Stinging nettle is a wild, thorny plant that grows in rich and moist soils throughout the world. It is also a wildly appreciated medicinal herb, whose two main species, Urtica dioica and Urtica urens, should be handled with care when planted in the garden — they are studded with tiny, stinging needles. Using quality seeds with male and female types is the first concern when planting nettles. Cultivating nettle seeds requires a healthy bed of nitrogen-rich soil, a period of germination, and the right types of seeds to produce plants of male and female varieties.
Securing quality nettle seeds for both male and female types of nettle is important, since the plant is dioecious — with male and female flowers on different plants. Another possibility is to seek out both male and female members of the same species in their native habitat along river beds and ditches, then strip them of the nettle seeds to plant in a garden. The plants can also just be transplanted whole. Pictures of both sexes for several species of nettle are widely available online, as are photos of nettle seeds.
Since nettles prefer nitrogen-heavy, moist soils, a cultivated garden or flowerbed is best for their new home. Soil dealers recommend germinating the seeds in open air for as long as two weeks — in the springtime — then planting them finger-deep in container or garden soil. Seeds or transplanted nettles should be about 1 foot (or 30 cm) apart, since they will grow as thick and tall as a grade-schooler. Daily watering in full or partial sun is best.
The best time to pluck the stem and the leaves from the plant is when the flowers are about to open. This is when the thorns will be at their least abrasive. Nevertheless, gloves should always be worn while handling nettles. If the ultimate goal is to create an at-home remedy, even the thorn-heavy stems can be used. Though commercially available in several forms like supplements, tea, extracts or over-the-counter tinctures, a common method to extract the plant's vital nutrients at home is by drying the leaves, stems and flowers, then making a tea. Others just throw the stems aside and use the leaves and flowers in various recipes like spinach.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the same chemicals that cause stinging when the plant's thorns are touched are responsible for a lessening of inflammation where pain already exists in the body. This holds true with topical treatments for skin irritations as well as internal inflammation like that suffered with osteoarthritis. The list of suspected benefits of planting nettle seeds is long; however, ingesting them could cause side effects or interactions with certain medications. A doctor should always be consulted when new complementary medications are added to a regimen of other prescription drugs.