece of tape with the sticky side on the skin. Remove the tape and the spines along with it. After this is done, you can apply an antihistamine cream or even plain vinegar to the area to prevent inflammation and redness.
  • Other herbal remedies for stinging nettle allergy include crushed plantain leaf to reduce the inflammation and lemon balm leaves or Melissa Officinalis to ease the burning and stinging.
  • You could also apply some alkaline products like cucumber and lettuce to soothe the burning, pain, and irritation.

Prevention:

You can also avoid experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of the stinging nettle by taking some precautions. If you are venturing into an area that contains stinging nettles, make sure that your legs are completely covered and you’ve got on a pair of gloves. Even with the safety measures in place, you should carry with you some of the ingredients for a stinging nettle treatment and a first aid kit.

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