The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869    



Description:  Natural Order, Urticaceae. Stem two to three feet high, slightly four-sided, somewhat branching. Leaves opposite, ovate, somewhat heart-shaped at the base, deeply serrate, pointed, three to four inches long by an inch and a half broad, downy underneath. Flowers monoecious, often dioecious, without corollas, in panicled spikes; calyx of four greenish sepals. The stem and leaves thickly beset with bristly, stinging hairs, which emit a little acrid juice that causes small blisters. Root creeping, branching, half an inch or more in diameter, perennial. June to August.

U. GRACILIS, tall wild nettle, is slender, erect, rarely branched, from three to six feet high; with narrow, pointed, and three to five-nerved leaves, common in fence corners, and sparingly bristly. U. URENS, small stinging nettle, is not common, annual, scarcely a foot high, with elliptical leaves. The roots of these several species are probably alike, but that of the dioica is the one usually gathered.

Properties and Uses:  The root is a strong astringent, with moderately stimulating and tonic qualities, of a sharp and rough taste. As a local arrester of bleeding, it has few equals; and its infusion or tincture is of much power, used inwardly, for bleeding from the nose, lungs, or stomach, and may also be used to excellent advantage in bleeding from the bowels and passive menorrhagia. Some have used it in diarrhea; but it is suitable only for low conditions and chronic forms of that malady. It is said to act well upon the kidneys, but I have been unable to obtain any such impression from it; and can not commend it in dropsy unless as a tonic and astringent with an excess of other agents, and it is certainly an unsuitable article to use in febrile and acute nephritic difficulties. Dose of the powder, from five to ten grains. A tincture may be made with two ounces to a pint of diluted alcohol.

URTICA PURPURASCENS is an annual nettle, found only on alluvial soils, and preferring moist and somewhat shady situations. Stem one to three feet high, slender, with spreading branches. Leaves large, broad-ovate, cordate, dark-green, coarsely serrate, on slender petioles. Flowers in short and simple clusters, of which there are usually two in an axil. Beset with slender and stinging hairs on the stem, branches, petioles, and leaves. I have used the unripe flowers of this species in ague, and especially in gastric intermittents with cerebral disturbance. A teaspoonful, powdered and given in molasses, usually induces a quiet sleep and a warm perspiration, without any sign of narcotism. My experience with it, in 1852, was too limited to allow more than a passing notice; but I feel well satisfied that it deserves careful investigation. This species is abundant throughout the West. The flowers of the other species may possess similar properties, though my own trials of them were not satisfactory.

 Medical Herbalism journal and