Stinging nettle

Secwepemc name : ts’exmém’llp [cf. ts’ext’ext – “to be stung (by stinging nettle)”; OR secwmám’llp

stinging-nettleMany Secwepemc people recall that the young shoots of nettles, or sometimes just the leaves, were formerly steamed or boiled and eaten like spinach. According to Mary Thomas, they could also be added to soup broth. Some people still use these greens today. They are harvested, with care, in the spring. Cooking eliminates their stinging properties. A solution of nettles was used for washing the hair. Despite their painful sting, nettles were an important medicine, used as a counter-irritant to alleviate the pain of rheumatism and arthritis. Usually the treatment was undertaken during sweatbathing. It is very painful, but effective.

The more mature plants were used to ease the pain of arthritis.  Rubbing or hitting the sore joints with the plant is said to stimulate the body to release endorphins to ease the pain. Teit (1909: 618) also described the use of “common nettle,” “… for striking and rubbing the body when sweat-bathing. Each bunch of nettles, sage-twigs, fir-twigs, or alder-twigs, after having been once used for rubbing the body, was thrown away to the west.” Mary Thomas said that nettle leaves were used in the treatment of kidney stones and diarrhea.

Common in rich, humus soils at low to mid elevation.  Prefers open meadows, deciduous forests, streamsides, valley bottoms, and moist, shady areas.

Found along the interpretive trail.