The Stinging Nettle Made My Finger Go Numb


Urtica dioica, sometimes known as stinging nettle, is a plant that is native to most of the United States and can survive in plant hardiness zones 2 through 9 according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Both the “stinging” portion of its popular name and the “urtica,” which means “burn,” part of its scientific name are accurate descriptions of this plant’s characteristics. Burning, itching, welts, and numbness may result from direct contact with the wild plant if gloves are not used. Foragers find stinging nettle, which tastes similar to spinach and loses its prickly features when exposed to heat, to be a pleasant food option during the springtime. Stinging nettle is also used to prepare a tea that some people think to be soothing. When working in an area where stinging nettles may be present, it is essential to be aware of how to prevent the painful stinging and numbness that may occur from grabbing one of these plants, whether you did it on purpose or by accident.

Botanical Composition

Anyone who so much as brushes up against stinging nettle, much alone grabs hold of it, will get a defensive one-two punch from the plant’s combination of its physical structure and its chemical components. The very imperceptible hairs that are found on the leaves and stems of stinging nettle provide the plant its capacity to protect itself. Each individual hair has a detachable structure at the very tip of it, which becomes active when the hair is touched. The needle-like mechanism of the hair responds and injects irritants into the skin once the tip of the hair has broken off and become embedded in the skin. Histamine and acetylcholine are a few examples of these irritants.


When your fingers or other parts of your body come into contact with the leaves or stems of stinging nettle, the histamine and acetylcholine that are contained in the nettle hairs induce your body to generate its own histamine as a kind of self-defense. If you grab a stinging nettle with your hand, for instance, you should be prepared for instant sensations of acute itching and burning in your fingers and palm. The sensations often last for the better part of the day, however they eventually transform into a tingling or numbness after a few hours have passed.

Preventive Measures

When weeding or gathering stinging nettle, the two most apparent ways to prevent the numbness associated with touching the wild plant are to wear protective clothes and to learn to identify the plant before touching it. Both of these strategies may help you avoid the sensation of numbness. Before pulling or cutting stinging nettle, as well as before preparing it for eating or pulling or cutting it, protect your hands and arms by donning thick gloves, thick socks, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Stinging nettle thrives in meadows, on roadsides and along streams, and it has been documented in all U.S. states except Arkansas and Hawaii. Early in the spring, when the plant is less than one foot tall, it is harvested by foragers. Stinging nettle may eventually grow to be anywhere from three to twenty feet tall and grows in enormous clusters. The plant has several stalks, and the leaves, which may be oval or lance-shaped depending on the variety, have harsh teeth and are alternately arranged on the stems rather than being directly opposite one another. The plant’s tiny hairs may be seen on the top surface of its leaves as well as on its stems when the plant is seen in close proximity. The arching spikes of stinging nettle’s dainty, whitish-green sprays of small flowers give the plant its common name.

Nettle Control

According to the advice given in an article published on the website of the University of California Integrated Pest Management Online, stinging nettle should only be eradicated in high-use areas where it poses a threat to one’s physical health or the capacity to cultivate food or income crops. Aside from that, residents of western states in the United States are strongly encouraged to refrain from causing the native plant any damage. Put on protective clothes, grab the plant around its base, and pull it out of the ground from that point in order to remove the complete root system if you wish to get rid of it. Hoeing the contaminated land once or twice does little more than disrupt the root structure, which in turn makes it easier for stinging nettle to spread.