I use nettle sting therapy—I sting myself with live nettle plants—to heal joint and muscle damage.
Before going further, I should explain I am not an herbalist and have no scientific basis for this post. It is not meant to prescribe, cure, blah blah blah, disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer.
What’s more: what is good for my body and mind may be bad for yours. Nettle stings help heal my muscle and joint damage but may exacerbate yours, for all I know. I can’t say what is safe for a given individual. I doubt an herbalist can always say, either. I take responsibility for my use of herbs.
I can’t define what that responsibility would be for someone else but, for me, it includes consulting with an herbalist, reading up on herbs extensively, talking with herbs, learning about my own unique body so I can note if it is being helped, hindered, or hurt by an herb, and listening carefully to my body and intuition. (Ooh, I accidentally came up with four words that start with h: help, hinder, or hurt by an herb. Must use that again.)
I research herbs in terms of my own body. Every body has differences that affect whether an herb will help, hinder, or hurt that body, how often that body can tolerate the herb, and so on. I also research herbs in terms of my own contraindications (e.g., will a given herb mess with me because of a specific pharmaceutical med I am on? … Actually, I almost never take pharmaceutical meds, but I use that as an example because it’s easy to understand). Herbs are natural, but they are also powerful, and act differently on each person. So do your research, then study how your body reacts to an herb.
I share my experience of nettle sting therapy, despite my disclaimers, because our personal tales with an herbal practice have power. Please share yours with nettle sting therapy in the comment field below. Back to the topic at hand:
Starting this treatment, I had almost no guidelines, other than a few from Susun Weed. She explains it is not a matter of pain from nettle stings distracting you from the pain of your illness. I agree.
I also don’t think nettle sting therapy is a matter of pain waking up your body. If, during lovemaking, my lover suggested hitting me so I could get in touch with my body by turning the pain into energy, I’d say no to that practice. It is not congruent with how I’m wired, so the merit of nettle sting therapy is not a matter of pain waking up my body.
Susun quotes modern herbalists as believing nettle stings “bring dormant energies into action.” She also explains nettle barbs inject a healing substance.
She doesn’t say much more that I know of but, if you’re interested, look on page 181 of her book Healing Wise. I’ve read a bit more from her elsewhere about the treatment but can’t remember where. Somewhere I did read that she says to ask the plant if it’s okay to pick it.
If the plant says it is okay, I myself leave an offering. I often spit on the plant. Saliva is precious. I give part of my body in exchange for part of the plant’s body.
Then I sting the area of my body I want healed. I don’t sting near my eyes or anyplace else like that. These are real stings! They’re fierce! If you’ve never been accidentally stung by nettles, let me tell you: these are sharp barbs that can leave a terrible rash.
Here’s where the trick is, for me. The first time I stung myself was incredibly painful. But the agony lasted only three seconds because I immediately intuited that I should not define it as pain and instead understand it as energy.
As soon as I shifted focus to energy, the pain completely left and became the most amazing power coursing through my arms—which is where I’d stung myself—healing and healing them, healing and healing them, healing and healing them, as if the Goddess had laid hands on me. And unlike typical nettle stings, it left no rash! … Since my Goddess lives in plants, it was Her laying hands on me.
I repeated this process once a week for a few months. At the end of that time, my arms were light years ahead of where they had been and stayed that way for about five months until I overused them.
I learned that if I do not focus on feeling the energy till its healing process has played itself out, I do not get the healing, but get a rash. … Well, maybe I’ll get part of the healing if I pay attention briefly to the energy.
After those first three seconds of agony, the treatment was pain-free, at least for the first year. I can’t remember past that.
If you’ve done bee sting therapy, I believe the therapeutic effects of stinging oneself with nettles might be related. I believe some of the same benefits can be found by applying bee wax; a salve heavy with bees wax brought the feeling in my nerve-damaged feet to life and calmed down the nerve-damaged feet of a friend. Thinking about our experiences made me suspect bee’s wax heals nerves, since the commonality in our experiences might be that we both had a nerve healing.
I’ve continued to use nettle sting therapy over the years, and I keep learning along the way. For example, one summer, my body didn’t really want to be stung, but I did it anyway and suffered a terrible allergic reaction.
Nettle stings help heal the serious injuries I so easily sustain due to weakness from multiple sclerosis.
The stings, I am almost sure, also contribute to recovery from the devastating wear and tear that have accrued from MS bit by bit over the years. In keeping with that, I will sting most of my body—perhaps stinging part of myself one day, another part another day, another part another day—to help wake up the energy suppressed from the overall damage of my body so that awakened energy can start healing me.
Again, research nettle sting therapy yourself, talk to an herbalist, talk to nettles, listen to your body and intuition. E.g., you might be too sensitive physically or psychically for this. But, if it’s not right for you, perhaps my experiences will spark an idea that suits you.
Finding stinging nettles is a lot easier for me than for some folks because I live in the country. At first, I used nettles I found along my walks. Eventually, a few volunteers sprang up on my property. I eventually tossed nettles seeds into an area of my property. Nothing happened for maybe a year or two, and then a fair number of nettles sprang up, though not robustly at first.
A friend of mine brings me composted horse manure that has completely broken down into beautiful rich soil. When I put it into pots for my outdoor container garden, nettles spring up in the pots. I weed them out, but they makes me wonder if growing nettles in pots is an option for city dwellers.
Herbs have saved my life, make my life joyful, and are my close friends. I live immersed in them.
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“If you’ve done bee sting therapy, I believe the therapeutic effects of stinging oneself with nettles might be related.” Part of nettle’s sting comes from formic acid, which is the same substance in bee venom. The practice of urtication makes perfect sense to me. I am so glad you have this trick in your toolbox of healing.
Oh my goodness, Maureen, how lovely to find out my sense of the two therapies being akin has a scientific basis. Thanks so much!