In cooking, the nettles are soaked to remove the stinging chemicals. When prepared in this way, it provides a taste similar to spinach. It makes delicious teas and soups. A nettle soup creation from 6,000BC was declared Britain's oldest recipe. It was a staple of Stone Age man, who made it by mixing nettles and other leaves such as dandelion and sorrel, with barley flour, salt and water!
Widely known for its sting, the leaves of nettles, or Urtica dioica, are covered with dozens of hairs. While most of the hairs don't sting, some cling to the skin and inject chemicals that cause an itching, burning sensation that can last anywhere from minutes to weeks. Despite this, nettles have long been held to be a potent, curative herb, and indeed it finds mention as one of the plants evoked in the 10th century "Nine Herbs Charm" which is said to protect from poison and illness. Within such mystical lore, it was also said that nettles were able to remove curses and spells, and otherwise protect from magic. Some also used nettles during exorcism rituals. They were also sometimes applied directly to the skin to intentionally induce the sting as a method of temporarily easing the pain of rheumatism, and it was also used of old in Germany for the treatment of arthritis. In more modern use, it has been found in dandruff control shampoos, and is sometimes given to cattle with their feed to give them a glossier coat. Among herbal lore it was also known as a remedy for stopping bleeding. Modern herbalists also use it in treating arthritis, anaemia and hay fever.